Could I support Kate Forbes?
17th February 2023
As an SNP member, could I support and vote for my local MSP Kate Forbes as leader of the party and therefore First Minister of Scotland?
I don't have an answer at the moment, but it's got me thinking. Firstly, although I have briefly met her on a visit to my workplace some years ago, I don't know her, and most of what I do know about her comes from social media and her Wikipedia page.
For any readers outside Scotland, a little bit of background. Kate Forbes is a young, very capable SNP member of the Scottish Parliament. She holds the roll of Finance Secretary, one of the major jobs in the Scottish Government (although she's currently on maternity leave) and is accepted by even opposition parties in the parliament to be highly competent in her role. So what's the problem? Kate is also (reportedly) very religious, and is a member of the Free Church of Scotland. She has made statements apparently opposing abortion in line with her church's stance, and may also hold views on things like gay marriage and trans rights which would put her at odds with me and large parts of the party.
My decision whether I could support her has of course to be based on my own views. I'm a fairly militant atheist and have been all my life. I can recall prayers in early years of primary school where I'd look around at all the bowed heads and wonder what the heck they were thinking? I think all religion without evidence is complete nonsense, and Christianity, whatever flavour, is just as nonsensical as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or Scientology. I place all religious beliefs at the same level as I do the beliefs of my sometime friend, Jaki from the Muir of Ord chipshop.
But as a realist, clearly a very large chunk of the population do believe such bunkum and it's just not feasible to say "I refuse to support or work with anyone holding a religious belief". Just because Tony Blair or Tim Farron or Theresa May or Kate Forbes are deluded for believing Jesus is the son of God doesn't mean they can't run the country.
So having a belief doesn't disqualify someone from receiving my political support, whether that's a belief in God or a belief that gay marriage is 'wrong'. It's what they do with those beliefs that matters.
For me to support Kate Forbes as SNP leader (and there are many good reasons for me to do so) she would need to make clear that her personal beliefs will not affect the way she runs the country. I'd need to know (for example) that she would ensure that forthcoming laws providing buffer zones preventing protests at abortion clinics would go ahead irrespective of her or her church's beliefs on the subject.
As of now (17 Feb 23) Kate hasn't said she's running, but if she does I think she must be clear about the border between her personal beliefs and political intentions.☝