When Nicola Sturgeon stepped down as leader of the SNP, the party’s members, would have expected her potential successors to tell them of their plans on securing a future referendum, tackling the cost of living crisis and improving Scotland’s public services.

Instead, the religious beliefs of two of the three candidates vying not just to lead their party but to become Scotland’s next first minister, dominated the first week of campaigning.

Kate Forbes was generally viewed as the favourite to enter Bute House [official residence of Scotland’s first minister in Edinburgh].

On the first day of her launch, replying to questions posed by several media outlets, she stated that she would have voted against the same sex-marriage bill (2014). According to the 32-year-old “marriage is between a man and a woman.” Forbes is a member of the Free Church of Scotland.

Some of her colleagues in both Holyrood and Westminster said they were deeply hurt by her comments and would be withdrawing their support. Some urged her to pull out altogether. According to many political commentators her campaign was over before it had begun.

Forbes' supporters claimed she was being vilified and pointed out that the UK has a Hindu Prime Minister and a Muslim Mayor [of London], so why should a woman holding Christian views be disqualified from holding high office in Scotland.

After her views made the front pages, the spotlight turned to Yousaf’s religious background.

In several interviews he stated that he is a “practicing Muslim” and that he will be fasting in Ramadan. Nevertheless he does not “legislate on the basis of his faith.”

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sky News when pressed if he believed gay sex was a sin, Yousaf appeared to some to dodge the question before saying “No”.

Alex Neil a former SNP minister, cast doubt on Yousaf’s credentials claiming that in 2014 he asked the then First Minister Alex Salmond, if he could miss the final vote on the same-sex bill as he was under pressure from “the mosque”.

He told Times Radio: “What people want in this campaign is openness and transparency and honesty. To lead Scotland to independence, I think you need to have backbone. I think Kate Forbes has proved she has got backbone. I question whether Humza has the necessary backbone to take Scotland forward.”

Yousaf claimed that on the day in question he was in a “unavoidable” meeting with officials from the Pakistani Consulate in relation to the case of a Scot facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan.

The Scottish Association of Mosques also waded into the debate and released a statement, part of which read: “It is refreshing to hear a political leader talk about their religious values and principals, in an open and transparent way.

“It has been disappointing, however to hear from some quarters, that holding and/or expressing religious views, deem an individual as unfit for leadership. What message does that send to faith communities, or young people of faith?”

On social media Yousaf has attracted both praise and criticism over his stance on same-sex marriage and the Gender Recognition Reform Bill – which makes it easier for people to change their legal gender.

Opinions on Yousaf's leadership are not restricted to Facebook and Twitter.

Outside a mosque in Glasgow’s southside worshippers also had their say. One attendee said: “I remember back in the day Humza criticising [Labour] Muslim politicians for not being religious enough and not standing up for the Muslim community. He’s now doing what he criticised others for. It’s hypocrisy. Most politicians have red lines but not him".

Another worshipper said: “He repeatedly says he’s a practising Muslim because he will be fasting. There is more to being a Muslim then fasting in Ramadan. Islam is a way of life. You can’t pick and choose what you like and what you don’t. A lot of people have lost respect for him."

Only SNP members, thought to be around 100,000 have a vote in the contest.

A Muslim member of the party said: “There is no ambiguity in Islam when it comes to same-sex marriage. I can understand why many people feel angry and let down as he was far too casual in dismissing the teachings of our religion.

“He should have been more respectful in his language and manner.”

Another Muslim member of the party said: “We are not living in the Middle East. We are living in Europe and there is bound to be issues that will conflict. Look at the backlash Kate got. If Humza had said that he would have been accused of being a fundamentalist who wants to bring in Sharia law.”