John Swinney 'considering' running for SNP leadership as key figures back him

Momentum is with the former deputy first minister after several senior SNP figures give him their backing.

John Swinney has said he is considering running to become leader of the SNP after the resignation of Humza Yousaf.

Several senior SNP figures have already come out in support of the former deputy first minister.

It comes just hours after Yousaf announced he would stand down as Scotland’s First Minster ahead of no-confidence motions against him and his government this week.

Veteran MP Pete Wishart has joined former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, deputy SNP leader Keith Brown and others in calling on Swinney to stand.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn ruled himself and back Swinney.

“I think that these are serious times for serious politics from serious individuals, and they don’t get any more serious or better or experienced than John Swinney,” he told STV News.

“And I sincerely hope that John comes to the conclusion that is the right thing for him to throw his hat into the ring and he stands to be the next SNP leader, he stands to be the next First Minister, and he can get on with the job of delivering for the Scottish people.”

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth, thought to be a potential candidate, also backed Swinney, saying: “John Swinney is the best choice to be Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader.

“I will be strongly supporting him if, as I hope, he chooses to run.”

STV News was told prior to Yousaf’s announcement that he was standing down that senior party members had been trying to persuade Swinney to run.

Speaking in London, where he had been for an event to mark the upcoming 25th anniversary of devolution, he said he had been “overwhelmed by the many, many messages from colleagues across the party”.

He said he was giving “very careful consideration” on standing to become the SNP leader again.

He said: “It is likely I will have more to say about that in the days to come.”

The former education secretary said he had “lots of things to think about” before putting himself forward.

“There’s the whole question of my family, and I have to make sure I do the right thing by family, they are precious to me,” he said.

But he added: “I have to do the right thing by my party and my country. So there is lots to be thought about and I’ll give all of that consideration in the days to come.”

Swinney had ruled himself out of last year’s SNP leadership contest last year, pointing to his family at the time as the reason.

On Monday, he said there were “clearly strains” in the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens and that it was important that the issue was handled carefully.

The Greens have signalled they would not be willing to work with Kate Forbes, a former leadership candidate, who is viewed as being on the right of the SNP, particularly on social issues.

John Swinney was a close ally of Nicola Sturgeon when she was first minister.Getty Images

But they have suggested they would work with other candidates.

Swinney was deputy first minister when the power-sharing deal with the party was signed.

Asked what direction the SNP should take after Yousaf, Swinney said: “I’ve always believed that the right place for the Scottish National Party is a moderate, left-of-centre political party in the mainstream tradition of Scottish political opinion.

“You only ever win success if you’re in line with the mainstream of public opinion of the country and that’s where I’ve always endeavoured to make sure the SNP is positioned and that’s where I think the SNP should be positioned in the future.”

Whoever wins the SNP leadership election is likely to become the next first minister but they would need the vote of at least two opposition MSPs.

That has historically been the Greens and is unlikely to be Labour, Tories or the LibDems.

Not everyone in the SNP has shown support for Swinney though, with MP Joanna Cherry calling for a “complete reset”.

She said: “John Swinney is hugely respected across our party but the lesson of the last year is that the SNP needs a complete reset.

“We must go forward not backwards. Kate was right when she said that continuity would not cut it. The next leader must deliver change.”

She added: “As Humza, who should be thanked for his service, will remain FM until we have a new leader there is no need for an unseemly rush by the (old) boys club to stitch up the succession.

“The leader of the SNP should be chosen by our members not by men in grey suits”

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