The resignation of Nicola Sturgeon as Leader of the Scottish National Party and her impending departure as First Minister has led to an unexpected row within and outside the party. One of the candidates to succeed her is Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care and a devout Muslim; another is Kate Forbes MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy and an equally-devout member of the Free Church of Scotland. (The third, Ash Regan MSP, served as Cabinet Secretary for Community Safety from 2018 until 2022, when she stepped down in a protest over the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill passed in Holyrood in December.)
Ms Forbes’s candidacy, in particular, has aroused a good deal of angst on the basis of her opposition to same-sex marriage and children being born outside wedlock. She has also said that she does not support self-identification for transgender people and would not challenge the UK Government’s veto on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill. So far, we have ignored the row on the basis that it’s not really any of our business; however, The Herald reports that the Scottish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has now entered the fray.
The Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, Peter Kearney, told the paper that political parties had helped foster a culture of intolerance towards people’s “religious orientations” and that not allowing politicians to vote according to their consciences “will dramatically reduce the pool of people who want to go into parliament”. “People will believe their views won’t be respected. We run the risk of denying ourselves people with talent and ability” and “some of the things that have been said about religious opinions leave a lot of Catholics and a lot of Christians feeling marginalised”. He also pointed out that while race, gender and sexual orientation are protected characteristics for the purposes of discrimination law, so is religion.
Kate Forbes’s own response to media criticism is on Facebook, here. In a nutshell:
“I will defend to the hilt the rights of everybody in Scotland, particularly minorities, to live and to love without fear or harassment in a pluralistic and tolerant society”.
No further comment except to say that, so far as we are aware, no-one has accused either Ms Forbes or Mr Yousaf of dishonesty: compare and contrast with Westminster.
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