Controversial Kate Forbes has emerged as the early favourite among Scottish voters to replace Nicola Sturgeon as the new SNP leader and first minister of Scotland.
However, the poll putting Forbes in front of her two rivals in the “brutal” race to succeed Sturgeon reveals that half of Scottish voters “don’t know” who should take over at Holyrood.
A Panelbase poll of Scottish voters for the Sunday Times puts finance secretary Forbes on 23%. Health secretary Humza Yousaf is on 15% and former minister Ash Regan on 7%. By far the most popular response as to who should be the new SNP leader was “don’t know” on 49%.
Forbes drew criticism for expressing her conservative, “faith-formed” social views on transgender rights and opposition to same sex marriage in an interview immediately after announcing her candidature to become leader,
For Natasha Radmehr writing in Scotland’s Sunday Post newspaper, “Forbes’ religion is not the issue”. Instead, “her suitability to be first minister” is the problem “because she doesn’t believe in equality.”
Radmehr writes: “As a nation that strives to be progressive, it is our prerogative to question the intentions of a prospective leader whose personal views are anything but.”
Forbes – who has been on maternity leave since last year – has apologised for the “hurt” her comments caused and has vowed to protect the rights of everybody in Scotland, “particularly minorities”.
The Guardian called this an attempt to “reset” her leadership campaign which was questioned by senior SNP figures including deputy first minister John Swinney and Ian Blackford MP, the former SNP leader at Westminster.
In the run-off to be the new SNP leader, Forbes faces Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan.
Yousaf is Muslim and has been accused of avoiding the 2014 Holyrood vote legislating for same-sex marriage on religious grounds. He has denied that but faces further criticism over his performance as health secretary in Sturgeon’s government.
While Humza is the reported favourite of the SNP leadership to succeed Sturgeon, Forbes is just ahead when it comes to the support SNP voters – the Panelbase poll finding Forbes on 20% and Yousaf on 18%.
Regan has ground to make up and is on just 9%, with more than half of SNP voters yet to decide. Regan is the former community safety minister who resigned from Sturgeon’s government in October last year over its gender reform plans.
The race to the new SNP leader was sparked by Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation after eight years as Scotland’s first minister.