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Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, left, waits to hear Kate Forbes MSP Minister for Public Finance deliver the budget statement in Parliament, in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Feb. 6.RUSSELL CHEYNE

Scottish finance minister Kate Forbes said on Monday she would run in the leadership contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as Scottish National Party (SNP) leader and Scotland’s first minister.

Forbes, who was elected to the Scottish parliament in 2016 and became finance secretary in 2020, is the third candidate to enter the race since Sturgeon’s surprise resignation last week.

Sturgeon’s unexpected exit has left a question mark over the SNP’s fight for independence as the Westminster government has blocked its attempts to hold a second vote after a 2014 referendum saw Scotland vote 55 per cent to 45 per cent to remain part of the United Kingdom.

“I can’t sit back and watch our nation thwarted on the road to self determination,” 32-year-old Forbes said in a video posted on Twitter.

“We need a leader who’s bold, brave and energized, fresh faced and ready for new challenges. Somebody who inspires your confidence as an SNP member, and who inspires the confidence of the people of Scotland to vote for a better future. I am that leader.”

The SNP has said it will choose a new leader within six weeks through a ballot of its members, which will close on March 27. Sturgeon will stay on until a successor has been picked.

A fluent Gaelic speaker, Forbes studied history at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh and worked as an accountant in the banking industry before entering parliament.

Forbes, a Christian, was among senior politicians who urged the Scottish government in 2019 not to rush into gender reform legislation. Sturgeon became embroiled in a row over transgender rights over the divisive bill. It was eventually passed in December but has been blocked by the British government.

Health minister Humza Yousaf and former minister Ash Regan have said they will run in the contest to replace Sturgeon.

Two other possible contenders, 53-year-old culture minister Angus Robertson, a former deputy leader of the party, and John Swinney, the 58-year-old deputy first minister, have ruled themselves out.

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