Chimney Sweep

Who’s Kate Forbes? Meet the SNP management hopeful backed to succeed Nicola Sturgeon

By James Tapsfield, Political Editor at Mailonline

11:09 February 20, 2023, updated 15:50 February 20, 2023

  • Race is to be succeeded by Nicola Sturgeon as head of the SNP and first minister
  • Kate Forbes, who has long been talked about as a potential successor, announced today

The battle to succeed Nicola Sturgeon intensified today as Kate Forbes cut her maternity leave to throw her hat in the ring.

The Scottish Finance Minister, seen by many as a front-runner, has attacked the outgoing leader as she said the SNP needed a “broader” appeal and someone “fresh-faced”.

In a video shared on social media showing footage of the stunning Scottish countryside, a tartan-clad woman gave Forbes a nod to the apparently stalled Separatist campaign north of the border.

She warned that nationalists risked “being frustrated on the road to self-determination” and said she had the “vision, experience and competence to inspire voters across Scotland”.

“We urgently need to unleash the full talent of the SNP, the broader yes movement and the country as a whole,” she said.

Ms Forbes was hot-tipped despite concerns her ties to an anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion evangelical church could be harmful.

Constitutional Secretary Angus Robertson confirmed this morning that he will not run for the party’s top post.

Scottish Finance Minister Kate Forbes lamented the need to “broaden” the SNP’s appeal as she confirmed she is a candidate in a slick video by Kate Forbes Nicola Sturgeon

Ms Sturgeon dropped the bombshell she was dropping last week after a heated spell that saw the SNP thrown into chaos over its failed attempt to relax gender identity rules and dwindling support for independence.

Visiting the Roslin Institute in Midlothian today, minutes before Ms Forbes’ statement, she expressed “tremendous confidence that the SNP will select someone with ability”.

“It’s clear that there’s a spectrum of talent on display there.”

Appearing in the video against a backdrop of the Scottish countryside and with a tartan scarf around her neck, Ms Forbes said: “Friends in the SNP, our nation and our movement are at an important crossroads. The decisions we make over the next few weeks will have a profound impact on our future and the future of our children.

“I cannot sit back and watch as our nation is thwarted on the road to self-determination. Our small independent neighbors are enjoying more prosperous, fairer and greener societies, and so should we.

“We urgently need to unleash the full talent of the SNP, the broader yes movement and the country as a whole.

Who is the contender for the SNP leadership, Kate Forbes?

Kate Forbes is a senior member of Ms Sturgeon’s administration, who is being tipped as the favorite to replace her.

The fluent Gaelic speaker became Finance Minister in the Scottish Government in February 2020, the first woman to hold the post.

Kate Forbes married Alasdair MacLennan – a widowed chimney sweep ten years her senior – in July 2021.

Their wedding was streamed online because Covid restrictions limited the number of people who could attend.

The 32-year-old went on maternity leave last July – becoming the first acting Scottish Cabinet Secretary ever – and gave birth to their daughter Naomi in August.

It was previously believed that Ms Forbes harbored no leadership ambitions, although she has been touted as a future SNP leader since entering the Scottish Parliament as MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch in 2016.

The daughter of missionaries, Mrs. Forbes spent much of her childhood in India.

She is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, sometimes known as the ‘Wee Frees’, which opposes gay marriage and believes there are few circumstances in which an abortion is justified.

Ms Forbes has previously said she was “guilty” of “tiptoeing around” her Christian faith in interviews.

Ms Sturgeon’s government has been accused of rushing through its controversial gender identity reforms ahead of Christmas while Ms Forbes stayed on maternity leave to prevent a possible revolt by the 32-year-old.

“We must elect strong, competent leadership to ensure independence, the leadership that I can offer.

“I think we need someone who can unite our party and our movement. I am a unifier, I will reach out and listen to make each member feel valued and empowered to contribute.

“This is also important if we want to convince others of the merits of independence. But now we also need someone who has our economy and our finances under control.

“In the midst of a cost of living crisis and the need to plan for independence, my years of managing the household and economy of Scotland have given me the experience we need to do just that.

“More than anything, we need a leader who is bold, courageous and energetic, with fresh faces and ready for new challenges.

“Someone who will inspire your confidence as an SNP member and inspire the people of Scotland to vote for a better future

“I am that leader and I want to lead our party to better days with integrity and commitment for the sake of your children and mine.”

Health Minister Humza Yousaf and former community security minister Ash Regan clashed over three major policy issues – independence, gender reform and road building – yesterday as they confirmed their decision to enter the competition.

Mr Yousaf also appeared to enlist the support of many of Ms Sturgeon’s key allies while an information campaign was launched against Ms Forbes.

There are claims the Scottish Greens could pull out of their current power-sharing arrangement in Holyrood if Ms Forbes takes over.

The 32-year-old is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, sometimes known as the ‘Wee Frees’, which opposes gay marriage and believes there are few circumstances in which an abortion is justified.

SNP Deputy Leader Keith Brown, Environment Secretary Mairi McAllan and Culture Secretary Neil Gray all confirmed yesterday that they would not run.

As the dispute escalated, former Health Secretary Jeane Freeman urged those who informed each other to stop fighting or risk losing support.

Business Secretary Ivan McKee said an announcement from the “enormously talented” Ms Forbes could be expected later.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland program: “Kate has some big decisions to make, of course this happened during her maternity leave, she had no intention of returning until early April and as we all know the announcements last week were for everyone a surprise.

“So Kate has had to assess her position and understand what can be done, but I understand she has considered that and will make an announcement later today and we’ll see what she has to say.”

Mr McKee said he would support Ms Forbes if she decided to run.

He said: “I think Kate is an extremely talented person. I have had the pleasure of working with her over the past seven years and seeing first hand what she can achieve, her focus on what matters to Scotland and her ability to connect with people in Scotland on a very real and authentic level to get in touch and convince them of their case.

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is running for the SNP’s top post

‘And I think these talents to deliver excellent public services, a strong economy, a green economy for Scotland and to convince people of the SNP and independence are exactly the assets we need in a leader.’

Ms Forbes has long been considered a potential successor to the First Minister.

She was thrust into the spotlight when she had to step in at the eleventh hour and deliver the Scottish household in 2020 after her predecessor Derek Mackay fell out of favor.

Candidates have until Friday to secure 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches to secure their spot on the ballot, with the new SNP leader being announced on March 27.

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