SNP depute leader Keith Brown and rising star Mairi McAllan have announced they will not run for Scotland’s top job.
It comes as senior members of the party announced who they will be backing, after Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan announced their candidacy.
Well liked within the party, Brown was thought to be a top contender to replace Nicola Sturgeon after her resignation on Wednesday.
But the justice secretary has put to rest any rumours of a potential candidacy on Sunday, tweeting that he will not be in the running – despite calls for him to do so from “parliamentary colleagues and senior office bearers”.
He added that he would continue in his current role.
Brown said he would not endorse a candidate for the leadership due to his position as depute leader, but other senior party figures have publicly backed the two candidates who declared in the past 24 hours.
McAllan shared a lengthy post on her social media on Sunday afternoon, outlining why despite “very seriously” considering a bid, she will not stand.
Considered a rising star among SNP ranks, she currently serves as environment minister and at just 30 is the youngest person to hold a ministerial post within the Scottish Government.
The former solicitor served as a special advisor to Nicola Sturgeon before winning a seat of her own.
She wrote: “Having been a practising lawyer; human rights campaigner; special adviser; MSP; Minister and most importantly and SNP activist for 15 years, I know I can make a significant contribution to this – and I promise to give all my energy to doing so and to advancing the wellbeing and prosperity of Scotland and all its people.
“However, for various reasons, at this stage I have concluded that now is not the right time for me to seek the very top job of leading our Party and country.”
Ukraine minister Neil Gray ruled himself out of running and threw his weight behind health secretary Humza Yousaf, who also won support from former minister Graeme Dey and MP Anne McLaughlin.
Gray tweeted: “I have seriously considered, with family and colleagues, whether I am the right person to do that job.
“I have concluded that with my children the age they are, and given I am relatively new to government, now is not the right time for me.”
He went on to say that Yousaf “has the skills and experience” for the job.
Public health minister Maree Todd celebrated Yousaf’s announcement, urging him to “go for it”, but did not offer outright support for the health secretary’s candidacy.
Meanwhile, former community safety minister Ash Regan – who also announced her candidacy on Sunday – secured the support of MP Joanna Cherry.
Both politicians have been openly critical of the current SNP leadership in the past.
Edinburgh South West MP Cherry tweeted: “I am proud to support Ash given her solid left wing credentials working with @Common_Weal and the courage and leadership she has shown in standing up for the rights of women and girls.”
Both candidates have until Friday to secure 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches to secure their place on the ballot, with the new SNP leader being announced on March 27.
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