Who Is In The Running To Succeed Humza Yousaf As SNP Leader?

The embattled first minister has quit after barely a year in the job.
Jenny Gilruth, Stephen Flynn, Kate Forbes are all in the running to be SNP's next leader
Jenny Gilruth, Stephen Flynn, Kate Forbes are all in the running to be SNP's next leader
Getty Images, HuffPost UK

Humza Yousaf has quit as SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister after barely a year in the job.

His decision to ditch the Green Party from the Scottish government backfired spectacularly, leaving him facing a vote of no confidence at Holyrood later this week.

Yousaf chose to jump before he was pushed, meaning the SNP faces another leadership contest.

Here, HuffPost UK looks at who is in the running to take over.

Kate Forbes

Narrowly beaten by Yousaf last time round, Forbes will be one of the favourites to take on the top job.

She overcame a furore over her controversial views on equal marriage to receive 48% of the vote in the final run-off, and is well-placed to go one better this time around.

Forbes, 34, is a member of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland and has also spoken in the past of her opposition to sex outside marriage

Although she has been on the backbenches for the past year, her experience as the former cabinet secretary for finance and the economy means she would be a formidable political opponent for Labour and the Tories.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth.
Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth.
Ken Jack via Getty Images

Jenny Gilruth

First elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2016, Gilruth has already built up a wealth of ministerial experience.

After two years as culture minister, she moved to the transport brief before Yousaf made her education secretary in his cabinet.

The MSP for Mid-Fife and Glenrothes is the wife of former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

Neil Gray

He may only have been an MSP since 2021, but Gray has quickly established himself as one of the Scottish government - and the SNP’s - high-flyers.

Less than a year after entering Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon appointed him minister for culture, Europe and international development.

Humza Yousaf made him cabinet secretary for the wellbeing economy, fair work and energy after becoming first minister last year.

His reputation as a safe pair of hands saw him appointed health secretary in February following the resignation of his predecessor, Michael Matheson, in a row over the use of a parliamentary iPad.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn.
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn.
Jane Barlow - PA Images via Getty Images

Stephen Flynn

The SNP’s Westminster leader could be tempted to follow in the footsteps of Alex Salmond by attempting to lead his party despite not being an MSP.

Salmond managed to do it between 2004 and 2007, although that was made easier by the fact that the party was still in opposition at Holyrood at the time.

Fiercely ambitious, Flynn will no doubt fancy himself to be able to do the job, but may feel the opportunity has come too soon and that, at 35, he will have other opportunities in the future.

Former Deputy First Minister and one-time SNP leader John Swinney.
Former Deputy First Minister and one-time SNP leader John Swinney.
Ken Jack via Getty Images

John Swinney

The former deputy first minister had an unhappy stint as SNP leader between 2000 and 2004, but could be persuaded to attempt to steady the ship following Yousaf’s troubled tenure.

An SNP source told HuffPost UK: “If Swinney stands - I’d guess for an interim period - it’ll be him. It would take a lot of convincing but he’s a party loyalist to his bones.”

Swinney enjoyed a political renaissance following the SNP’s election victory in 2007, becoming an indispensable member of both Alex Salmond’s and Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinets.

He stood down as deputy first minister following Sturgeon’s shock resignation last year and has since then been on the SNP backbenches.

Even if he weren’t to make another bid for the top job, his wealth of experience could prove invaluable to whoever succeeds Yousaf in Bute House.


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