Forbes to leave government after failing to beat Yousaf in FM race

The former finance secretary turned down a move to rural affairs in the new administration under the incoming First Minister.

Kate Forbes set to leave Scottish Government after failing to beat Humza Yousaf in First Minister race Getty Images

Kate Forbes is leaving the Scottish Government after failing in her bid to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as leader.

New First Minster Humza Yousaf offered the former finance secretary a move to rural affairs, but the runner-up in the contest, which culminated on Monday, rejected the offer.

Forbes had been on maternity leave when previous FM Sturgeon quit last month, but returned to launch her campaign against Yousaf and Ash Regan.

The race was dominated by questions over her religious views and their bearing on social issues including abortion and LGBT+ rights.

The pair also frequently clashed, including during the televised STV debate in which Forbes lambasted Yousaf’s record as health secretary, while the Scottish Greens threatened to walk away from the Bute House agreement if she emerged victorious.

Yousaf said he “absolutely” wanted Forbes to be part of his government following his ascent to the top job at Holyrood.

But Forbes turned down the role on Tuesday and will remain on the backbenches alongside Sturgeon and former deputy FM John Swinney.

Posting on Twitter, she wrote: “I was delighted to vote for Humza Yousaf to be First Minister today. He has my full support, as he governs well and furthers the case for independence.

“I have full confidence he will appoint a talented Cabinet and Ministerial team, able to meet the challenges facing the country.”

Yousaf appointed Shona Robison as his second in command on Tuesday, shortly after his election was confirmed.

If she had moved to rural affairs it would have been seen as a major demotion, one which Forbes backer and former health secretary Alex Neil branded an “insult and not a real effort to unite”, adding: “A poor start.”

Forbes narrowly missed out on the leadership, claiming 47.9% of the vote in the second round, while Regan was eliminated in the first round with 11% of the vote.

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