Iain Macwhirter Iain Macwhirter

The war on Kate Forbes

Kate Forbes is yet to announce her intention to stand in the SNP leadership race (Getty Images)

Kate Forbes has yet to throw her hat into the ring for the SNP leadership race, but already the campaign is underway to block her. As in last year’s election, when Forbes ran close against Humza Yousaf, she is being attacked for her religious beliefs and opposition to transgender ideology.

Forbes is being portrayed on social media as ‘the candidate for the 19th Century’

The SNP leadership is turning into another ‘witch hunt,’ according to the SNP MP Joanna Cherry. The reason? Forbes has the temerity to be a practicing Christian and a member of the deeply conservative Free Church of Scotland. She says she would not have voted for same-sex marriage in 2014 had she been an MSP. Nor would she now support the resurrection of Nicola Sturgeon’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill to allow 16-year-olds to change legal sex by Self-ID without a medical diagnosis.

Forbes’ putative rival, the former deputy First Minister John Swinney, has already questioned whether SNP supporters would vote for his rival given her ‘views’. This from a politician who eagerly supported the gender bill with its quasi-religious premise that children can be born in the wrong body.

For anyone interested in how the era of progressive authoritarianism is coming to a sticky end, Scotland serves as an illuminating test case. Forbes, who is politically astute, highly articulate, and economically literate, would clearly be the most able candidate to lead the SNP. She is already significantly ahead of Swinney in the latest Ipsos opinion poll. But this has horrified the nationalist establishment and leftie journalists who have launched an almost hysterical campaign to have her stopped.

Forbes is being portrayed on social media as ‘the candidate for the 19th Century’ and a reactionary bigot by the SNP’s many pro-LGBT activists. One newspaper commentator suggested that the former finance secretary is preparing to impose a kind of Presbyterian revolution. ‘The Scotland I want to live in,’ he averred, ‘is one where the only fire and brimstone is in high school chemistry classes, where punitive Presbyterianism is taught as history rather than modern studies.’

Anyone who actually meets Forbes will be puzzled by this portrayal of her as a latter-day John Knox. She comes across as a young, streetwise woman who just happens to be religious. She has never expressed any intention to roll the clock back to the days of backstreet abortions and persecution of homosexuals. Quite the reverse. She insists that, as a democrat, she has long accepted things like gay marriage even though they conflict with the strict tenets of her Christian faith. Forbes points out that the former German chancellor, Angela Merkel, had similar personal beliefs about gay marriage and that didn’t turn her into a reactionary dictator.

Nor indeed did it turn the present First Minister of Scotland into a religious fanatic. Humza Yousaf is an ardent follower of an equally ‘reactionary’ faith, Islam; many Muslims – even if not Yousaf himself – are deeply opposed to gay marriage, abortion, and ‘transgender rights’. Somehow he was able to keep his faith out of politics, even though one of Yousaf’s first moves on entering Bute House last year was to hold Ramadan prayers with his family and punt pictures of the occasion to the press. Unlike Forbes, Yousaf was an MSP in 2014, when the vote on gay marriage took place. Yousaf, who insists that he supports the principle of same sex marriage, managed to avoid the ire of the Imams by securing a diplomatic absence from the final vote on the issue.

The attacks on Forbes provide a perfect illustration of the tendency for progressives to apply double standards when it comes to religion. While Yousaf’s faith is, perhaps rightly, seen as something to celebrate, if you happen to be a white Christian woman, like Forbes, you run the risk of being regarded as a bible-thumping evangelist.

It’s not clear whether Forbes actually intends to stand for leader right now. Who wants to lead a party into almost certain electoral defeat in six months? The SNP establishment also seems to want reconciliation with the Greens, a party which will never stand for Forbes as first minister.

Whether she stands in the leadership contest or not, the war on Forbes looks increasingly likely to backfire: the vilification of her beliefs is turning into an asset for Forbes, even in secular Scotland. Scottish voters are, to use a Scots word, scunnered by the progressive agenda of transgenderism in schools, hate crime acts, and unrealistic climate change policies. They want someone who is on their side, and right now, the SNP establishment isn’t.

Written by
Iain Macwhirter

Iain Macwhirter is a former BBC TV presenter and was political commentator for The Herald between 1999 and 2022. He is an author of Road to Referendum and Disunited Kingdom: How Westminster Won a Referendum but Lost Scotland.

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