KATE Forbes has responded to comments made by Deputy First Minister John Swinney about the leadership candidate’s stance on equal marriage.

Swinney questioned whether the Finance Secretary’s position on the matter made her “appropriate” to be leader of the SNP.

He said that he “profoundly disagreed” with Forbes despite his own “deep religious faith” after the candidate said she would have voted against equal marriage laws.

Responding to the remarks, a spokesman for Forbes said: “The Prime Minister is a Hindu, the Mayor of London is a Muslim.

“So many will wonder why the Deputy First Minister believes a woman holding Christian views should be disqualified from holding high office in Scotland.”

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Swinney did stop short of calling for Forbes to resign with sources saying she intends to continue her campaign.

Several key backers withdrew their support for her following her comments on equal marriage.

Swinney previously told the BBC that Forbes’s views had “absolutely nothing” to do with faith.

He said: “I’m a man of deep Christian faith but I do not hold the same views.

“Kate is perfectly entitled to express her views, but party members are equally entitled to decide if someone who holds those views would be an appropriate individual to be SNP leader and first minister.”

The Free Church of Scotland has said it is composed of people “from all political persuasions, some of whom will not share Kate’s politics, particularly over an independent Scotland”.

It expressed concern at 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.”

Elsewhere in the contest, Ash Regan, called for an end to “mudslinging” in the race.

Speaking to STV news on Wednesday, she said: “I just want to put out a call for calm – I think that’s really important at the moment.

“Kate and Humza are really valued colleagues, they’re a really important part of the SNP. So I think all the mudslinging that’s been going on just now needs to stop, everyone needs to take a breath.

“We’ve all got to remember that we’re all going to be working together at the end of this.”