SNP leadership race: Edinburgh MSP Ash Regan condemns 'misogynistic' attacks on rival candidate Kate Forbes
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Finance Secretary Ms Forbes announced her bid to succeed Nicola Sturgeon today, but she has been criticised for her “conservative social views” because of her membership of the Free Church of Scotland, which opposes abortion in most circumstances, gay marriage and gender reform. She has said she makes own decisions according to her faith and not according to the diktat of any church. She was one 15 SNP politicians who signed a letter in 2019 calling for a delay on the gender legislation.
But on social media, Ms Regan – who resigned as a minister to vote against the Gender Recognition Reform Bill – said: “I am utterly appalled by the misogynistic attacks on Kate Forbes because of her faith. Kate is and always will be a great friend and colleague and it distresses me to witness this. It must stop immediately.”
Announcing her candidacy on Twitter, Ms Forbes said: “I am today launching my bid to become Scotland's next First Minister, with the vision, experience and competence to inspire voters across Scotland.” And in a video, she spoke of Scotland and the SNP being at a major crossroads. “The choices that we make in the next few weeks will have a profound impact on our future and on our children’s future. I can’t sit back and watch our nation thwarted on the road to self-determination. Our small independent neighbours enjoy wealthier, fairer and greener societies – and so should we. We need to choose strong, competent leadership to deliver independence – the leadership that I can offer.”
She said the new leader needed to be someone who could “unite our party and our movement. “I’m a unifier. I’ll reach out and listen so that every member feels valued and able to contribute. That’s also important if we are to persuade others of the merits of independence. Right now, we also need somebody with grip on our economy and our finances. In the throes of a cost-of-living crisis, and the need to plan for independence, my years managing Scotland’s budget and economy have given me the experience that we need to do just that.”
Edinburgh Central MSP Angus Robertson, who had been the bookies’ favourite, announced he would not be standing, saying that as the father of two very young children, the time was not right for him. He joins Deputy First Minister John Swinney, deputy SNP leader Keith Brown and junior ministers Neil Gray and Mairi McAllan in ruling themselves out of the contest.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf officially launched his campaign to become SNP leader and First Minister and called for a "positive, engaging" campaign. He said he could not pretend that gender reform had not "caused some division" within the party, but promised to stand by the legislation and challenge the UK Government veto. He said: "There's the principle of the Section 35 order which I think we have to defend the Scottish Parliament against that. But I think on the issue more broadly, I'd be keen to work with those who have got real concerns. Let's engage with them. Let's try to bring them around the table. Let's not let this issue define us as a movement."
He also said he was “not wedded” to the idea of using a general election as a de facto independence referendum. He said he had “some concerns” about the strategy. And he added: "Let's have a proper discussion, let's have a proper debate. Let's bring the party membership together. Let's put all ideas on the table that are within a legal framework."