SNP deputy Westminster leader Mhairi Black has backed Humza Yousaf in the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon as Scottish First Minister.
Ms Black said Mr Yousaf was the only candidate that would take “our party and our country forward”.
Mr Yousaf, the current Scottish health secretary, faces competition for the top job from Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan.
Paisley and Renfrewshire MP Ms Black endorsed Mr Yousaf after describing how she was “incredibly hurt” by Ms Forbes’ remarks on gay marriage.
Ms Forbes, a Free Church of Scotland member, revealed how she would not have voted for the legislation on same-sex unions had she been at Holyrood at the time.
Ms Black, who married her wife last year, also said Mr Yousaf was the only candidate “willing to take the fight directly to Westminster” over its decision to veto controversial gender recognition reforms passed by Holyrood.
Speaking on Sunday, Ms Black said: “Having listened to the early stages of the leadership campaign it is already clear to me that Humza is the only candidate that can take our party and our country forward.
“His vision of a progressive and fairer independent Scotland is one which I share.”
Mr Yousaf “understands the challenges the party faces, particularly internally, and is not afraid to rise to those challenges,” Ms Black added.
He said he was “thrilled” to receive Ms Black’s endorsement.
“Like me, Mhairi has a record of standing up for equality and social progress.
“I am glad she shares my vision for building the team in government, and across the party, to take us on to independence.
“Mhairi understands, like me, that the SNP must earn our support, rather than simply expect it.”
‘Not wedded to de-facto referendum’
Mr Yousaf met supporters at the V&A Waterfront in Dundee on Saturday as the leadership contest continues.
Setting out his views on how the SNP should move forward after Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation, her would-be replacement said the Scottish independence campaign should not get stuck in a “quagmire of process”.
If he does win the leadership, he vowed the party will have a series of regional assemblies to have “honest and frank discussions” with members.
Final three in SNP leadership contest confirmed
A look back at Nicola Sturgeon’s political career
“I think all options that are within a legal framework should actually be on the table,” Mr Yousaf said.
“I’ve made my views clear: I’m not wedded to the de facto referendum idea.
“I think there’s advantages but certainly disadvantages to that option.”
Mr Yousaf joins Dominic Raab, David Lammy, Mark Francois, Bernie Sanders and Mary Bousted on Sophy Ridge on Sunday, from 8.30am on Sky News