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Holyrood approves appointment of Kate Forbes as Deputy First Minister


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John Swinney’s new ministerial team, which includes Kate Forbes as Deputy First Minister, has officially been appointed following a Holyrood vote.

But the First Minister faced his first challenge leading a minority Government with Ms Forbes’s appointment only narrowly backed after the Conservatives, Labour and the Greens voted against.

Three Scottish Liberal Democrats abstained, meaning the appointment passed by 63 votes – the number of SNP MSPs – to 57 against, while six MSPs did not vote.

The Holyrood vote also saw Ivan McKee appointed as public finance minister, passing with 63 votes to 47, with 10 abstentions.

Opposition to Ms Forbes’s Government post follows comments she made on her social views, particularly those on gay marriage and abortion rights, during the 2023 SNP leadership contest.

First Minister John Swinney chose Kate Forbes as his Deputy First Minister (Lesley Martin/PA)
First Minister John Swinney chose Kate Forbes as his Deputy First Minister (Lesley Martin/PA)

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer told the First Minister prior to the vote: “John Swinney knows the esteem that I hold him in.

“But today he is asking me, and other members of this Parliament who are LGBT, to appoint to the second highest office in this country an individual who believes it was wrong that Parliament granted us the same legal rights as everyone else 10 years ago.

“I cannot, the Scottish Greens cannot, support the appointment of someone who fundamentally does not believe that everyone in Scotland is equal, worthy of equal rights and respect under the law.

“We cannot support the appointment of someone who believes that equal marriage is wrong, but also that being born out of marriage, so we will oppose the appointment of Kate Forbes for Deputy First Minister.”

Mr Greer also quoted Mr Swinney, who said he did not hold the same views as Ms Forbes despite being a man of “deep faith”.

Green MSP Ross Greer said his party cannot support the appointment of ‘someone who believes that equal marriage is wrong’ (PA)
Green MSP Ross Greer said his party cannot support the appointment of ‘someone who believes that equal marriage is wrong’ (PA)

Responding, Mr Swinney said he wants everyone in Scotland to feel represented by the Scottish Government.

He said: “I come to these conclusions from a very deep Christian faith.

“I believe that we are equal in the eyes of God. Every one of us. I hope those comments, which are more forthright about faith than I have ever uttered in my 45 years in politics, will perhaps illustrate to Parliament the magnitude of the seriousness with which I take the issues that Mr Greer puts to me.”

Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said her party does not support the ministerial appointments.

She said: “Instead, we are putting down a marker that this Government must change its approach.

“The Scottish Conservatives will take every opportunity to oppose this SNP Government and its obsession with independence, but this does not mean that we are not above working with other parties across Parliament to deliver on the real priorities of the Scottish people.”

Scottish Labour’s Martin Whitfield said: “I fear the ambition to work in Scotland’s best interests is lacking in this Government.

Holyrood narrowly approved of Kate Forbes’s appointment as Deputy First Minister (Lesley Martin/PA)
Holyrood narrowly approved of Kate Forbes’s appointment as Deputy First Minister (Lesley Martin/PA)

“After 17 years of failure, every single institution in Scotland is weaker and those responsible still remain at the heart of Government.

“Our country needs effective leadership. While I wish genuinely all the ministers who are appointed today well, I feel the task ahead is beyond them.”

However, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said his party would not block the appointments.

He said: “We may have a difference of views on equalities, but Kate Forbes does deserve a chance to govern putting those views to one side.”

The rest of Mr Swinney’s Cabinet is largely unchanged from that under his predecessor Humza Yousaf, with former deputy first minister Shona Robison remaining in the finance brief.

The minister for independence role has been dropped, with Jamie Hepburn who held the post moved to minister for parliamentary business.

The ministerial reshuffle saw George Adam, Emma Roddick and Joe Fitzpatrick step down from their roles.

Consisting of 11 Cabinet secretaries, including the First Minister, the Scottish Cabinet is supported by 14 ministers, reducing the size of the Scottish Government by four since the start of the year.


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