Humza Yousaf has spoken of his frustration that the debate over views on equal marriage and gender recognition reform has dominated the SNP leadership contest.
Over the last week, his rival Kate Forbes faced a storm of criticism over her views on social issues after she said she would not have voted for equal marriage had she been an MSP.
Forbes and Ash Regan have said they will not go ahead with gender recognition reforms if they become SNP leader, but Mr Yousaf has said he would go to court to challenge the UK Government’s block on the legislation.
Former minister Alex Neil has also accused Mr Yousaf of asking to skip a final vote on equal marriage in 2014, something the Health Secretary firmly denies.
On the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show, Mr Yousaf was asked if he was frustrated that the race had “already got a bit dirty”.
He said: “I think it is frustrating.
“There have been some issues that have dominated, like the ones that we’ve just been discussing.
“I’m not saying these issues aren’t important, but a lot of people want to hear from the candidates what we can do to ease the cost-of-living crisis.”
Earlier, he was asked if it would be acceptable for the first minister to be someone who did not agree with equal marriage.
He said: “People in our society need to know whoever’s going to be their first minister will stand up for those rights, will advance rights where possible and make sure that there’s no regression of those rights.”
Meanwhile, Forbes indicated she would take a different tack to Sturgeon’s government on a number of policies.
She said the production of oil and gas from the North Sea should not be wound down “too quickly”.
She told the Herald on Sunday: “There is a huge opportunity for Scotland’s economy with the expansion of the renewables industry, but those will only be realised if we transition from oil and gas at the right pace.
“The same talent, skills and supply chain is required for renewables as is currently employed by the oil and gas industry.
“Any transition that happens too quickly will not only damage the Scottish economy in the short term, but also the long term if we don’t protect the jobs, skills and supply chain that is required for the renewables industry.”
She also told the Mail on Sunday she would scrap plans for a deposit return scheme – a Scottish Government initiative to boost recycling – and ditch an attempt to introduce new curbs on alcohol advertising.
Regan discussed her views on Scottish independence on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show.
She said her “voter empowerment mechanism” was different from Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a de facto referendum, saying it would not be wise to fight the next general election on the sole issue of independence.
Pressed on what would happen if the UK Government refused to enter independence negotiations, she referred to historical cases like Ireland and the US.
She added: “Also, you must remember there is the UN Charter, Article 1.2, respect for self-determination, and that’s what we’re talking about here.”
Joining EFTA rather than the EU would be the right “short-term” solution for an independent Scotland, she said.