Activist’s challenge to lead SNP would delay rebuild, says Swinney

Graeme McCormick, a veteran SNP activist, used an independence march to attract nominations for the SNP leadership contest.

Activist’s challenge to lead SNP would delay rebuild, says Swinney PA Media

John Swinney has argued a divisive SNP leadership contest could delay the party’s essential “rebuild” amid reports a veteran activist could enter the race to replace Humza Yousaf.

The former deputy first minister could become SNP leader from Monday afternoon if he runs unopposed, with Mr Swinney stating he would like to get on with that job “as quickly as possible”.

However, reports suggest a leadership battle may be on the cards after activist Graeme McCormick used the independence march in Glasgow to drum up support for his candidacy.

It is understood Mr McCormick believes he is very likely to receive the 100 nominations from at least 20 SNP branches before the Monday deadline.

Mr McCormick has previously been critical of the SNP-led Scottish Government, using last year’s party conference to criticise its independence strategy.

If he won the leadership race against Mr Swinney, he would not be able to become first minister as he is not elected in the Scottish Parliament, with Mr McCormick reportedly telling members he believes the roles should be run by two different individuals.

But, Mr Swinney, who at this point remains the only confirmed candidate, told the Sky News programme Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips he felt an internal contest would hamper the SNP’s ability to recover from its turbulent period quickly.

He said: “I think the SNP has got a chance to start rebuilding from the difficult period that we have had, under my leadership, and bluntly, I’d just like to get on with that as quickly as I possible can do, because every day that we spend in an internal contest, which I think we all probably know the outcome of, we delay the possibility for the SNP to start its rebuilding.”

Mr Swinney told the programme his leadership bid had received “very, very comprehensive support”, including from former finance secretary Kate Forbes, who earlier ruled herself out of the contest.

Should Mr McCormick receive the required nominations, a three-week leadership contest will be triggered, with ballots opening on Monday May 13 and closing on May 27.

But if Mr Swinney runs unopposed, he will be the next SNP leader and he will likely become first minister as early as next week after a Holyrood vote.

Mr Swinney, who previously led his party from 2000 to 2004, faced a leadership challenge from an activist in 2003 but ultimately won the contest with 83.9% of the vote.

Speaking later on BBC Scotland’s the Sunday Show, he said he would respect the “democratic process” if there was a contest but added: “I think it would be better if we just got on with things, that we started the rebuilding of the SNP and its political strength.”

He added he thought the “overwhelming majority” of party members “wanted to get on with it”.

Asked where the party “disunity” came from, he cited the difficult leadership contest in 2023, which saw Mr Yousaf, Ms Forbes and Ash Regan, condemn each other’s records and social views.

“I think we have basically just had a rough couple of years,” he added.

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