FINANCE Secretary Kate Forbes has been tipped as one of the favourites to take over from Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP.

Some political commentators have speculated that her religious beliefs could put her at odds with progressive members in the party.

Forbes is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, an evangelical breakaway from the mainstream Church of Scotland, formed originally in 1843.

However, Forbes has not aligned herself with every doctrine of her church, previously suggesting she does not adhere to the Free Church’s Westminster Confession and attitudes toward Roman Catholics.

She said previously: “I make my own decisions on the basis of what decision is right and wrong, according to my faith, not according to the diktat of any church.”

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The ambitious Cabinet Secretary, currently on maternity leave, was promoted from public finance minister to the role after her predecessor Derek Mackay was sacked just hours before he was due to deliver the Scottish Budget in March 2021.

With the row over the UK Government using a Section 35 order to block Scotland's gender reforms and an upcoming Scottish Greens members bill (backed by the Scottish Government and Sturgeon) to bring in anti-abortion buffer zones outside of women's health clinics, some commentators have suggested some of Forbes's religious beliefs could put her at odds with current party policy.

What is the Free Church and what are its beliefs?

The Free Church was created as a protest against state encroachment on the spiritual independence of the Kirk and is sometimes known as “The Wee Frees”. It is the second-largest denomination after the national Church of Scotland.

It first emerged in 1843 when around a third of ministers in the Church of Scotland resigned because of state interference, later known as The Disruption. In 1900, the majority of the Free Church joined with the United Presbyterian Church, but around 27 ministers and 100 congregations refused to join the union.

The Presbyterian group said its primary motivation is to “make disciples” and teach from the Bible. It claims to have over 100 congregations across Scotland and 13,000 members.

The National: Former moderator David Robertson compared abortion to slaveryFormer moderator David Robertson compared abortion to slavery

Its website reads: “We believe that the Bible is God’s Word and that it should be central in all that we do.

“It tells us about Him, about the world in which we live, about ourselves and, most importantly, about the good news of Jesus and how he has come to rescue us from sin and death.

“Everything from our patterns of worship to our church structures seeks to reflect clear Biblical teaching.”

Former Free Church moderator Rev David Robertson has previously compared abortion to slavery, and the denomination has an anti-abortion stance on moral grounds.

In 2015, after abortion law was devolved to Holyrood, Robertson called on MSPs to debate the time limit claiming Scots will look back at the “evil” of terminations with the same horror as historical disgraces such as slavery.

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What has Kate Forbes said about her religious beliefs in the past?

Speculation has been rife over whether or not Forbes's beliefs will clash with progressives in the party, with some of her past remarks surfacing following the news of Sturgeon’s resignation.

She told a prayer breakfast in 2018, while a backbencher, that politicians should recognise the treatment of the “unborn” was a measure of “true progress”.

In May 2021, she told a BBC Political Thinking podcast: “I am a person before I was a politician and that person will continue to believe that I am made in the image of God.”