Nicola Sturgeon has said the views of the next first minister “matter” as she weighed into the controversy surrounding leadership hopeful Kate Forbes.
Scotland’s finance secretary has faced scrutiny and lost high-profile supporters after saying she would have voted against same-sex marriage.
Ms Forbes, a member of the Free Church of Scotland, later added that having children outside of marriage “would be wrong according to my faith”.
Asked about the comments, Ms Sturgeon said that Scotland is a “socially progressive country and I believe that is majority opinion”.
She added: “Whoever is first minister the views that they have on all sorts of issues matter because people look to their first minister to see someone who will stand up for them and their rights and the job of first minister on a daily basis involves responding to things based your positions your values, your outlooks.
“I know all of the candidates well and they are all really talented people and they all offer different things to the job and it is for the SNP to make that decision.”
The Free Church of Scotland is opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion, arguing that they go against the teachings of The Bible. Earlier this week, the church jumped to Ms Forbes’s defence and accused her critics of bigotry.
Ms Forbes announced last week that she would be running to be SNP party leader after Ms Sturgeon announced she would be stepping down last week.
Bu since revealing her religious beliefs, SNP children’s minister Clare Haughey and Gillian Martin, Aberdeenshire East MSP said they could no longer support her campaign. Employment minister Richard Lochhead and finance minister Tom Arthur also withdrew support.
Asked about his opponent’s comments, health secretary and practising Muslim Humza Yousaf said he would not use his faith as a basis for legislating, adding he believes in a Scotland that “celebrates differences, celebrates diversity, celebrates equality”.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s deputy first minister has said he “profoundly” disagrees with the religious stance taken by Ms Forbes, despite being a “man of deep Christian faith”.
John Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday: “I think the thing for me that I would want to say at this stage is all of the debate that has been aired about Kate Forbes’s position for me has got absolutely nothing to do with Kate’s faith.
“I am a man of deep Christian faith, but I don’t hold the same views that Kate has set out in the course of the last couple of days.
“I think it has been unhelpful that the debate has been focused on the question of faith, because in my view it has got nothing to do with faith.
“The Church of Scotland undertakes same-sex marriage, and I warmly congratulate and compliment the Church of Scotland on getting carefully to that position over some years.”