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by Kirsteen Paterson
09 May 2024
Ross Greer makes emotional speech as MSPs back Kate Forbes for deputy first minister

Ross Greer MSP | Alamy

Ross Greer makes emotional speech as MSPs back Kate Forbes for deputy first minister

Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer made an emotional speech to parliament as MSPs agreed to adopt Kate Forbes as deputy first minister.

While new First Minister John Swinney chose Forbes as his deputy, her appointment as a Scottish minister had to be voted through by parliament.

Speaking for the Greens, who were recently removed from government by former First Minister Humza Yousaf, Greer said his party would not back her.

The West Scotland MSP said three ministers who have left office under Swinney - former equalities minister Emma Roddick, ex-parliamentary business minister George Adam and former local government minister Joe FitzPatrick - were "all champions of a fairer, more equal Scotland".

And he said of Forbes' appointment: "I'm being asked to vote for someone who thinks there's something wrong with me, not because of any views I hold, but simply because of who I am. I will not do that and the Scottish Greens will not do that."

Forbes' appointment has been welcomed by some based on her previous performance as finance and economy secretary, but criticised by others due to comments made in 2023 about same-sex marriage.

Interviewed while running for the leadership of the SNP, Forbes said she would not have voted in favour of same-sex marriage had she been an MSP at the time.

The Free Church of Scotland member said she would have voted against the law change "as a matter of conscience", later saying: "I unequivocally apologise for any hurt and offence that has been caused.

"I absolutely defend people's right in this country to marry, as they've been able to do for the past nine years."

Highlighting his Christian faith, Greer said, "faith is not the issue here" and "Scotland is in many ways a harder place to be LGBT today than it was five years ago".

He said: "The existence of LGBTQ people, especially queer young people, has been called into question in a way many of us hoped was consigned to history. 

"First minister, many LGBTQ Scots are afraid today. I know that's not your intention, and it's certainly not the intention of Kate Forbes, but it is the reality. It was the reality before Kate Forbes nomination for deputy first minister, but the first minister must acknowledge that this nomination has heightened that fear."

Greer, who worked closely with Swinney through the Bute House Agreement, went on: "I know that John Swinney considers me and all LGBT members of this parliament to be equal. I know that he shares the joy felt by every LGBT person in Scotland who has used the marriage right that this parliament gave them, including members of this parliament. 

Kate Forbes in her place as deputy first minister | Alamy

"But today the first minister is asking us to appoint as his deputy someone who does not share in that joy, who does not think we are deserving of equality under the law, who thinks there's something wrong with us. I cannot, the Scottish Greens cannot do that."

Forbes survived the vote by 63 votes to 57, with three abstentions. Six MSPs did not vote.

Swinney said he would ensure that "everybody in Scotland feels that their government is with them, is protecting them, is assuring them and is making them feel safe". 

Ivan McKee, who acted as Forbes' campaign manager in 2023 before withdrawing over her same-sex marriage comments, was also voted in as a junior minister.

The former businessman has been appointed as Public Finance Minister.

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