General Election

Swinney sticks to indy goal as Sunak triggers Tory race

John Swinney speaking today at the Port of Leith Distillery (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

SNP leader John Swinney said he will continue to lead the party into and beyond the 2026 Scottish Elections and that his view on independence “has not changed” despite the party’s poor result in the General Election.

The Nationalists recorded their worst electoral performance for 14 years, losing 38 MPs that left it with nine, with one constituency still to conclude counting on Saturday morning. Ousted MPs included Tommy Sheppard, Joanna Cherry, Kirsten Oswald, John Nicolson and Alyn Smith.

The scale of the defeat prompted some internal wrangling with some pinning the blame on former First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf for putting too much focus on issues such as gender legislation while ignoring crumbling public services.

In a rare bout of discord with her former deputy, Ms Sturgeon appeared to criticise Mr Swinney for running a disjointed campaign.

She said the party has been left “between two stools on the independence question” by placing the constitution on the front page of the party’s manifesto but not following through by making it a day-to-day campaign issue.

Mr Swinney, speaking in Leith on Friday morning, said that it was important to “listen and to learn” what the people of Scotland wanted.

“I have to accept that we failed to convince people of the urgency of independence. We have to take time to reflect on how we deliver it. I believe it will transform the lives of our people for the better.”

His comments came ahead of Rishi Sunak’s resignation as leader of the Conservative Party following its heavy loss to Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party.

Mr Swinney’s party also suffered what he conceded was an “incredibly tough night” which adds to “a difficult period for the SNP. He said he came into office to “fix that difficult period”.

Following the “appalling” relationship that existed between Holyrood and Westminster since Brexit, he said he would be looking to build a collaborative relationship with Sir Keir’s party on areas of “mutual interest.”

He declined to say what his priorities would be in talks with Labour, saying it would be courteous to first discuss them with the UK government.

However, he did mention the Internal Markets Act which was introduced to create a level playing field for the UK nations post-Brexit. Mr Swinney said that it “erodes the powers of the Scottish Government.”

He noted that although it had been a bad night in terms of seats, the SNP won 30% of the vote, while Labour was returned on a “landslide” with just 34% of the vote.

Defeated Tory leader Mr Sunak said he had heard voters’ “anger” at his government and will stand down.

“To the country I would like to say first and foremost I am sorry,” he said. “I have given this job my all but you have sent a clear message that the government of the UK must change, and yours is the judgement that matters.”

Mr Sunak delivered his speech outside Number 10, despite earlier rain – this time with a brolly on hand to avoid a repeat of his sodden election announcement in May.

Mr Sunak said he would step down as party leader, adding “not immediately but once the formal arrangements for selecting my successor are in place”.

The MP for Richmond and Northallerton insisted there would be “an orderly transition” and also paid tribute to Sir Keir, whom he described as “a decent and public-spirited man whom I respect”.

Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Priti Patel, Robert Jenrick, James Cleverly, Tom Tugendhat and Victoria Atkins are all said to be considering a leadership bid.

Party insiders say the party’s needs to have a new leader in place in time for Rachel Reeves’ first budget in September when they believe Labour will have to confront the need for tax rises and spending cuts.

There is also concern that a protracted campaign would give Nigel Farage more time to present himself as the true right wing opposition, though the revitalised Liberal Democrats, now represented by 71 MPs will offer another challenge to a diminished Tory influence.

Comment: Swinney must redefine SNP’s purpose

Full list of SNP MPs rejected by voters

  • Allan Dorans (Ayr Carrick and Cumnock)
  • Patricia Gibson (Ayrshire North and Arran)
  • Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)
  • John Nicolson (Alloa and Grangemouth)
  • Alyn Smith (Stirling and Strathallan)
  • Martyn Day (Bathgate and Linlithgow)
  • Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East and Musselburgh)
  • Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith)
  • Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West)
  • Hannah Bardell (Livingston)
  • Steven Bonnar (Coatbridge and Bellshill)
  • Anum Qaisar (Airdrie and Shotts)
  • Owen Thompson (Midlothian)
  • Stuart McDonald (Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch)
  • Amy Callaghan (Dunbartonshire Mid)
  • Martin Docherty-Hughes (Dunbartonshire West)
  • David Linden (Glasgow East)
  • Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East)
  • Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South)
  • Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West)
  • Carol Monaghan (Glasgow West)
  • Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde and Renfrewshire West)
  • Marion Fellows (Motherwell, Wishaw and Carluke)
  • Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North)
  • Kirsten Oswald (Renfrewshire East)
  • Alison Thewliss (Glasgow North) – previous seat Glasgow Central was abolished

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