ON Monday, Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes entered the race to become the next leader of the SNP.

She joins Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and former community safety minister Ash Regan, who also put their hat in the ring this week.

Whoever wins the contest will become the SNP's new leader and the likely first minister of Scotland.

They'll enter Bute House with gender reform legislation and buffer zones yet to be implemented across the country.

READ MORE: Who is Kate Forbes? SNP minister who could replace Nicola Sturgeon

They are hotly contested issues and each candidate takes a different view on each of them.

So what have they said about Scotland's key social issues?

Gender Recognition Reform Bill

Kate Forbes

The National: Kate Forbes is among the SNP's more socially conservative MSPsKate Forbes is among the SNP's more socially conservative MSPs

The Finance Secretary has been among the SNP members resistant to implementing gender reform legislation.

In 2019, she was one of 15 politicians in her party to sign a public letter calling on the Scottish Government to delay its manifesto commitment to reform the Gender Recognition (Scotland) Bill.

In 2022, she said that her position had not changed and that the Scottish Government should not rush to change the “definition of male and female”.

The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP is listed as a “did not vote” for Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill because she was on maternity leave at the time.

On Monday, Forbes clarified her stance on the issue, saying she would not have voted in favour of the reforms.

In her first interview since entering the leadership contest, the politician said she had "significant concerns" about self-identification for transgender people in Scotland and hinted that she is unlikely to launch a legal challenge against the UK Government for using a Section 35 order if she wins the leadership race. 

But she added: "This is a bill that's really important. You know, I have never been against the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, and so I think we do need to reform it and make it less onerous."

On Tuesday, she insisted trans women are "biological males".

Asked if she believed a trans woman is a woman, Forbes told ITV Border today: "I believe that a trans woman is a biological male, who identifies as a woman."

Forbes was told that many of her SNP colleagues will see such a stance as illiberal but she said: "In a liberal society you can co-exist and have these debates and discussions."

Humza Yousaf

The National: Humza Yousaf supported Scotland's gender reform legislatingHumza Yousaf supported Scotland's gender reform legislating

Yousaf voted in favour of the Scottish Government’s gender reforms in December.

He has also been outspoken in his anger over the UK Government’s move to block the bill.

He said: “I am firmly committed to equality for everybody, because your rights are my rights regardless of who you are. My starting point is that I’ve been a minority in this country for my whole life. I have understood that you have to fight for your rights but my rights don’t exist in a vacuum or in isolation. They only exist because other people’s rights exist too.

“The second important principle is that, regardless of whether you agree with the Gender Recognition Reform Bill or not, this overreach by the UK Government is something that we need to defend against. They are overreaching for sure and if they can do it for the GRR Bill they could do it for any other bill we decide to pass as a majority.”

Ash Regan

The National: Ash Regan quit the Scottish Government over her opposition to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill Ash Regan quit the Scottish Government over her opposition to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill

Regan has been outspoken in her opposition to Scotland's gender reform legislation. 

She quit as community safety minister in October in protest over her party's bill, which makes it easier for trans people to obtain a legally recognised Gender Recognition Certificate. 

The Edinburgh Eastern MSP said her conscience would not allow her to support the bill.

As she launched her leadership campaign, the MSP said: “Women’s rights will never be compromised with me.”

She also said she would “never vote for anything that would put women and girls in danger”.

Regan has also suggested she could change the rules around trans prisoners after the case of Isla Bryson.

Abortion and buffer zones

Kate Forbes

The National: Kate Forbes made a pro-life speech in 2018Kate Forbes made a pro-life speech in 2018

In 2018, Forbes made a pro-life speech at a prayer breakfast in Edinburgh.

During the event, organised by Brian Souter, she said: “May our politicians recognise that the way we treat the most vulnerable – whether the unborn or the terminally ill – is a measure of true progress.”

Forbes is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, a pro-life organisation.

But the Finance Secretary has not aligned herself with every doctrine of her church, previously suggesting she does not adhere to the Free Church’s Westminster Confession and attitudes toward Roman Catholics.

She said previously: “I make my own decisions on the basis of what decision is right and wrong, according to my faith, not according to the diktat of any church.”

Forbes has dismissed the idea that her faith conflicts with party policies, such as buffer zones, saying she stands by collective responsibility.

Forbes has been on maternity leave throughout much of the debate around buffer zones in Scotland and has not said whether she is supportive of Green MSP Gillian Mackay’s bill to introduce a 150m radius around abortion clinics where protesters would not be allowed to demonstrate.

Forbes has said she will work with Mackay on how to adequately “balance” the legislation.

She told the PA news agency: “I would say that I certainly don’t think that women going for an abortion should be subjected to fear and harassment.

“And so, I’d be willing to work with Gillian Mackay who is introducing the Bill.

“I think we should ensure there is not fear and harassment, but also to make sure that the Bill is targeted well, and balanced.”

Humza Yousaf

The National: Humza Yousaf has been Scotland's health secretary since 2021Humza Yousaf has been Scotland's health secretary since 2021

Yousaf has suggested he is pro-choice. The Health Secretary has also been a supporter of buffer zones around abortion clinics in Scotland.

In 2022, the Glasgow Pollok MSP said the protests outside the health centres were a “disgrace”.

He urged the protesters to instead demonstrate outside the Scottish parliament instead of “intimidating and harassing” women seeking healthcare.

Ash Regan

The National: Ash Regan has suggested she is pro-choiceAsh Regan has suggested she is pro-choice (Image: PA)

Regan has signalled that she is pro-choice and supportive of buffer zone legislation.

Speaking of abortion buffer zones, she said: "There is no place in our society for the harassment, abuse and intimidation of women and girls accessing healthcare services."

When she was a community safety minister she signalled her support to find a "response" to abortion clinic protests.

She said: "The Scottish Government fully supports Police Scotland to respond to protests at abortion clinics in such a manner if Police Scotland feels that a response is merited and is required to protect individuals and public safety."

Campaign group Back Off Scotland has asked each candidate to clarify their stance on safe access zones.

The group's Twitter account posted: "This afternoon we have written to FM candidates @HumzaYousaf, @_KateForbes & @AshtenRegan  asking for their views on abortion policy in Scotland. We asked if they personally support buffer zones, expanded second-trimester access, and decriminalisation."

Same-sex marriage

Kate Forbes

The National: Kate Forbes has previously evaded questions on her stance on gay marriage Kate Forbes has previously evaded questions on her stance on gay marriage

Kate Forbes became an MSP in 2016 which means she missed the Holyrood vote which passed same-sex marriage.

The MSP evaded questions about her stance on equal marriage during an interview with the Guardian in 2020.

Asked by host Jonathan Freedland about whether she supported same-sex marriage, she said: “Well I think, I mean, within the SNP, there's two answers I'd give. One is, within the SNP, there's plenty of forum for debate, right?

“And even as a leader, there's plenty of forum for debate, but then they come to a conclusion and that conclusion stands.

READ MORE: Polling puts SNP in strong position after First Minister's resignation

“And when it comes to same-sex marriage, that was a decision that was taken a number of years ago, it is the law of the land, there's nothing that I'm doing in terms of campaigning on any of those points.

“You know, that is the position that the SNP has come to and you know, I've got plenty of other things to be debating and discussing.”

This week, Forbes clarified her position saying that she would have voted against equal marriage at the time but would not roll back any rights that have already been won.

Forbes added that she defends the rights of LGBT+ people to live “free of harassment, fear and prejudice”.

Humza Yousaf

The National: Humza Yousaf voted in favour of equal marriageHumza Yousaf voted in favour of equal marriage (Image: PA)

Yousaf voted in favour of equal marriage in 2013 at the first stage when the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Bill was put to parliament.

When the final stage of the bill was put to MSPs though, Yousaf wasn't in the chamber and is recorded as a "did not vote".

Ash Regan

The National: Ash Regan missed the 2013 vote of equal marriageAsh Regan missed the 2013 vote of equal marriage

Like Forbes, Regan was not an MSP until 2016 and as such missed the Scottish Parliament's equal marriage vote.

In 2020, Regan announced her support for one of the UK's first gay couples to get help with IVF treatment on the NHS.

The couple, Ross and Chris Muller, said Edinburgh Royal Infirmary wouldn't look into their case until Regan, their MSP, intervened.

At the time, Regan said: "This is wonderful news to hear Ross and Chris will be welcoming a baby boy this summer.

"Supporting my constituents is what I’m here to do and I offer my congratulations to them both."