Times are changing in Scotland. Ongoing!
Nicola Sturgeon, the former First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party (2014), unexpectedly resigned on 15 February – leaving the Scottish political world in disarray.
The fallout was an ensuing cultural war concerning the election of a new Leader of the SNP. Humza Yousaf was confirmed as the winner on 27 March, becoming the youngest, first Scottish Asian and Muslim to serve in office.
One of his (unsuccessful) Leadership candidate rivals was Kate Forbes. Forbes is a Scottish politician who served as the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy (2020-2023). A member of the SNP, she has been the Scottish Parliament representative for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency since 2016 to date.
Long story short: on the campaign trail Forbes was asked some candid questions; as to be expected – but her (honest) answers caused discomfort and division within her own party, between members, and undoubtedly with some of the Scottish electorate.
Forbes is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, and according to her religious beliefs is opposed to gay marriage, and also believes having a child outside of marriage is “wrong” – and said so publicly without issue.
In light of a problematic, mixed reaction Forbes confirmed she was “greatly burdened” her comments had caused some people hurt. Regardless; Forbes didn’t withdraw from the Leadership contest. She initially stood her ground – but later decided to leave her Government role when Yousaf ultimately took the leadership office, even though offered a position in Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands.
The above situation highlights some important questions:
Is individual thinking informed exclusively i.e. Political or Religious ideology?
Are they inextricably interwoven?
Or can they be separated?
Forbes suggested the latter:
“I will defend to the hilt the right of everybody in Scotland, particularly minorities, to live and to live without fear or harassment in a pluralistic and tolerant society.
“I will uphold the laws that have been won, as a servant of democracy, and seek to enhance the rights of everybody to live in a way which enables them to flourish.
“I firmly believe in the inherent dignity of each human being – that underpins all ethical and political decisions I make.”
Kemi Badenoch, a British politician currently serving as Secretary of State for Business and Trade (2023), President of the Board of Trade and Minister for Women and Equalities (2022) came out in support of Forbes and her honesty. When asked if she’d condemn the nature of Forbes’ comments Badenoch refused referencing the (nature of the) Equality Act (2010) confirming that “religion or belief” are one of the nine protected characteristics – and that condemnation of a person’s private, religious beliefs is the antithesis of what the Equality Act stands for.
Forbes believes “It is possible to be a person of faith, and to defend others’ rights to have no faith or a different faith.”
The above quote confirms that political thinking and actions should supersede the religion/faith of individuals – therefore allowing all to live side by side as neighbours and fellow voters.
However, the ongoing, related predicament remains an open-ended question: are voters happy with a politician, or for that matter a Leader, protecting their cultural/political interests if they personally deem them as “wrong”…
The SNP membership have made their decision clear. Will we see this ‘Politics or Religion’ quandary elsewhere? The chances are high – and the answers, found through individual voting power – will keep shaping the world we all live in. Onwards.
Matthew Paluch, Executive Assistant Legal &