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UK News

Scotland's finance secretary interview: "Nobody in politics doubts the scale of what we would call sin"

by Cara Bentley

The Christian politician who holds the purse strings of Scotland tells Premier she has found the first few months in the job difficult and high pressured but "I recognise the fact that it is a matter of life and death."

Kate Forbes, 30, a member of a Free Church of Scotland congregation and committed Christian, was propelled onto the political stage in February when she was told, as a backbench Scottish National Party MSP, that she was to deliver the Scottish budget in the next few hours after the transgression and sudden resignation of her predecessor Derek Mackey.  

With little notice, she delivered the 32-minute budget calmly in Holyrood, took questions and was appointed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to the role of Cabinet Secretary for Finance ten days later.  

When asked if Nicola Sturgeon knows she's a Christian, Kate Forbes replied: "I don't think there's anybody who doesn't." 
In the few weeks since then Forbes explained that she's been "phenomenally busy" with her work as a constituent MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, and also her Cabinet position. 

"It's quite something to be in a new job for two months and already be trying to deal with an economic crisis on the scale that we are seeing it - not just in Scotland, but across the world."

Her role means she normally has responsibility for the budget, tax, public sector pay and local budgets and income, all of which have now taken on a far greater meaning since Covid-19 as she tries to balance a fixed budget while protecting crumbling businesses, procuring life-saving ventilators and recruiting staff to the health service. 

"It's been getting incredibly pressurised" she revealed, "but the reason I'm doing it is because this is a vitally important piece of work and I recognise the fact that it is a matter of life and death and it's making a big difference to the businesses and the individuals who are benefiting from the measures that we're putting in place."


Speaking about how she has found being a Christian at the top level of Scottish politics, Forbes replied: "I've always been fairly open about it, I've not hidden anything and when I was a promoted people were wondering who I was and doing a bit of investigation and writing profile pieces and all of them were quite open and upfront about my faith. I maintain that no protected characteristic should ever stand in the way of somebody holding public office or standing for election and that means my position. However, that doesn't mean that I'm immune from scrutiny and I'm very happy to debate and discuss these issues, which I do on a regular basis, with friends, colleagues and with constituents. 

"I think the key is being open and honest, not being scared of scrutiny, but also being clear that, in the same way that no other protected characteristic should be a disadvantage, it should also apply to faith and religion."

She commented on whether she ever has opportunities to share the gospel with her colleagues by pointing out that it is "natural" to share your hope to common problems: "Nobody in politics doubts the scale of what we would call sin: the scale of challenge in the world, the scale of unpleasantness in the world. And you've got politicians who, I think for the most part, are genuinely trying to fix that, are genuinely trying to use their judgment, their work to fix that and that's what the Gospel's all about - the Gospel is all about the fact that the world is a bit of a mess. It's been a bit of a mess for years. In fact, it's been a bit of a mess for centuries. We've been talking about ending poverty for centuries, it's still with us. We've been talking about ending injustices that go on in dark rooms for years, and they're still with us. So, there's opportunities there when it comes to having hope in the face of injustice, I do have hope because I believe that there is a God who loves and cares for people enormously. And all the issues that break my heart and break my colleagues' hearts, break His heart even more because he sees far deeper into our hearts and sees far deeper into some of the darkest corners than we ever will. So, I think in that context it's normal to talk about the situations in the world and normal to talk about the source of hope."


While stuck in lockdown in the Highland countryside with family, she said she was enjoying hearing each family member joining in with a different church from each room. In England, churches could be reopened after 4th July, but no plan has been set in Scotland yet, something she acknowledges as a "spiritual harm" but stands by. 

"We don't have a vaccine and until we have a vaccine the only proper precaution that we know of to prevent the spread of the virus is social distancing. Businesses will have to adapt; churches will have to adapt. I think it's important for churches to start thinking now about what adaptations are required to make it safer for people to be able to go to church, when the time comes, over the course of the next few weeks or months to revise the guidance."

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