The scrutiny has been immense. The hatred has been vitriolic. Even those less familiar with the political world will be aware of the level of hatred levelled at Kate Forbes MSP.
With Nicola Sturgeon resigning as leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland, the race began for her successor. Kate, who has been the Cabinet Secretary for Finance since 2020, came back early from maternity leave to throw her hat in the ring. Yet it wasn’t long before hats weren’t the only thing being thrown.
Kate is an evangelical Christian, a member of the Free Church of Scotland, and for many this instantly raised alarm bells. She was grilled over her views on, amongst other things, the Gender Recognition Bill, abortion, gay marriage, and her views on sex more widely. She was clear that she is a democrat and had neither the will, nor the ability, to roll back rights that her fellow citizens believed in. Despite that important caveat, her orthodox ‘religious’ views put her beyond the pale.
Within days, several of her early SNP backers had pulled out the race, she had been denounced by key figures such as Deputy Leader John Swinney, and faced a deplorable level of abuse. Her campaign appeared dead on arrival.
Despite the opposition, at the time of writing (March 2023) Kate remains very much in the running for the position. Only time will tell whether she will succeed, and yet even the early days of her campaign carry vital lessons for any Christian, especially any considering a life in politics.
Most obviously, Kate’s experience shows the challenges facing any Christian who aspires to political life. For all that Christians have the freedom to get involved in politics, to even hold significant positions of influence, those that stick their head above the parapet will at some point come under fire. Tim Farron’s time as Lib Dem leader offers similar lessons.
Yet despite the heat, Kate has refused to bow down and instead has come out fighting. From the first moment she has been upfront, honest, and refused to hide what she thinks simply for political convenience. Whilst this has certainly earned her significant detractors, she has also won many plaudits for her integrity. There are certainly no questions on where she stands.
Far from kicking the issue into the long grass and inviting suspicion and uncertainty, Kate’s approach has been to clarify her position early on and see what happens. If nothing else, this has moved the argument on, and she may avoid some of the clouds and muddle that Tim experienced during the 2017 General Election.
Kate is also helped by her reputation. From her first moment as Cabinet Secretary for Finance when she had to deliver the budget mere hours after gaining the position following her predecessor resigning in scandal, she has undertaken her tasks with diligence and competence. For all that her Christian views might have harmed her chances, her talent, hard work, and ethic has endeared her to many and strengthened what might be considered a weak hand.
For students in the Politics Network, Kate is a praiseworthy example of someone owning Christ in the public square. Her bravery, integrity, and work-ethic stand as a bold witness to her faith and the God she serves. Whatever happens in this contest, she has been of great service to Christians whatever their political creed.
In defending the right for Christians to have an equal hearing in the public square, and in conducting herself with humility and gentleness she has only opened doors for other Christians to do the same. Whether that is with colleagues in an accountancy firm, in students at university, or for other politicians wishing to defy the secular creed.
For the Politics Network, Kate’s situation has only stressed the need to train other Christians to be a witness in this field. Kate at times cuts a lonely figure, and we need more Christians to enter politics with a commitment to the common good and to supporting one another for when the heat inevitably comes.
We long to see Christians living and speaking for Jesus with bravery, intelligence, and ambition. We long to see Christians who, like Kate, conduct themselves with humility and integrity, who are revered for their hard work, and who have the courage to act on their principles. It is our prayer that the Politics Network might play a small part in filling this need.