Who is Kate Forbes? Ex-leadership contender tipped to take leap again

Kate Forbes narrowly missed out on leadership last year but it is unclear whether she will throw her name into the mix again this time.

Who is Kate Forbes? Former SNP leadership contender tipped to take leap again PA Media

Kate Forbes’ name has not been far from the lips of commentators when discussions over SNP succession have come up in recent years.

She was heavily touted following Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation and, despite narrowly missing out to him last year, finds herself at the centre of speculation again now Humza Yousaf has quit.

While the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP has made no public statement about her intentions, she is already garnering endorsements from the likes of Joanna Cherry and Fergus Ewing – two high-profile SNP rebels itching for change.

Kate Forbes was elected in 2016.PA Media

When she first entered Holyrood in 2016 – following a stint working for her predecessor Dave Thompson – Forbes was quickly tipped as one to watch.

A Cambridge-educated accountant, the newly-minted MSP found herself in ministerial office by the summer of 2018.

But it was her actions in 2020 that pushed her to the fore.

Then finance secretary Derek Mackay resigned in disgrace after messages he had sent to a 16-year-old boy were published by the Scottish Sun on the eve of the Scottish budget.

With just hours to prepare, Forbes was forced to step in and deliver the budget, drawing plaudits from across the chamber and across Scotland, before she was eventually promoted into the role herself.

Suggestions she would eventually succeed Sturgeon only grew in the following years and in 2022, Forbes went on maternity leave with her stock higher than ever before.

But it was while she was still caring for her daughter Naomi that Sturgeon announced she would unexpectedly step down – firing the starting pistol on a contest Forbes had long been tipped to compete in, and potentially win.

The first week of her campaign was a difficult one as she faced questions about her stance on equal marriage and other issues, her positions on which she bases heavily on her Christian faith.

As public finance minister, she was foisted into delivering the budget at short notice.PA Media

But the former finance secretary recovered and put in a strong showing in the sometimes tense election – where at one point she barraged the First Minister with attacks on his record in government during a live TV debate.

Forbes would run Yousaf close in the final voting, taking 48% of the votes in the second round, ultimately falling short.

She would also find herself not serving in cabinet – after reportedly turning down the rural affairs portfolio – and would return to the backbenches, where she would become an outspoken critic of some Government policy, most notably plans to reduce human activity in at least 10% of Scottish waters, which were eventually dropped following massive political and public backlash.

As the dust settled around Bute House on Monday after Yousaf announced his days as First Minister were numbered, eyes naturally turned back to Forbes, who had been a key member of a group of rebelliously-minded MSPs in the Scottish Parliament who most recently abstained in a vote on the Government’s justice reforms.

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