THIS week I went to bed in one country and woke up in the same bed and the same room in another. The view from the window was identical but something fundamental had changed. It was not a change for the better.

I was comfortable with the Scotland I lived in. No country is perfect but we had taken major steps to become a country which celebrated diversity, welcomed newcomers, accepted different lifestyles and prioritised equal rights and justice. We had some way to go but could believe we were heading in the right direction.

It had not always been thus and the journey had been difficult. The battle to dump Section 28 legislation still seems to be a historic turning point. When Scotland rejected the absurd notion that the mere mention of gay people was by its very nature a “promotion of homosexuality” in schools, it felt like a major victory.

It was a hard battle and brought some truly homophobic arguments into public discourse but they were soundly discredited. Scotland had come out of the dark ages.

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In more recent years, the independence movement had begun to counteract a lack of national self-confidence and to provide a blueprint for a modern, progressive country. That progress has stumbled with comments this week by Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes as she launched her campaign to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as first minister and leader of the SNP.

Let’s not mince words: I believe her statements that she would have voted against equal marriage rule her out of the running for the job.

I believe those views have no place in the governance of a modern country and there should be a distinct and enforceable separation of church and state to make sure that political decisions are not influenced by faith. There should be no room for compromise on this issue.

For this, I will be branded intolerant, illiberal and dangerous by Forbes and many of her supporters. So be it.

The National: Kate Forbes

They seem incapable of understanding that it’s perfectly possible to protect a person’s right to belief and faith while still keeping religious views as far away as possible from the process of making laws. In fact, it’s not just possible but essential. Forbes herself does not believe this. In fact, she has said she would have voted against legislation allowing equal marriage.

In the fallout from Forbes’s comments, four main arguments have emerged from those eager that we all “move on” from the controversy. These are:

One: Forbes herself has said that she has started a welcome and overdue debate on what liberal means in the political sphere. Here’s a hint – it doesn’t mean pretending to support the rights of gay people to live and love whomever they want while wanting to deny them to right to marry. It does not mean acting against gender recognition reform supported by MSPs from most political parties at Holyrood.

I might, as the famous quote suggests, defend to the death the right to say something with which I disagree. That doesn’t mean I want the person who said it to be allowed anywhere near running the country.

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Surely we can all agree that we can believe what we want, but that there are leadership positions on which it is not appropriate to act on those beliefs and seek to deny basic human rights?

Two: It’s been suggested that Forbes is a good and talented person and we should therefore cut her some flack. Talented she may be, but her comments have inflicted real pain on the gay community which to some extent had felt accepted but now fears this was a pretence.

That is not politically acceptable. Just as you don’t have to like a candidate to believe they are the best fit for a job, you don’t need to vote for them just because you like them.

In this case, no matter how personable Forbes may be, she is – by her own admission – simply incapable of keeping her faith out of her voting decisions. That is dangerous.

Three: It’s been argued that the loss of Forbes would be a blow to the Scottish Government and the independence movement, which may to some extent be true. However, her election as First Minister would also lose the Scottish Government some considerable support and change in the nature of the independence movement.

There are some issues which could and should be airbrushed away for the sake of the independence project but gay rights are most certainly not among their number. The generational nature of independence support would almost certainly be significantly undermined.

A huge majority of young people support independence because they trust that gay rights will be front and central in an independent Scotland. If that trust is eroded the consequences would be serious.

Four: Her supporters praise Forbes’s “honesty” in explaining her beliefs and insist she has ruled out moving to change existing rights for the gay community.

First of all, honestly held views can still be abhorrent – and yes, I’d describe these views as abhorrent – and it is deeply worrying that any candidate for the job of First Minister “honestly” admits they would be guided by their faith in the way that they legislate.

And while we’re on the subject of honesty, does the statement put out yesterday by Forbes specifically mean she would vote for equal marriage in any future debate and against any attempt to remove the right to it?

And does her commitment to “uphold the laws that have been hard won” apply to equal marriage and gender recognition reform? If the answer to these questions is yes, why not say specifically?

Honesty is the very least I’d expect from a first minister. I don’t give candidates kudos simply for not lying. I don’t want a first minister who is grudgingly forced to say she has “no plans” to take away rights to equal marriage. What if another MSP put forward such plans? We already know the Finance Secretary would have voted to block equal marriage in the first place. How do we know? She told us.

If her conscience dictated she votes against equal marriage, might it not also dictate she votes to restrict access to abortion were she given the chance to do so?

Forbes can believe what she wants, even if it means believing in the very restricted role for women in the church to which she belongs.

But I don’t share those beliefs. I want a First Minister eager to celebrate Scotland’s diversity, to pro-actively support LGBTQ+ rights rather than simply pay them lip service. I want a First Minister to walk at the head of a Pride March, to demonstrate how much the Scottish Government appreciates them, supports them and will protect them because god knows there remains much to protect them from.

The National: First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon joins .people taking part in Pride Glasgow, Scotland's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) pride event in Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 14, 2018. See PA st

This week has told us much about Scotland and its politics and some of that has been hard to take. The sight of some in the independence movement tying themselves in knots trying to defend Forbes and demonise her detractors has been unedifying.

It is not a “witch trial” to disagree with a candidate’s beliefs, to point out the dangers of those beliefs and to decide not to vote for them on that basis. That’s what we do every time we cast a vote for a politician.

It’s simply not true that Forbes has no desire to impose her views on other people.

She would have voted against equal marriage to do exactly that.

People – and that includes politicians – have a right to hold religious views but also not to hold them. I don’t believe in god and I have the right to oppose legislation being influenced by a faith I and the majority of Scots don’t hold.

Forbes and some of her followers seem to suggest that the very act of challenging these views is intolerant and bigoted.

Faith does not give you extra rights. People of faith can of course hold whatever views they want but they are not immune to criticism. We still have the right to disagree and to decide they are inappropriate for a First Minister of a secular country.

In any case, Forbes has not engaged in any detailed debate about her beliefs but simply uses her faith as a cover-all justification.

I’m sorry but these matters deserve more informed discussion rather than simply playing the god card, muttering darkly about anti-religious bigotry when they are challenged.

I don’t believe in god but I believe in equal rights and equal marriage and a woman’s right to have an abortion every bit as fervently as Forbes believes in her religion.

I refuse to be branded an intolerant bigot and told to “move on to more important matters” because I believe it’s vital they are protected.

This whole mess isn’t entirely about religion anyway.

There are many politicians of faith who are able to place it aside when voting. The fact that these include Humza Yousaf and the SNP’s former Westminster leader Ian Blackford rather undermines the charge that criticism of Forbes, who has not done the same, is evidence of misogyny.

Nor is it the case that every religious leader necessarily endorses Forbes’s interpretation of Christianity. Lorna Hood, a former Church of Scotland moderator, argued this week that to say mainstream Christianity teaches marriage is only between a man and a woman is “disingenuous”.

“I have witnessed the struggle over many years that Christian friends had to endure”, she said on Twitter. “I thought we were past that.”

Amen to that.