John Swinney expected to lead Scotland after becoming head of SNP

Former deputy first minister led the party two decades ago

John Swinney is expected to be named Scotland's seventh first minister after becoming head of the SNP on Monday. PA
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John Swinney, Scotland's former deputy first minister, is expected to become the country’s third leader in little over a year after being confirmed as the head of the Scottish National Party on Monday.

Mr Swinney, who led the SNP two decades ago, was the only candidate to replace First Minister Humza Yousaf as party leader.

Mr Yousaf, the first Muslim leader of a western European country, resigned as Scotland's First Minister last week after facing the prospect of defeat in two confidence votes. A Glasgow-born son of immigrants from Pakistan and Kenya, Mr Yousaf was the first person from a minority ethnic background to become the First Minister of Scotland.

The move followed an abrupt end to a power-sharing agreement between his SNP and the Green Party last week, which ended with slim hopes that Mr Yousaf could lead a minority government.

“I am deeply honoured to have been elected as leader of @theSNP,” Mr Swinney said on social media platform X. “I will give all that I have to serve my party and my country.”

That ballot could take place as early as Wednesday, with Mr Swinney likely to be officially in place in at the head of the Scottish Government the following day.

Mr Yousaf congratulated Mr Swinney as his successor as SNP leader and called on the party to heed his call for unity.

“Congratulations to @JohnSwinney on becoming leader of @theSNP and FM-elect,” he wrote on X.

“John's central message has been one of unity. As a party, we must heed his call, whatever has happened in the past should remain there.

Scotland's Humza Yousaf through the years – in pictures

“Let's get behind John & his team so they can deliver for Scotland.”

The party has been in turmoil since long-serving first minister Nicola Sturgeon abruptly stepped down last year during a campaign finance investigation that has led to criminal charges against her husband.

Mr Yousaf announced his resignation last week after a political miscalculation in which he threw the Green Party out his coalition government.

The SNP is one seat short of a majority in the devolved parliament with 63 of the 128 voting seats, so it needs to a partnership with at least one other party.

Mr Swinney, 60, who joined the party at the age of 15, said he will try to bring stability to the SNP as it fights efforts to weaken it as it prepares for UK-wide parliamentary elections expected later this year.

The Labour Party made a motion of no-confidence in Mr Yousaf that failed last week after he said he would step down.

The devolutionist SNP was weakened by the campaign finance scandal and divisions over transgender rights, but was ultimately brought down by Mr Yousaf's decision to oust the Greens because of differences over climate change goals.

Mr Yousaf was unable to persuade other parties to back his minority government in Scotland’s parliament.

Facing the prospect of two no-confidence votes that had been scheduled, Mr Yousaf quit rather than be forced out, saying he would remain First Minister until had replacement is elected.

Mr Swinney is likely to be elevated to that position later this week after potential challengers to his bid to lead the SNP said they would not run against him.

Updated: May 06, 2024, 1:55 PM