THE Free Church of Scotland have accused opponents of SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes’s bid to become first minister of “anti-Christian intolerance”.

Forbes is a member of the church and has in recent days fielded questions about her views on same-sex marriage, transgender rights and children being born out of wedlock.

Following an interview in which she claimed she would have voted against same-sex marriage had she been an MSP at the time, many of her party colleagues withdrew support for her campaign.

They include employment minister Richard Lochhead and children’s minister Clare Haughey.

Some members of her party have also criticised her stance on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

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The current Finance Secretary has said she would be “loathe to challenge” the UK Government’s blocking of the bill and would “seek legal advice and recognise it is not a priority right now.”

However, the Free Church of Scotland has said there is a “level of bigotry” amongst the criticism of Forbes’s statements and said they were concerned as the level of “anti-Christian intolerance which has been displayed on social media, and by some political and media commentators.”

A spokesperson said: "It is lamentable that Kate's honest adherence to simple traditional values would, for some, disqualify her from contributing to the public good of Scotland.

"Kate Forbes is standing on the basis of her policies - the fact that she is being criticised for her Christian convictions shows a level of bigotry that has no place in a pluralistic and diverse society."

Former SNP leader at Westminster Ian Blackford is also a member of the Free Church of Scotland.

But Blackford has distanced himself from some of church’s views – including its stance on same-sex marriage, which he called “a marvellous thing”.