EQUAL marriage has been hailed as one of the Scottish Parliament’s proudest achievements – but it is still a sticking point for some MSPs.

SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes lost her place as the bookies’ favourite to succeed Nicola Sturgeon when she revealed on Monday night she would not have backed same-sex marriage in 2014.

She’s not alone – either among her own party or across the chamber.

The National:

Sitting MSPs who opposed the legislation at the time include the SNP’s Alasdair Allan, John Mason and Fergus Ewing while the Tories’ Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith opposed the legislation at the time.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes loses endorsements after equal marriage comments

One name notably absent from the list of Aye votes on February 4, when the bill passed its final Holyrood hurdle, is Humza Yousaf, who has capitalised on Forbes’s views on LGBT rights.

He was not present in the chamber when the bill passed by 105 votes to just 18 against.

Yousaf’s absence was remarked upon at the time and was especially notable because he had voted for it on the bill’s first reading.

Votes in the Scottish Parliament go through three stages – the first is on the general principles of the bill, the second sees the committee assigned to scrutinising it taking a vote and making amendments and the final stage goes back to all MSPs.

So why did Yousaf miss the final vote on gay marriage?

Yousaf was, at the time, the Scottish Government’s external affairs minister – his first role in government.

He said he was on government business when the vote was scheduled, meeting with the Pakistani Consulate in Scotland regarding the case of a Scot who was facing the death penalty in the country. 

His absence was noted at the time, and in a Twitter thread, he responded to questions about why he was not there: “Had ministerial engagement arranged beforehand but signed pledge, voted for stage one and v public about my (continued) support!”

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf not 'wedded' to de facto referendum plan as he launches leadership bid

Pressed for detail, he said: “Meeting Pakistan Consul discussing Scot on death row accused under Blasphemy Law not one could/want avoid.”

Back in the present, Yousaf made a thinly-veiled swipe at Forbes, tweeting: “Equality and the protection of rights are at the very core of my being.

“I have lived my entire life in Scotland as a minority, often having to fight for my rights. I want there to be no doubt in anyone’s mind, whoever you are, that I will fight to protect all of our rights.”

A spokesperson for Yousaf told The National: "Humza Yousaf unequivocally supports equal marriage, and has a track record of supporting LGBTI+ rights, including his support for [gender recognition reform]."

But doubts were cast on this reason by former ambassador Craig Murray – a vocal critic of the SNP establishment and a backer of Ash Regan, though he does not have a vote. 

On his blog, he noted a disclosure Yosuaf made shortly after missing the vote which revealed the meeting with the Pakistani Consul was arranged on January 16, 2014 – two days after he was informed of the date of the third reading of the bill. 

Murray said: "At 19 days notice it plainly was not an urgent dash to save somebody’s life."

He added: "I might add something from my perspective as a former senior diplomat. The Pakistani Consulate in Glasgow deals with assisting the interests of Pakistani nationals in Scotland, and with visas. You might as well discuss a death row case with a Pakistani train driver as the Pakistani consul.

"Consuls are low status diplomats. The Pakistani Consul General’s diary would not need 19 days notice to see the Scottish Justice Minister [sic], he would be delighted to get the meeting."