Updated: Mar 14
On February 15, 2023, Scottish First Minister Nicole Sturgeon announced that she would be stepping down after more than eight years in the role. She is the first woman in the position and the longest-serving. She was the head of the ruling party, the Scottish National Party (SNP.) The new leader of the party, and ultimately the First Minister will be announced on March 27, 2023.
The three top contenders for the role are Ash Regan, 48, the former Minister for Community Safety (2018 to 2022); Humza Yousaf, 37, current Scottish Secretary for Health and Social Care; and Kate Elizabeth Forbes, 32, current Secretary for Finance and the Economy.
Ms. Forbes was born on April 6, 1990, in Dingwall, Scotland, located north of Inverness on the Cromarty Firth. In an interview with Premier Christianity, Ms. Forbes stated “I had a very strange upbringing that’s quite difficult to categorise.” She explained that “We were a fairly ordinary family that found ourselves in India. My dad was involved with Bible teaching and he’s also an accountant, so he was managing the finances of a group of mission hospitals, trying to ensure that people were able to access free healthcare.” (“Kate Forbes' uncompromising stance is a great example to all Christians,” Premier Christianity, February 22, 2023.)
Ms. Forbes was educated at a Scottish Gaelic school and earned a BA in history from Selwyn College, Cambridge, and then an MSc in diaspora and migration history from the University of Edinburgh. She has held jobs as a researcher for the Scottish Parliament and with Oxfam Scotland. She then became a chartered accountant and worked for Barclays, a multinational bank headquartered in London, England.
As a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Ms. Forbes was first elected as a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) in 2016, representing Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch. In 2018, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appointed Ms. Forbes as the Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, serving as the deputy to the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. She then appointed Ms. Forbes Secretary for Finance and the Economy in 2020. In March 2022 Forbes launched a report outlining Scotland's National Strategy for Economic Transformation, which is her plan to improve Scotland's economy over the following 10 years.
In 2021, she married businessman Alasdair MacLennan, who lost his first wife Priya Rao in 2014 and was raising their three children. Ms. Forbes said of her husband “Ali has a small business in the Highlands, so has faced the same worries and challenges of other small businesses over the last year.” (McAnally. February 7, 2021. “So in love… but Kate and her finace’s joyful smiles hide heartbreak,” The Scottish Mail on Sundays.) In the summer of 2022, Ms. Forbes took maternity leave and gave birth to a daughter, Naomi.
In February 2023, Ms. Forbes declared her candidacy for Leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland.
Ms. Forbes’s strongest suit is her position on the economy. As reported by Craig Paton, “She said her aim was to invest in small businesses, giving them “breathing space” to help increase the size of the economy, and said competency in government could lead to more support for Scottish independence.” (Paton, Craig. March 5, 2023. “Kate Forbes: I’ll be first minister for a new decade,” The Times UK.)
In fact, one of Scotland’s richest men, Sir Tom Hunter, reported that “The only person I have heard speaking about the economy is Kate Forbes. I would be interested to listen to what the other two have to say and see if it aligns with what we know works,” said Hunter, who made clear he was not endorsing any of the candidates. (Cameron, Greig. March 10, 2023. “Kate Forbes is only SNP candidate who talks about economy, says Tom Hunter,” The Times UK)
On the subject of a second Scottish independence referendum, Ms. Forbes insisted that the SNP should campaign for a referendum within three months of the next election if they receive more than 50 per cent of the vote. She emphasized that “Independence is coming and sooner than most people think.” (McCann, David. March 2, 2023. “Kate Forbes plans swift Scottish independence referendum,’ The Times UK) However, she would “listen to No voters” the better to bring them on board while recognising that “we have a shared objective” in so much as both sides of the constitutional divide would like “to see Scotland flourish”. (Massie, Alex. March 5, 2023. “Kate Forbes delivers reality check to SNP faithful,” The Times UK.)
Ms. Forbes has been openly attacked regarding her social and cultural stances. She is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, an evangelical Calvinist denomination with socially conservative positions She admits that her religious beliefs tend to supersede any political ones. As reported by Graham Nicholls, “When questioned, she dared to say that in principle she disagrees with gay marriage and had she been an MSP at the time she would’ve voted against it. She was also opposed to the gender recognition act…. And then in what the Daily Mail described as a ‘spectacular meltdown’, Forbes said sex is for marriage. To make matters even worse, she could face an internal SNP disciplinary probe after telling ITV: ‘I believe that a trans woman is a biological male who identifies as a woman.’ She was also reported as having prayed against abortion at least once.” (“Kate Forbes' uncompromising stance is a great example to all Christians,” Premier Christianity, February 22, 2023.)
"For me, it would be wrong according to my faith, but for you I have no idea what your faith is. So, in a free society you can do what you want." However, Ms. Forbes stated that "in a free society you can do what you want" and that she would not push for her private moral positions to be legislated into law during her premiership. (Gillies, Connor. February 21, 2023. “'Sex is for marriage': SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes explains her faith but adds 'you can do what you want' in free society,” Sky News.)
On March 7, 2023, All three candidates participated in the debate Scotland’s Next First Minister: The STV Debate. (See full debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3YTBxPNs6o )
Kieran Andrews, Scottish Political Editor of the Times UK rated their performances:
Humza Yousaf 6/10: Less assured and confident than at any previous hustings. A more defensive performance on ground where he was previously strong.
Kate Forbes 8/10: A good all-round show. A smile on her face, she was articulate and clear. Much better in debate and detail than her opponents.
Ash Regan 4/10: Her best performance so far, but still third. Refuses to say, so far, how her supporters should use their second preference votes.
(Andrews, Kieran. March 10, 2023. “SNP leadership race: Attacks only help our rivals, Kate Forbes is warned,” The Times UK.)
If Ms. Forbes can maintain this level of momentum by focusing on the Scottish economy and avoiding controversial social issues, Scotland may soon have a First Minister Forbes.
See her official MSP Page here: https://www.parliament.scot/msps/current-and-previous-msps/kate-forbes