KATE Forbes has officially announced she will run to be the next leader of the SNP.

The Finance Secretary tweeted: “I am today launching my bid to become Scotland's next First Minister, with the vision, experience and competence to inspire voters across Scotland.”

In a statement, she said: "The nation and the Yes movement are at a major crossroads. The choices we make in the next few weeks will have a profound impact on our future and our children’s future. 

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“I cannot sit back and watch our nation thwarted on the road to self-determination. Our small, independent neighbours enjoy wealthier, fairer, and greener societies – and so can we. 

“We urgently need to unleash the full talent of the SNP, the wider Yes movement and the country at large. We need to choose strong, competent leadership to deliver independence – the leadership that I can offer.”

She continued: “I believe we need somebody who can unite the party and the Yes movement. I will reach out and listen so that every member feels valued and able to contribute.

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"That is important within the party, but it is also important if we are to persuade others of the merits of independence. 

“We need a leader who is bold and brave and energised, who inspires confidence from the SNP membership and who inspires the confidence of the people of Scotland.

"From the youngest to the oldest, regardless of where you live or who you are. We need somebody who voters can trust, who has integrity and commitment. I am that leader – and I want to lead the party into better days.”

It is now a three-horse race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon, who announced she was stepping down last week. 

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and gender recognition reform rebel Ash Regan, who served as community safety minister before quitting in protest, announced their bids on Sunday. 

Forbes has faced questions in the past over her stances on gay marriage and abortion, having previously declined to clarify her stance on equal marriage and once speaking at an anti-choice event organised by Brian Souter. 

In a supportive Twitter thread, which fell short of a full endorsement of her candidacy, the SNP's longest-serving MP Pete Wishart said he was "really pleased" Forbes was standing. 

He wrote: "I really hope that [Forbes] is not deterred over all this rubbish about her religious beliefs. Value systems inform not dictate and in politics you are judged on what you do for the people you serve.

"And that comes from someone who could not be more agnostic. Though I did play in a rock band with members who even observed the sabbath! That didn't stop us becoming one of the most popular bands in Scotland...really pleased Kate is standing."