Kate Forbes not running in SNP leadership race to replace Humza Yousaf as Scotland’s first minister | UK News

Kate Forbes has announced she is not entering the race to replace Humza Yousaf as SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister.

The former finance secretary had been tipped as a potential frontrunner after narrowly failing to beat Mr Yousaf in last year’s leadership election to replace then first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The search is currently on to find a new leader for the SNP and Scotland following Mr Yousaf’s resignation on Monday.

Former deputy first minister John Swinney is the first to declare he is running.

In a statement following his announcement, Ms Forbes confirmed she would be throwing her support behind Mr Swinney following a “frank and constructive” discussion with him over the future of the SNP and Scotland.

She said: “What emerged was that we share a powerful common purpose for the country. That includes a passion to revitalise our party, reach out to those who feel disempowered and reinvigorate the independence movement.

“It also includes an understanding that economic growth and tackling poverty must again be key priorities, and that a just transition to net zero must work with, and not against, our communities and businesses.”

Ms Forbes said Mr Swinney is “determined” to run a “competent, candid government earning the trust of the people”.

She added: “That was the vision I offered in the last leadership contest, and is evidently demanded by the Scottish public.

“I have therefore weighed the decision whether or not to seek the leadership of the party with great care.

“Ultimately, I have concluded that the best way to deliver the urgent change Scotland needs is to join with John Swinney and advocate for that reform agenda within the Scottish government.

“I can therefore today announce that I will not be seeking nomination as the next SNP leader. John will therefore have my support and endorsement in any campaign to follow.”

Former deputy first minister of Scotland John Swinney speaks during a press conference to announce standing for the SNP leadership at the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday May 2, 2024.
Mr Swinney announcing his bid on Thursday. Pic: PA

Mr Swinney paid tribute to Ms Forbes during his own announcement and has pledged that she will play a key role in his government team if he is elected to the top job.

He stated: “We have many talented people leading the work of the Scottish government. I want Kate Forbes to play a significant part in that team.

“She is an intelligent, creative, thoughtful person who has much to contribute to our national life. And if elected, I will make sure that Kate is able to make that contribution.”

SNP MSP Kate Forbes during a visit to Dingwall and Highland Mart in Dingwall in The Highlands of Scotland. Picture date: Thursday April 4, 2024.
Kate Forbes pictured in the Highlands at the beginning of April. Pic: PA

Ms Forbes first entered Holyrood in 2016 following a stint working for her predecessor, Dave Thompson.

A Cambridge-educated accountant, the newly-minted MSP found herself in ministerial office by the summer of 2018.

She was thrust into the spotlight in 2020 when then finance secretary Derek Mackay resigned in disgrace after messages he had sent to a 16-year-old boy were published by the Scottish Sun on the eve of the Scottish budget.

With just hours to prepare, Ms Forbes was forced to step in and deliver the budget, drawing plaudits from across the chamber and across Scotland, before she was eventually promoted into the role herself.

While on maternity leave and caring for her daughter Naomi in 2023, Ms Sturgeon announced she was stepping down as first minister and SNP leader.

That contest was bruising for the SNP as candidates Ms Forbes, Mr Yousaf and Ash Regan traded blows during lively televised debates.

(left to right) Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, after it was announced Humza Yousaf is the new Scottish National Party leader, and will become the next First Minister of Scotland. Picture date: Monday March 27, 2023.
Ash Regan and Kate Forbes lost out to Humza Yousaf during the SNP leadership race to replace Nicola Sturgeon last year. Pic: PA

Ms Forbes faced backlash during her leadership campaign to succeed Ms Sturgeon after admitting she would have voted against gay marriage in Scotland when it was made legal a decade ago.

The Free Church of Scotland member also told Sky News that having children out of marriage is “wrong” and something she would “seek to avoid”.

However, the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch stressed that “in a free society you can do what you want”.

Ms Forbes had argued that “continuity won’t cut it”.

Humza Yousaf speaks during a press conference at Bute House.
Humza Yousaf announcing his resignation at Bute House. Pic: PA

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Humza Yousaf announcing his resignation

She would go on to lose to Mr Yousaf by 48% to 52% in the final round of voting, and later turned down the role of rural affairs minister, which at the time was seen as a demotion.

Although her views on social issues remain unpopular with some of her MSP colleagues, she was one of the few SNP ministers who did not delete her WhatsApp messages during the COVID pandemic.

Read more:
What direction will party take now?
Yousaf warns against toxic leadership contest

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Ms Forbes went on to thank all those who have been in touch since Monday, urging her to enter the race.

She added: “I recognise many people might be disappointed that I will not be contesting the position of leader at this time.

“To those people I say this – you can be certain that delivering on the priorities for which we have, together, advocated in recent years has been at the heart of today’s decision.

“It is now clear from this morning’s statement that in John Swinney we have someone who not only understands that need for reform, but has now committed to delivering it.

“I look forward to playing my role in making that happen.”

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Mr Swinney announcing his bid on Thursday

Nominations for SNP leader close at noon on Monday 6 May.

Prospective candidates will have to gain the support of 100 members from 20 different SNP branches to qualify for the contest.

Any potential ballot will then open at 12pm on Monday 13 May and will close at noon on Monday 27 May.

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