EVER since Kate Forbes swooped in to save the Scottish Budget in spring 2020 after Derek Mackay was forced to resign as finance secretary in disgrace, she has been tipped as a rising star of the party.

A master communicator, an intelligent Oxbridge graduate, young and ambitious, she seemed to have it all and was, only 24 hours ago, the bookies' favourite to replace Nicola Sturgeon as first minister over Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan.

But after launching her campaign at 11am on Monday morning, Forbes appeared to have damaged her chances of securing the top job by the time Tuesday came around.

Party sources said she was being compared to former prime minister Liz Truss due to the sheer pace of her downfall, with a number calling for her to withdraw from the race.

How can she have got it so wrong?

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It all started just before 6.30pm on Monday when people got home to find Forbes had said she would have voted against gay marriage – an act made legal in Scotland in 2014 with an overwhelming majority of 105 votes to 18.

The Finance Secretary said she would not have supported equal marriage “as a matter of conscience” if she had been an MSP at the time due to her faith.

Cue a major backlash social media. Twitter was awash with those outraged by her comments, and MSPs and MPs who had pledged their support for her promptly withdrew their backing.

Gillian Martin, Richard Lochhead, Drew Hendry, Clare Haughey and Tom Arthur were just some of the politicians who turned their back on her in a tumultuous 24 hours, which also saw her say she would have opposed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and would not take the Section 35 block to the courts.

The National: Toni Giugliano has said Kate Forbes should consider withdrawing from the contest Toni Giugliano has said Kate Forbes should consider withdrawing from the contest (Image: Colin Mearns)

But amid the furore, Forbes continued to plough on with more controversial comments. At around lunchtime on Tuesday, she said having children outside of marriage is “wrong” and something she would “avoid”.

SNP staffers began to fear what was going to come out of her mouth next.

Toni Giugliano, the SNP's policy convenor, said she should consider scrapping her bid for the good of the party.

He told The National: “These questions [around her beliefs] will keep on coming over the next five weeks and will continue to dominate discussions over the next five weeks and they would dominate a future election campaign too, overshadowing the many issues facing Scots and overshadowing our drive for independence.

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“So I would ask, who gains from this?

“I’m at the stage where I would ask any leadership candidate in this position, whose campaign is inevitably damaging both the campaign and the cause, whether it is time for them to withdraw.”

Another SNP source said people feel Forbes has misread the room.

They questioned how the MSP felt it appropriate to convey such views in her bid to become first minister. Even members of her team who worked on her 2021 election campaign have had to leave.

“Everyone is quite dismayed about the lack of political savviness and the deeply damaging, regressive views that are just not matching the party’s membership,” a party source said.

“I think the gay marriage stuff really broke the camel’s back. You had figures like Richard Lochhead, people who are not left of the party, openly disavowing their support for Kate because it’s a line you just don’t cross.

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“I think it’s all about the balance and the boundary you draw between the personal and political. Humza Yousaf is also a practicing Muslim, his religion also doesn’t allow gay marriage, but he’s been able to distance himself from that and say that his individual beliefs have nothing to do with him as a legislator.

“I think it would be wise for her to pull out. She’s tarnishing the party and there’s speculation now that if she doesn’t win, she definitely wouldn’t be a Cabinet member in Humza’s government. But that’s up to Kate.”

There has been no definitive word from one of her top supporters, trade minister Ivan McKee, who is running her campaign - but he has told Channel 4 he is going to “speak to Kate about the campaign later on.”

But it would seem, by all accounts, her leadership bid is in jeopardy and could be beyond saving.

Another SNP source said: “She’s doing a lot of damage and it’s embarrassing. She needs to stand down [from the race].

“The views that she’s expressing are not in line with party policy. There is party policy we’ve held for a very long time that she’s standing in the way of and it’s hurting the communities we’ve tried so hard to protect and I think if she stands aside it would be the right thing. “