John Swinney was Nicola Sturgeon's 'human shield', Douglas Ross says

The Scottish Tory leader said the 'SNP's man for the future is their failed leader from the past' after Swinney announced a bid to replace the First Minister.

Douglas Ross has accused John Swinney of being Nicola Sturgeon’s “human shield” while deputy first minister.

The Scottish Tory leader attacked the veteran SNP MSP after he announced his bid to replace Humza Yousaf as party leader and FM.

Ross said Swinney offered “more of the same” as he accused the SNP of going “back to the future”.

Swinney was Scotland’s longest-serving deputy first minister when he served under Sturgeon until they both resigned last year.

He was a close ally of the former first minister, serving as her finance secretary and later her education secretary.

Douglas Ross said John Swinney represented 'more of the same'.Getty Images

During what could be Yousaf’s last FMQs, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives said Swinney would continue the SNP’s “obsession with independence”.

“The SNP’s man for the future is their failed leader from the past,” he said, referencing Swinney’s four-year tenure at the head of the party in the early 2000s.

Swinney’s election as leader would be moving from “one continuity candidate to another”, Ross said, as he accused the former deputy first minister of being a “human shield” for his former boss Sturgeon.

“For 16 out of the 17 years of SNP Government, John Swinney sat round the Cabinet table,” he added.

“His fingerprints are all over their most toxic policies – how will going back to the future get the SNP out of the mess that they’re in?”

Responding, the First Minister said both Swinney and Kate Forbes – who was considered to be another prospective candidate for the leadership, but who ruled herself out of the race on Thursday afternoon – are more popular than Ross in opinion polling.

He added that you can “judge a man by the company he keeps”, saying: “Douglas Ross’s company is Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party of Liz Truss, Suella Braverman, Priti Patel, formerly Lee Anderson, Mark Menzies, Peter Bone, Chris Pincher, Andrew Bridgen, Frank Hester.

“That is the company he keeps, I am very proud of John Swinney, Kate Forbes and all of the company that I keep.”

During the questions session on Thursday afternoon, Yousaf admitted he had made mistakes during his time on the Scottish Government frontbenches.

He announced earlier this week he will step down as First Minister following a period of political turmoil sparked by his decision to end the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens.

Yousaf later said he did not fully understand how the abrupt decision would anger the Greens, who later said they would back a Conservative-led motion of no confidence in his leadership and effectively forced him from office.

Humza Yousaf said he was proud of his government's record.Getty Images

Confronted by Ross – who said his party had forced Yousaf to resign “in disgrace” by tabling the motion – the First Minister said: “Of course (Ross) has every right and prerogative to gloat about the position that I am in.

“The only exception I would take to Douglas Ross is no, I don’t feel disgraced at all.”

The First Minister went on to say he is “very proud” to have been the first person of colour to lead Scotland, the first Muslim to lead a Western nation and the youngest person to hold the position.

He added: “Most of all, I’m proud to have served my Government, this Government, my country for 12 years on the frontbenches.

“Did I get everything right? Absolutely not, and that’s very evident and very clear.

“But can I be proud of this Government’s record? Absolutely.”

He highlighted that the SNP has abolished tuition fees, made personal care free and scrapped prescription fees.

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