Humza Yousaf: 'Of course I take Kate Forbes at her word'

The health secretary pressed Forbes on whether she supported abortion buffer zones outside Scottish clinics.

SNP leadership: ‘Of course I take Kate Forbes at her word’, Humza Yousaf confirms STV News

SNP leadership candidate Humza Yousaf has said he trusts his opponent Kate Forbes after the pair clashed over abortion buffer zones outside Scottish clinics.

The health secretary pressed Forbes on whether she supported new legislation to protect women attending appointments at the medical facilities.

Forbes repeatedly said she would support the principle of legislation for buffer zones during a debate on Channel 4 News on Thursday night.

But Yousaf challenged her asking what her idea of “balanced” legislation would be and if she would allow “prayer vigils”.

Forbes said Yousaf’s questioning was him trying to “erode the honest and solemn commitments” she had made.

Previously, the finance secretary said she would defend “to the hilt” rights for everyone to live and to love free of harassment and fear after facing intense criticism for her views on gay marriage.

“It boils down to a question of honesty,” she said on Thursday night, “Does Humza accept my word when I say that I will uphold those legal protections and support buffer zones or not?”

On Friday, asked by STV News if he trusted Forbes at her word, Yousaf said: “Of course I do.

“For all my colleagues that I work with in government and also that are part of the SNP family. Of course, I trust them on their words.

“But what we’ve got to make sure is that if people are putting questions to us as candidates, that we’re really making sure we give clear answers.

“So for example, in safe access zones, I’m unequivocal about my support.”

Abortion rights group Back Off Scotland called for candidates Yousaf, Forbes and Ash Regan to outline their stance on the issue.

Forbes clarified she had responded to the group’s original letter, however, Back Off Scotland later revealed her team had “hastily sent response ten minutes after” her comments during the debate.

The response to Back Off was sent by Gordon Bell, a member of Forbes’ team – who is also believed to have served as communications officer for the Free Church of Scotland previously.

Mr Bell, and later Forbes’ campaign manager Michelle Thomson, both took blame for the delay in response to the letter, which was dated February 20.

Back Off Scotland said the “main takeaway” was Forbes “would not support work to provide better access to abortion care in Scotland, and would not want to take steps to advance our abortion rights”.

In her response to the group, Forbes said that as First Minister, her government would be “consistent with the Scottish Government’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights”.

She said: “I agree that healthcare services should be offered as close to home as is feasibly possible.

“Abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy is a legal right in Scotland and I would not seek to interfere with that right or to change abortion law in Scotland.”

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