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Failed SNP candidate Kate Forbes to leave Scottish government

Forbes is believed to have been offered the rural affairs ministry job but turned it down.

UNSUCCESSFUL SNP LEADER candidate Kate Forbes is set to leave the Scottish Government after finishing second in the leadership race.

Forbes is believed to have been offered the rural affairs ministry job by new First Minister Humza Yousaf but turned it down.

It means Forbes, who served as Finance Secretary under Nicola Sturgeon’s administration, will return to the Holyrood parliament’s backbenches.

Rural affairs would have been seen as a major demotion from the finance portfolio, one which Forbes backer and former health secretary Alex Neil branded an “insult and not a real effort to unite”.

Forbes narrowly lost the election, claiming 47.9% of the vote in the second round, while final candidate Ash Regan was eliminated in the first round with 11% of the vote.

Speaking to journalists immediately after the result was announced, Forbes said she would back Yousaf as party leader.

Addressing how close the contest was, Ms Forbes said: “It demonstrates, I think, the message of continuity not cutting it is actually a really critical message and all of us need to build on the SNP’s excellent track record over 16 years of listening, of serving and of maintaining the trust of the Scottish people, building on that track record.

“If we are to continue to win elections, we need to continue to listen and maintain trust.”

Forbes caused controversy when she said in the early days of the campaign she would not have voted in favour of equal marriage legislation but insisted the comment had no impact on the outcome.

“I think it was important that in this contest there was a real diversity of candidates and the members have made their views known and I think that in any contest you need to have space for robust, frank exchange because if you don’t then ultimately you aren’t able to have that battle for ideas that ultimately improves decision-making,” she said.

“I certainly will be supporting him, backing him, because as he said, the SNP is a family, we’re a team, there’s a lot of work to be getting on with to deliver for the people of Scotland, not least with the cost-of-living crisis, reforming public services and making the case for independence.”

Yousaf’s pledge to meet with his fellow leadership rivals “was an important indication of the way he wants to govern”, Forbes said.

She added: “I certainly will be working with him in order to progress plans to serve the people of Scotland.”

The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP – currently on maternity leave until April – refused to say if she had any regrets regarding her campaign, saying: “The SNP members have had a real choice when it comes to candidates and I’ve said throughout the contest that I am a democrat, so I absolutely respect the decision that members have made.

“But it’s been an opportunity, too, to really battle through ideas about the way forward for the SNP – if you can’t have that in a contest, then I think it’s a poor contest.”

Ms Forbes rejected the assertion the party was divided – despite the close vote – describing it as “united as one, standing together to serve Scotland”, but she added: “Unity is not uniformity.”

Asked at that time if she could serve in Yousaf’s cabinet, Forbes had said: “Humza has won, so it’s for Humza to appoint his cabinet and I, like any other MSP, look forward to supporting him in any way possible.”

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