John Swinney Favourite To Be Scotland's Next First Minister As Rivals Row In Behind Him

The race is on to succeed Humza Yousaf after he resigned.
John Swinney speaking to the media in London after Yousaf resigned.
John Swinney speaking to the media in London after Yousaf resigned.
Stefan Rousseau - PA Images via Getty Images

John Swinney is on course to become Scotland’s new first minister after several of his would-be rivals gave him their support.

The SNP is looking for another leader after Humza Yousaf resigned barely a year into the job.

Swinney, who led the party between 2000 and 2004 and also served as deputy first minister under Nicola Sturgeon, said he was giving “very careful consideration” to standing.

He said: “I’ve been somewhat overwhelmed by the requests that have been made of me to do that, with many many messages from many colleagues across the party.

“I’m giving that issue very active consideration and it’s likely I’ll have more to say about that in the days to come.”

Swinney has already won the support of Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, and Scottish education secretary Jenny Gilruth, both of whom had been earmarked as potential candidates.

Flynn told the News Agents podcast: “There’s only one person with the experience to do the job, one person to unite the party. I like to think that person is John Swinney, I encourage him to stand.”

Another Scottish cabinet member thought to be in the running, Neil Gray, is also understood to be preparing to back Swinney.

Meanwhile, former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford told Times Radio: “I believe John Swinney should be the next leader of the SNP, someone who has demonstrated leadership, competence, the ability to to work across parliament.”

Swinney’s other main rival, Kate Forbes - who narrowly lost out to Yousaf when she ran to be SNP leader last year - has still to announce whether she will stand this time round.

Yousaf announced he was quitting at a hastily-arranged press conference at Bute House in Edinburgh just days before he was due to face a vote of no confidence at the Scottish Parliament.

His leadership had been in crisis since his decision last week to dump the Green Party from the Scottish government.

That triggered the confidence vote - and the Greens got their revenge by announcing they would vote against the first minister.

Yousaf was left having to rely on the support of Ash Regan, his former SNP leadership rival who is now a member of Alex Salmond’s Alba Party, in order to survive.

But he said: “While a route through this week’s vote of no confidence was absolutely possible, I am not willing to trade my values and principles, or do a deal with whoever, simply for retaining power.

“Therefore, after spending the weekend reflecting on what is best for the party, for the government and for the country I lead, I have concluded that repairing our relationship across the political divide will only be done with someone else at the helm.”


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