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Have we lost the ability to debate without hate? Dingwall-based MSP Kate Forbes has said she has had to 'tiptoe' around her religious beliefs in an interview with the BBC

By Scott Maclennan

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Kate Forbes.
Kate Forbes.

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes has said she has had to “tiptoe” around her religious beliefs while also saying the country has lost the “ability to debate”.

In a revealing interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson, the presenter asked Ms Forbes how her religion – she is a member of the Free Church of Scotland – sits with the “conventional wisdom in equality” that often sees objections “treated as if it is a form of heresy and you are someone to be attacked.”

She said: “I think the problem is deeper than that – I think we have lost the ability to debate the issue without hating the person.

“So when I got into politics for the first time I was stunned that people could not disagree or agree with my views at arm’s length but still get on with me as a human being and see me as a human being.

“Now, whatever issue you pick – it might be matters of equality or the constitution or anything in between – we have lost the ability to debate well, to debate in an informed fashion that recognises there is an intelligent human being and their arguments are being backed up by substance.

“I think from the very beginning I have weighed up questions of compromise so wherever you live, wherever you work, you have to confront questions of compromise and I think the question for Tim Farron – what is one compromise too big?

“And that is true for all of us, it is true not just for people of faith but I get it on the faith side and that is something that I will still weigh up. I think it is important that we still respect matters of conscience and actually within political parties there is a lot of diversity of views and debates and perspectives.”

On the issue of whether this was a problem faced by the SNP, Ms Forbes argued that it was not a problem of any one party.

“You are speaking to somebody who is on the other side so those who may disagree with me may call you my side, I look at my Twitter timeline and the levels of vitriolic abuse and creative insults such that I cannot actually read it.

“So I think the problem is not by any means monopolised by one side and my job and others is to break that mould.

“I would like to think that if you asked any member on the opposition benches in parliament whether they like me and whether they disagree with me and whether I can build relationships with them, they would say to a person – yes.

“So it starts with us not just calling out vitriol. It starts with us doing things differently.”

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