Kate Forbes has said she is still in the running to be Scotland’s next First Minister “at the moment” as she continued to defend her position on gay marriage.
The SNP leadership contender has lost backers less than 24 hours after announcing her campaign to succeed Nicola Sturgeon.
Key figures have said they can no longer support the finance secretary after she said she would have voted against same-sex marriage legislation.
Just transition and employment minister Richard Lochhead, public finance and planning minister Tom Arthur, children’s minister Clare Haughey, SNP foreign affairs spokesperson Drew Hendry MP and convener of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee Gillian Martin have dropped their backing.
But Forbes has said her campaign to become First Minister is not over despite a backlash over her views as a member of the Free Church of Scotland.
Asked if she would see the campaign through following the loss of four key backers, Forbes said “at the moment, yes.”
“I am committed to giving that choice to SNP voters,” she said.
Asked by STV’s political editor Colin Mackay if she believed gay marriage was right or wrong, she said: “I don’t think it’s as simple as that.
“Morally, I would believe, according to my conscience, that the marriage defined within my faith is between a man and woman like it is in Islam, Judaism, and like it is in other faiths.”
She said she hopes it is possible to legally agree with gay marriage while disagreeing with it morally in a “pluralistic society”.
On Tuesday, Forbes told interviewers that she believed having children outside of marriage was “wrong” and something she would personally “seek to avoid”.
She told Sky News that transgender double rapist Isla Bryson “is a man” – something that other leading SNP figures have refused to be drawn on.
The finance secretary, who is currently on maternity leave, said she would defend “to the hilt” rights for everyone to live and to love free of harassment and fear.
Asked about the last 24 hours, Forbes said she thought it had brought to light a “fascinating question” at the heart of Scottish political discourse: “What does liberalism mean?”
“Have we become so illiberal that we cannot have these discussions or some people are beyond the pale?” she said.
“Because if some people are beyond the pale then those are dark and dangerous days for Scotland.”
Forbes said she respected the “integrity” of those who dropped their support for her leadership bid.
“Isn’t this what this is all about, that politicians should have the integrity to say what they believe, how they believe it and to act on that?”
It comes after she revealed she would not have backed the Scottish Goverment’s controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill designed to make it easier for people to gain a gender recognition certificate.
On Monday, Forbes told STV News she would not challenge the UK Government’s block against the bill in court, something Sturgeon had said was “inevitable”.
The Free Church of Scotland has strict views on abortion and same-sex marriage.
But Forbes has said she makes her own decisions on the basis of what is “right and wrong”.
She said that women attending abortion clinics should be able to do so “free from harassment and harm”.
Forbes said she would engage with Green MSP Gillian Mackay’s buffer zone bill to make sure it is “targeted”.