KATE Forbes has said she feels “heartsore” that she has caused “hurt” to people after saying she would have voted against equal marriage in 2014.

The Finance Secretary, who is running to become SNP leader and Scotland’s next first minister, told the media that she wouldn’t have supported bringing in same-sex marriage if she had been an MSP for that vote.

She also said having children outside of marriage “would be wrong according to my faith”.

Supporters accused critics of her views of targeting her due to her membership of the Free Church of Scotland, with the church itself speaking out against “bigotry” shown to Forbes.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon responds to Kate Forbes row with 'progressive' comment

Meanwhile, she faced calls to withdraw from the contest from within the party.

Now, Forbes has released a Twitter thread outlining her position and vowing to “protect the rights of everybody in Scotland, particularly minorities”.

She wrote: “This election is about independence, who is best equipped, and who has the best plan to achieve it. It is also about the society we want Scotland to be – where tolerance is the ruling ethic, poverty becomes history, equality of opportunity is the birth right of every child.

“Over the last few days, questions have focused on my faith. I feel greatly burdened and heartsore that some of my responses to direct questions in the media have caused hurt to friends, colleagues and fellow citizens. That was never my intention, but I've listened carefully.

“I will protect the rights of everybody in Scotland, particularly minorities, to live and to love without fear or harassment in a pluralistic and tolerant society. I will uphold the laws that have been hard won, as a servant of democracy.

“I will also seek to enhance the rights of everybody to live in a way which enables them to flourish. I firmly believe in the inherent dignity of each human being; that underpins all ethical and political decisions I make.”

READ MORE: SNP leadership race: Kate Forbes responds to John Swinney comments

She went on: “I've represented my constituents for 6 years. In full knowledge of my faith, voters re-elected me with one of the biggest majorities in Scotland in 2021. That demonstrates that voters were comfortable knowing that I would serve them faithfully and without prejudice.

“Since 2018, I've served in the Scot Gov, making financial decisions for the benefit of all of Scotland’s people. The Budget underpins all Scot Gov policies - serving everybody and upholding their rights.”

READ MORE: Who's backing who in the SNP leadership race?

The comments quickly prompted responses from followers, with a divided audience both continuing to criticise her views and thanking her for her honesty.

Douglas Mackinnon, the Scottish director who has worked on shows like Sherlock, Doctor Who and Good Omens, was among those reacting.

"I've just become one of your constituents. For me, the position of First Minister is at least partly about honestly and reasonably representing Scottish values. I don't think you do, which is why I can't vote for you," he said.

Meanwhile Bill Cruickshank, who runs a large pro-independence Twitter account, said: "You have my 100% support Kate don't let this Brit inspired pile on get to you. All the best."

Neil Gray MSP, who is supporting Yousaf's campaign, said on Thursday afternoon: "Kate is firmly entitled to her views, however it is clear that Kate has had to recognise that her views don’t chime with the majority of people in both the party and the country.

"But Scotland needs a leader who minorities in our society know will protect and promote their rights at all times.

"It's important that our party picks a leader who can be elected as First Minister to serve all of Scotland and who all voters know will have their back.

"The first days of this campaign have made clear that it is only Humza Yousaf who can unify our party, protect the independence majority in Parliament and build support for independence across all parts of our society."

Also on Thursday afternoon, Yousaf did not rule out giving Forbes a Cabinet position in any future administration he could lead.

The National: Party members will weigh up how well Humza Yousaf and the other hopefuls are likely to promote Scotland’s interests

Speaking to journalists after First Minister’s Questions, Yousaf (above) praised the Finance Secretary.

He said on Thursday: “I think Kate’s extremely talented, extremely able, I think anybody would want to see her at the heart of Scottish politics.

“As long as we agree – and I think we do collectively – that collective responsibility is important for any government to function, and Kate has shown she is willing, and has been in her time in Government, to abide by collective responsibility, I think that’s going to be an important question for all the candidates – myself included.”