SNP leadership: Kate Forbes blasted for promise to ‘tolerate’ LGBTQ+ people

Ash Regan, Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf

SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes has been accused of simply tolerating LGBTQ+ people rather than supporting their rights.

Candidates Humza Yousaf, Ash Regan, and Forbes took part in Channel 4 leadership hustings on Thursday (9 March), where the debate quickly turned personal.

The three covered various topics, including social justice, the economy and Scottish independence, but it was LGBTQ+ rights which seemed to cause the most concern among voters.

Queer rights became a hot topic within days of the SNP leadership race heating up, following several car-crash interviews by Forbes, in which she explained her ultra-conservative views on same-sex marriage, abortion and childbirth out of wedlock.

During the Channel 4 debate, Forbes said that, while she thought there are “some issues where it’s important to allow a conscience vote,” she claimed that her religious beliefs wouldn’t be a consideration during policy debates.

“I’ve certainly said in this contest that I’ve given my honest and solemn pledge to uphold legal protections for every Scot, whether they’re male, female, gay, straight or trans.”

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Kate Forbes during the SNP Leadership Debate.
Kate Forbes responded to backlash after she grilled Humza Yousaf and her own party. (Channel 4)

In response, Yousaf said “hundreds” of LGBTQ+ people have contacted him saying they aren’t certain Forbes would stand up for their rights.

“I don’t think people take as much comfort as you think they do [when you say] you’ll tolerate people.

“I’m a Muslim in this country – if someone said, ‘Look, I don’t agree with your lifestyle but I’ll tolerate you,’ it wouldn’t give me a huge amount of confidence that they’re going to defend my rights.”

Forbes then used Yousaf’s religion as an example of her tolerance for different beliefs, while also saying that a number of SNP MSPs are her “friends.”

“I’ve served with them and they’ve never expressed concern in the past,” she said.

This is despite the fact that SNP members told PinkNews in February that they were feeling “schadenfreude” from the backlash Forbes has received for her views.

“There is a feeling within the LGBT membership of, we tried to tell you this is what she was and you didn’t listen to us,” they said.

Responding to the controversy, Ash Regan said she was not religious but “we should respect other people’s views.”

Additionally, Regan was asked about her resignation in October 2022 following the passing of the Gender Recognition Reform.

When asked whether she resigned due to trans rights, she responded: “I resigned over women’s rights.”

Things get personal after Kate Forbes grills Humza Yousaf

In an STV debate earlier in the week, Yousaf claimed Forbes would threaten the pro-independence movement by alienating LGBTQ+ voters with her beliefs.

When asked about the statement, Yousaf denied claims he said the LGBTQ+ community didn’t trust her, while also noting that she had “obviously felt the brunt of our membership”.

“I said they want reassurances,” he said. “They have said they would potentially leave the party if another candidate got in.

“It’s really important we do get clarity on policy. Let’s just not make it personal.”

Reluctance within the party to accept Forbes as a candidate for SNP leadership has only risen following each of her TV appearances.

Forbes was met with a furious backlash from MSPs after she grilled Yousaf on his legacy in the party in the STV debate.

According to The Times, SNP ministers have said they would have a “serious problem” in serving under the SNP candidate following her attacks on both the LGBTQ+ community and Humza Yousaf.

She accused Yousaf of failing to get the trains running on time as transport spokesman and failing to gain necessary resources as justice secretary.

During the Channel 4 debate on Thursday, Yousaf hit back: “What unfortunately happened in the last TV debate, Kate, was that you essentially gave our opponents so much ammunition to attack us with.

“They don’t fear you Kate, they are rooting for you to win so that your words are on every single leaflet.”

While the debate touched upon LGBTQ+ rights, much of the conversation was about the validity of queer identities rather than policy itself.

In a tweet, author Damian Barr said it was “utterly depressing and enraging” to watch the competitors debate his rights.

“It’s 2023. I’m a gay man watching TV and three straight politicians are debating whether or not my very existence is immoral and what rights I should or shouldn’t have.”