Announcement due

Swinney expected to confirm SNP leadership bid

John Swinney
John Swinney: expected to announce he is running for the party leadership

SNP veteran John Swinney is expected to throw his hat into the leadership ring this morning after being persuaded to stand by senior figures in the party.

The former Deputy First Minister who has held a number of Cabinet posts and was leader of the party 20 years ago is holding a press conference in Edinburgh this morning.

With the deadline for nominations to succeed Humza Yousaf looming on Monday, it is not clear if former Finance secretary Kate Forbes will also stand.

The two met on Tuesday, giving rise to speculation that they may have sought a deal that would avoid a a contest. This would have the merit of stabilising the government and avoid any potentially damaging fall-out from a public campaign.

Mr Yousaf announced his resignation on Monday, following the chaos that was precipitated by his sacking the Greens from the government.

He will remain in post until his successor is elected, but is bound to be labelled a lame duck, further weakening the party.

Mr Swinney, the Perthshire North MSP, served as Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy for almost nine years. He was SNP leader between 2000 and 2004, standing down after a poor showing at the European elections.

On Tuesday, Mr Swinney told the media he was giving the idea of running for the leadership “a great deal of thought”.

Senior party members, including Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, health secretary Neil Gray and education secretary Jenny Gilruth, have already said they would support Mr Swinney.

Former finance secretary Kate Forbes, 34, the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP, narrowly lost to Mr Yousaf in the SNP leadership election last year.

She was criticised during the campaign for revealing she would have voted against gay marriage legislation had she been an MSP at the time due to her religious beliefs as a member of the Free Church of Scotland.

At the time, Mr Swinney, also a Christian, questioned whether it would be “appropriate” for someone with such views to become SNP leader.

Several senior party members have backed her, including those regularly at odds with the SNP leadership such as Joanna Cherry and Fergus Ewing.

The timetable is as follows:

Opening of nominations – Monday 29 April at 11:59pm
Closing of nominations – Monday 6 May at Noon
Opening of potential ballot – Monday 13 May at Noon
Close of potential ballot – Monday 27 May at Noon

A motion of no confidence in the government, tabled by Scottish Labour yesterday, was defeated by 70 votes to 58 after the Greens backed the government.

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