Kate Forbes is Scottish public's favourite to be next first minister

(Photo: STV)

Kate Forbes is in the lead among members of the general public to become Scotland's next first minister despite an earlier backlash over her conservative Christian beliefs. 

Polling by Channel 4 News and Ipsos gives her an eight-point lead among members of the Scottish public, with around a third (32%) saying she would make the best first minister. 

Humza Yousaf followed with almost a quarter (24%) of the public giving him their support. Ash Regan came third with only 8% of the public's backing. 

A quarter said they did not support any of the candidates. 

The poll of 1,500 adults in Scotland included 580 people who voted SNP in the last Scottish Parliament election in 2021. 

In this group, support for Forbes and Yousaf was virtually tied (32% vs 33%). 

The poll shows strong support for Forbes despite attacks over her membership in the Free Church of Scotland and conservative stance on marriage and abortion early in her campaign.

However, the poll did find that most members of the Scottish public (57%) feel uncomfortable about politicians voting on policies that affect people's marriage and relationships according to their personal religious beliefs.

This rose to 61% among SNP voters and two thirds of 16 to 34 year olds.

Jim Fairlie MSP told the Holyrood Reporter that the polling confirms "only Kate can win the public vote".

"The wider electorate views Kate as a trusted and talented leader with a track record of delivery. It is no wonder that the opposition party leaders are running scared – which we saw at First Minister's Questions," he said.

"It is the SNP membership who will elect a new party leader – and they will want to elect an election-winner. Kate will not take a single vote for granted, and she will continue to make the case that she is the strongest candidate to deliver independence for Scotland."

A separate poll last month by YouGov for Theos found that over half (58%) of the 163 Scottish adults surveyed would be supportive of an evangelical Christian in high office.