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Inverness churchman John Dempster explores the faith of Kate Forbes MSP

By Contributor

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Kate Forbes at Holyrood.
Kate Forbes at Holyrood.

“There was only one thing that was consistent between Scotland and India, and that was God.”

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch and Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, is describing her journey as an 11-year-old to personal faith.

A year earlier, her family had relocated from Scotland to India where her father served as a Bible teacher and accountant for a group of mission hospitals. Suddenly, the young Kate was immersed in a different culture. Only her family’s love and God’s unchanging presence gave her a rock to stand on.

The family witnessed the devastating Gujarat earthquake in 2001. Kate realised “that my tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed” and found security in saying “Yes!” to the Christ about whom she’d learned from her earliest days.

Kate Forbes has spoken openly of her faith (she is a member of the Free Church of Scotland) in two recent podcasts, one with the BBC’s Nick Robinson, the other with MP Tim Farron on Premier Christian Radio.

She told Robinson: “I believe in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that he died for me, he saved me.”

This belief is, she says, “essential to my being”.

What lessons can we learn from this robust, confident, intelligent woman about faith in the public sphere?

We note her primary calling: “To serve and to love Christ, and to serve and love my neighbours.”

We note her resolve to serve and represent all her constituents regardless of their beliefs, and her readiness to unite behind her party’s agreed policy position, having robustly put forward her own view when policy is being formulated.

We note her courage in thinking through her faith so it becomes personally-owned, personally-tested, and her courage in talking about Christ even though it might hinder her political career.

Some would urge people of faith to leave their beliefs behind each morning as they close the front door behind them. This is impossible. As Kate Forbes shows, faith is of our very essence – affecting everything we do.

For her, it all began in India: the unsettling swirl of new customs and beliefs; the recognition that life is transitory; the openness to the God who remains constant, whether you’re a child in the strictness of an Indian classroom, or a woman presenting your budget in the Holyrood chamber.

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