KATE Forbes’s allies have said the “SNP establishment” is lined up against a potential leadership bid from the former finance secretary.

Both she and John Swinney are considering a bid for leadership though has not confirmed whether she would take another tilt at the position after Humza Yousaf’s resignation.

One ally claimed there was a “concerted campaign” by Swinney’s allies – who are thought to include those close with Yousaf and former first minister Nicola Sturgeon – to stop Forbes from running.

But one SNP insider hit back bluntly: "Is there f**k."

The National: Kate Forbes

Those close with Forbes – who came a close second in last year’s leadership race – say she is considering the impact such a bid could have on her young family while Swinney is also believed to have similar concerns.

Neither have formally declared whether they will run or not. 

READ MORE: Senior SNP figures back John Swinney to succeed Humza Yousaf as First Minister

But one Forbes ally said efforts were underway to stop her from running – as others pointed to the large number of backers Swinney had already amassed without announcing his candidacy.

A source said they believed that “decisions have been made after discussions amongst the continuity camp” and added that those figures believed that Swinney would be the one to “overcome the challenge of Kate Forbes”.

They added: “I wouldn’t use the phrase stitch-up but I would say there’s been a concerted campaign to try to prevent Kate Forbes’s candidature being successful.”

They said the party “establishment” had backed Yousaf in last year’s contest and that Swinney was their candidate this time around.

“The establishment voted for Humza last time and they attacked Kate Forbes in a way that was deeply repellent and unfair, verging on abusive simply because she’s a Christian,” they said.

Another Forbes backer said that not having a leadership contest at all would be better for Swinney (below), predicting he would lose against the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP.

The National: John Swinney

They told The National it was “obvious” moves to replace Yousaf with Swinney had been set up “from the get go”.

They pointed to former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford’s endorsement of Swinney “right out the traps” after Yousaf resigned.

Speaking of last year’s contest the source said that Swinney’s campaign, if it were launched, would begin as Yousaf’s did last year with “a million endorsements in about five minutes” and benefitting from a “big machine behind him”.

But some who backed Forbes last time around now prefer Swinney for the top job, with former Yes Scotland strategist Stephen Noon (below) switching sides. 

The National: Stephen Noon spoke about independence on Question Time

He told BBC Newsnight on Monday that the aim was now to unite the party, something he believed Swinney could do but not Forbes. 

Noon said: "I voted for Kate last year, she’s a substantial candidate but I think her contribution this time is not as leader. So I think the circumstances are different one year on.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes breaks silence amid SNP leadership race speculation

"And where the challenge was the continuity, the problem of continuity, the challenge now is unity and I struggle to see Kate delivering the same degree of unity as John would and that’s unity within the party but it’s also the capacity to reach out within Parliament."

Noon added that the party needed someone with more experience at pointed out Swinney came from "the time when the SNP didn’t always win elections".  

He said: "I think John has those skills. He’s a supremely wise politician he’s got the experience of the ups and downs of politics.

"He’s from the time when the SNP didn’t always win elections, these are really valuable skills for a leader to be having as we move into the next stage."

An SNP source said they felt Forbes would not be able to pass a Budget if she was to become first minister, in anticipation of the Scottish Greens and other opposition parties refusing to work with her. 

They told The National: "There is no clear route to passing a budget under Kate Forbes - and unfortunately that means a vote for her as Humza's successor is a vote for an early election."

Asked by Sky News on Tuesday morning about allegations of a “stitch-up” in his favour reported by The Times, Swinney said Yousaf’s resignation was “traumatic news”, adding: “It’s important we all take time to consider carefully all of the implications of that, that’s what I’m doing to make sure that we take right decisions for the party.”

Swinney was approached for further comment.