Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf takes swipe at SNP leadership rival Kate Forbes over equal marriage

20 February 2023, 23:12 | Updated: 5 April 2023, 08:45

Humza Yousaf has said he doesn't use his faith as a basis of legislation, after fellow SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes revealed she would have voted against the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Marriage Bill.
Humza Yousaf has said he doesn't use his faith as a basis of legislation, after fellow SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes revealed she would have voted against the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Marriage Bill. Picture: Getty

By Chris Samuel

Humza Yousaf has said he doesn't use his faith as a basis of legislation, after fellow SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes revealed she would have voted against the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Marriage Bill.

Ms Forbes, who is among the favourites to replace Nicola Sturgeon as party leader following her shock resignation last week, earlier said she wouldn't have backed equal marriage "as a matter of conscience", but respects the democratic choice made over the issue.

Appearing on Tonight with Andrew Marr on LBC, Mr Yousaf said in response to her comments: "I'm a supporter of equal marriage.

"Let me get to the crux of the issue that you're asking me. I'm a Muslim. I'm somebody who's proud of my faith. I'll be fasting during Ramadan in a few weeks’ time.

"But what I don't do is, I don't use my faith as a basis of legislation. What I do as a representative, as a leader, as a Member of the Scottish Parliament is my job is to bring forward policy and pursue it in the best interest of the country."

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The health secretary also described possibility of the Scottish Greens pulling out the Bute House deal if Kate Forbes became First Minister as ‘disastrous’, telling Marr:

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf during a press conference on winter pressures in the NHS, at St Andrews House on January 16, 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf during a press conference on winter pressures in the NHS, at St Andrews House on January 16, 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture: Getty

‘Well, it would be frankly, disastrous, I think if the Green SNP agreement ended up breaking up. I'm a wholehearted supporter of that deal, because it's brought stability to the government.

"I think in a time when we have so much political discord, the fact that two political parties who yes have some differences in policy are able to come together compromise, find an agreement to govern in the best interest of the country, that's a good thing.

He added: "But frankly speaking, it would do enormous damage to the independence movement, if we had two parties that were working well together, split up, have that divorce, frankly, and that's not going to go down well for anybody… I think the Green deal has been great for not just for the government, but actually we've brought forward some really radical reforms. So, I'm a great supporter of it."

Earlier, Ms Forbes told The Scotsman wouldn't have backed equal marriage as a "matter of conscience" if she had been a member of parliament at the time.

Humza Yousaf says despite his religion he supports equal marriage.

Equal marriage was legalised in Scotland in 2014 with an overwhelming majority of 105 votes to 18, while Ms Forbes didn't enter parliament until the 2016 election.

She told the outlet: "In terms of the morality of the issue I am a practising Christian and I practice the teachings of most mainstream religions - whether that is Islam, Judaism or Christianity - that marriage is between a man and a woman. But that's what I practice.

"As a servant of democracy in a country where there is law I would defend to the hilt your right and anybody else's right to live and to love without harassment or fear."

Forbes said that though she wouldn't have supported the legislation, she would have "respected and defended the democratic choice that was made".

Kate Forbes delivering her budget at the Scottish parliament on January 28, 2021.
Kate Forbes delivering her budget at the Scottish parliament on January 28, 2021. Picture: Getty

Ms Forbes said: "I believe that it should be a conscience vote because of its profound significance in all mainstream faiths."I think for me, Angela Merkel is the example I would follow, I would have voted, as a matter of conscience, along the lines of mainstream teaching in most major religions that marriage is between a man and a woman.

"But I would have respected and defended the democratic choice that was made."It is a legal right now and I am a servant of democracy, I am not a dictator.”

Former community safety minister Ash Regan has also confirmed that she will stand in the leadership contest.

Candidates have until Friday to secure 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches, with the new leader set to be announced on March 27.

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