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Charles Bannerman: 'Realistically, Kate Forbes’ opponents don’t offer much'

By Charles Bannerman

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SNP leadership candidates (from left): Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan.
SNP leadership candidates (from left): Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan.

Kate Forbes, as a candidate to become the next First Minister, asserts that “this election is about independence”. Reassuring, that, if you’re waiting for cancer treatment or stuck on an island without a ferry.

Worse still, the other candidates also demote the rescue of our devolved services to peripheral status. And would any of them like to explain why the party isn’t doing what Nicola Sturgeon indignantly insisted the Tories should do when their members elected Liz Truss’s successor – hold a fresh Holyrood election as a “democratic imperative”.

Ms Forbes was of course trying to extricate herself from serious damage inflicted by that religious rumpus. This included Inverness MP Drew Hendry and other erstwhile “supporters”, all presumably quite aware of her views, spontaneously jumping ship immediately as trouble loomed.

Related: Charles Bannerman: 'Council shouldn’t let coronation cost kids even more education'

Dependable chap, Mr Hendry, abandoning the only candidate with any talent just days after betraying his own constituents over the A9.

I’m not quite sure about Ms Forbes attributing her difficulties to generic prejudice against Christians. After all, “in my father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2), and the mansion the tiny Free Church of Scotland occupies tends to be displaced somewhat from the Christian centre ground, which perhaps worried people.

Maybe almost as much as the job going to someone from north of Perth?

This furore further revealed Highland MP Ian Blackford as a Free Church member, although in his denunciation of Ms Forbes he appeared to claim not to be quite so fundamentalist. Learning of Mr Blackford’s Christian devoutness creates an instant vision of the late, statesmanlike Charles Kennedy calling from a far better place: “Ian, Ian... why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4).

Although this soundly damns her with faint praise, I believe that Kate Forbes, intellectually and otherwise, is the SNP figure by far the best equipped to rescue our services – the overwhelming purpose of a devolved Holyrood administration. However there are two big questions.

There’s the damaging religious issue, of which nuff already said. But of more concern is that she regards these services as secondary to independence, although that doesn’t appear to matter to the small electoral college of SNP members who will decide who next runs them for us all.

Realistically, her opponents don’t offer much. Ash Regan’s ministerial resignation helped precipitate the current scenario while Humza Yousaf inspires only a vision of Captain Mainwaring or Gary Tank Commander wanting to oversee the D Day landings.

For an election Biblical text, Kate Forbes needs to put the “abomination” of gay marriage (Leviticus 18:22) behind her and reappraise a properly functioning First Minister’s role through the injunction: “No man (sic!) can serve two masters” (John 6:24).

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