Kate Forbes rules herself out of SNP leadership contest

The SNP MSP was narrowly beaten Humza Yousaf last year - but announced on Thursday she would not run against John Swinney.

Key Points
  • Kate Forbes rules herself out of SNP leadership battle and endorses former deputy Scottish first minister John Swinney
  • Former finance secretary’s decision means Swinney could become SNP leader unopposed
  • SNP nominations close on Monday, meaning next FM could be in place by end of next week
  • John Swinney was Scotland’s longest-serving deputy first minister and a close ally of Nicola Sturgeon

Kate Forbes has ruled herself out of the SNP leadership contest, paving the way for John Swinney to replace Humza Yousaf as party leader and First Minister of Scotland.

The MSP – who served as finance secretary when Nicola Sturgeon was first minister – was considering a run but confirmed on Thursday that she would not put her name in the mix.

Earlier in the day, Swinney announced his bid to take over from Yousaf as leader, who resigned on Monday amid the threat of being ousted.

Pitching himself as a unity candidate, Swinney said he would bring his party and country together.

The veteran SNP MSP commended Forbes as an “intelligent and creative” politician and said she would play a “key role” in his team.

Announcing her decision not to run, Forbes said instead she would endorse Swinney.

“I welcomed, and embrace, his commitment to ensure internal respect for robust and divergent debate in the party, which is the lifeblood of any democratic institution like the SNP,” she said.

“I was also greatly heartened by his drive to restore a sense of courtesy and dignity to the way we conduct ourselves as a party and as a Parliament.”

Forbes confirmed that she had held private talks with Swinney, where they had a “frank and constructive” conversation.

“What emerged was that we share a powerful common purpose for the country,” she said. “That includes a passion to revitalise our party, reach out to those who feel disempowered and reinvigorate the independence movement.

“It also includes an understanding that economic growth and tackling poverty must again be key priorities, and that a just transition to ‘net zero’ must work with, and not against, our communities and businesses.”

She said that it was “clear” that Swinney wanted the SNP to “return the SNP to governing from the mainstream”.

“Competent, candid government earning the trust of the people,” she said. “That was the vision I offered in the last leadership contest & is evidently demanded by the Scottish public.

“I’ve therefore weighed the decision whether or not to seek the leadership of the party with great care.

“I’ve concluded that the best way to deliver the urgent change Scotland needs is to join with John Swinney and advocate for that reform agenda within the Scottish Government.

“I can therefore today announce that I will not be seeking nomination as the next SNP leader.”

“John will therefore have my support and endorsement in any campaign to follow.”

John Swinney could be SNP leader by next week if no one else runs against him.Getty Images

Forbes ran against Yousaf last year but was narrowly beat 52% to 48% and speculation was mounting over whether she would run again.

Yousaf announced on Monday that he would resign as FM following the threat of no-confidence votes against him and his government.

Forbes’s decision not to run means Swinney could be crowned leader uncontested, saving the SNP from another lengthy, public leadership battle.

SNP nominations opened at the start of the week and will close on Monday, meaning there is still time for prospective candidates to put their names forward.

@stvnews Former deputy first minister John Swinney has pledged to be a unity candidate and said Kate Forbes, who is considering her own bid, would be brought in as a 'key member' of his team. It comes as Swinney has launched his bid to replace Humza Yousaf as SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland. The former deputy first minister and veteran SNP MSP delivered the news during a press conference at Edinburgh’s Grassmarket Community Project. Read more on the STV News website. #johnswinney #kateforbes #candidate #snp #firstminister #humzayousaf #resignantion #politics #scottishpolitics #scotland ♬ original sound – STV News

But numerous key party figures have already lined up to endorse Swinney, who STV News understands was persuaded to run ahead of Yousaf’s decision to stand down.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, education secretary Jenny Gilruth and health secretary Neil Gray are among the senior politicians to have endorsed Swinney.

The 60-year-old was a close ally of Nicola Sturgeon and was Scotland’s longest-serving deputy first minister under the former SNP leader.

He has been an MSP since the Scottish Parliament opened in 1999 and has served in several roles including as finance and then education secretary.

He resigned as deputy FM alongside Sturgeon last year.

More to follow.

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