AT the beginning of last week, it could be said Kate Forbes’s leadership campaign looked like it had ended barely 24 hours after it had started.

Her opposition to gay marriage, the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and having children out of wedlock sent social media into a frenzy, with SNP members and staffers insisting she needed to withdraw from the leadership contest.

A former first minister adviser told the Sunday National he has major concerns over how “ill-prepared” the Finance Secretary was for the inevitable moral questions everyone knew would come her way.

“We’ve known for years that if Kate stood for leader those questions were coming her way and what really worried me from a political point of view, as someone who has worked on the other side, is she wasn’t prepared for them,” he said.

“Humza and Kate got asked the same question [about gay marriage]. Humza answered it saying ‘my values are my values, they’re not my political values because who am I to tell people how to live their lives’ ... Kate fluffed the obvious question.

“Kate’s faith is her faith and I have no qualms with that, but it’s a big, bad press corps out there. If you can’t answer these questions or you’re not prepared, how on earth do you become leader of the [independence] movement, making the case?

“That is not a question of policy or faith, it’s purely a question of preparation and being ready for the biggest job in Scottish politics.”

But since Forbes – who is a member of the Free Church of Scotland – said she was fighting on midweek, the commentary around her bid has turned, with a poll commissioned by The BIG Partnership even suggesting she is the early frontrunner in the race, with 28% of SNP supporters saying they would back her compared to 20% for Humza Yousaf and 7% for Ash Regan.

In the days after the initial furore over her views, SNP politicians including MSP Jim Fairlie and MP Douglas Chapman publicly reaffirmed their support for Forbes while MSP Christine Grahame insisted a “witch hunt” was being staged and defended Forbes’s right to “have a conscience”.

Historian Tom Devine also said “we can no longer be seen as a tolerant nation” if Forbes is barred from the opportunity to be first minister because of her faith.

And it would seem Forbes is not the only leadership contender who has had a rocky start to her campaign.

Yousaf had to bring in SNP senior media relations officer Jack Middleton to run his campaign with whispers from inside the party suggesting the feeling was it had been somewhat amateur so far.

Regan has sparked backlash of her own by suggesting, like Forbes, she wouldn’t oppose the UK Government’s block on GRR and is “not afraid” of pulling out of the Bute House Agreement with the Greens and forming a minority government.

The Edinburgh Eastern MSP has appointed former Alba candidate and first minister adviser Kirk Torrance as a strategist.

It would suggest both Regan and Yousaf are looking to tighten up their approach as they prepare for the crunch vote, with the ballot opening on March 13.

Another SNP insider told the Sunday National there has been general dissatisfaction with the start to all three campaigns so far, with some members having hoped for another late bid to emerge.

There is a huge desire to see questions move away from social issues and on to the contenders’ plans for independence.

One source told the Sunday National: “The campaigns have ranged from meh, car crash to the ridiculous, with the reason for the SNP’s very existence reduced to a sideshow.

“One week in and we seem to have a choice of Tartan Ukip, super gradualism and super gradualism with extra Jesus.

“Many members have been hoping that other candidates would come forward with a clear roadmap for a way ahead, but no late knight has appeared.

“The frustration many feel has been made worse by the likes of Alyn Smith, Ben MacPherson and Stewart McDonald peddling backwards from any movement on independence at a record-breaking speed and not being countered or dismissed by any of the leadership candidates.

“Surely week two will see someone actually sound like they have a plan for independence or actually speak about something of any importance to our actual voters?”

Another SNP source said: “I’d love to see more of a focus on pivotal issues such as delivering good government – because we know that galvanises support for independence – debating and discussing the plan to move forward for independence, and I would love to hear their ideas on gaining international recognition, gaining legitimacy in a public diplomacy campaign down south, and reaching out to the middle 20% of the electorate who will be decisive in this who are either soft Nos or soft Yessers. They are there to be persuaded.”

Like it or not, the final list of SNP contenders is now set with nominations having closed on Friday. It looks like all three still have plenty of work to do to win over the membership.