Who is Kate Forbes, contender for new SNP cabinet?

In her relatively short time in politics, Kate Forbes has already experienced the highs and lows of a career at Holyrood.

She enjoyed a rapid rise to become Scotland's first female finance secretary in 2020, but was narrowly defeated in last year's SNP leadership contest by Humza Yousaf.

The backbench MSP considered another bid for her party's top job to succeed Mr Yousaf, citing a "groundswell of support amongst the members".

Ultimately, she pulled out and backed John Swinney, who won unopposed.

It came after Mr Swinney offered Ms Forbes a "significant" role in his government - signalling a return to cabinet for the first time since March 2023.

The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP said she had “listened carefully” to Mr Swinney and welcomed his “commitment to ensure internal respect for robust and divergent debate in the party”.

She described the former deputy first minister as being best placed to deliver a "reform agenda".

Mr Swinney, having won the SNP leadership and parliamentary nomination for first minister, has remained tight-lipped about her specific role in government.

Ms Forbes left the cabinet in March 2023 after being offered the rural affairs brief by Mr Yousaf, which would have been considered a major demotion.

She later told the New Statesman she "would have found it hard to turn down" an offer to remain as finance secretary.

Controversial views

During the 2023 SNP leadership campaign, Ms Forbes came under fire for her views on gay marriage, abortion and trans rights.

The MSP was further criticised after telling Sky News that having children outside of marriage was "wrong" according to her faith as a member of the Free Church of Scotland.

But she saw being honest about her beliefs as an important part of who she is, telling the New Statesman she would have been "haunted" had she not answered questions about her religious views honestly during the campaign.

In 2018, Ms Forbes told the National Prayer Breakfast for Scotland that politicians should "recognise that the way we treat the most vulnerable - whether the unborn or the terminally ill - is a measure of true progress".

She was among the 15 SNP politicians who wrote an open letter to Ms Sturgeon the following year, asking for a delay to gender recognition reforms that would make it easier for people in Scotland to self-identify their sex.

The final vote on the proposals was held when Ms Forbes was on maternity leave, but when she launched her 2023 leadership campaign she said she still had significant concerns about self-identification and would not have voted for the bill.

Several senior Scottish government figures rejected her comments, including Mr Swinney, who said he profoundly disagreed with her views despite his own Christian faith.

Another notable feature of Ms Forbes's campaign was her opposition to the SNP's power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens - the collapse of which led to Mr Yousaf's resignation.

The backbench MSP told the New Statesman in December that the Bute House Agreement should be repealed and called for the SNP to rule as a minority government.

The Greens previously described her defeat as a "relief".

It is perhaps a problem for the SNP that while many of her colleagues and fellow party members take issue with her social views, she is also widely regarded as a very gifted and intelligent politician.

Ms Forbes quickly climbed the political ladder after being elected to Holyrood in 2016, aged just 26.

On the backbenches, she campaigned to ban plastic straws and delivered a speech in the Holyrood chamber entirely in Gaelic, having learned the language as a child.

She was appointed to government as public finance minister in 2018.

And in 2020 she was unexpectedly named finance secretary on the eve of the Scottish Budget, after her senior government colleague, Derek Mackay, was forced to step down when it emerged he had sent inappropriate text messages to a 16-year-old schoolboy.

Ms Forbes became Scotland's first female finance secretary and was widely praised for delivering the budget speech with just a few hours' notice.

Light was shed on Ms Forbes's role within Nicola Sturgeon's government during evidence sessions of the UK Covid Inquiry hearings.

Ms Forbes told the inquiry she had not been invited to so-called "gold command" meetings during the pandemic and was "surprised" to learn that they had not been minuted.

She also spoke out last year about her struggles after being diagnosed with postnatal depression in 2022.

She told BBC Radio Scotland's Lunchtime Live she suffered from insomnia and "extreme terror" following the birth of her daughter, Naomi.

Early years

Ms Forbes was born in Dingwall but was partly raised in India as her parents travelled there twice as missionaries.

When she returned to India at the age of 10, she studied at Woodstock School - an international residential school in the foothills of the Himalayas.

She went on to complete degrees at Cambridge University and Edinburgh University and became a chartered accountant for Barclays in London.

She worked as an assistant to the SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Dave Thompson, for two years before being selected to replace him when he stood down.

Having moved to the top level of government in just four years, she has many admirers among her colleagues, and won the backing of 48% of the membership in 2023.

Since then Ms Forbes has spent time away from the frontline of politics.

But Mr Swinney's rise to the SNP leadership has come with the promise of a key role for the Highland MSP in the new Scottish government.

Having once again expressed an interest in her party's top job, time will tell whether a return to cabinet will be the limit of her political ambitions.