SNP hunting for new leader in the wake of Humza Yousaf’s resignation

The SNP is beginning the search for a new leader after a day of drama in Scottish politics.

Latest updates
  • Nominations open in SNP leadership race after Humza Yousaf resigns
  • Former deputy first minister John Swinney ‘actively’ considering standing in SNP leadership election as key figures back him
  • Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar says there must be an election, saying the SNP ‘cannot impose another unelected first minister on Scotland’
  • Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon leads tribute to ‘friend’ after Yousaf’s resignation

The SNP has begun the search for a new leader after a day of drama in Scottish politics saw Humza Yousaf resign as the country’s First Minister.

Facing two votes of no confidence at Holyrood, and without the support of the Greens whom he had angered when he terminated the powersharing agreement between the two parties, Yousaf came to the conclusion his time was up.

While he will stay on as First Minister until a successor can be found, the SNP now has to begin the process of finding a leader to succeed him.

Nominations are now open and candidates will have until May 6 to put their name forward.

Whoever wins will still need to be voted through by a majority of MSPs, meaning the SNP will still need to rely on support from at least two opposition MSPs.

Holyrood will have 28 days at that point to elect a new leader or Parliament will be dissolved and an election will be called.

So, who could replace Yousaf?

John Swinney

John Swinney has said he is “carefully considering” running to become leader of the SNP after being “overwhelmed” by many requests from party colleagues.

The former deputy leader has already received support from Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, health secretary Neil Gray, education secretary Jenny Gilruth, veteran MP Pete Wishart, former Westminster leader Ian Blackford, and deputy SNP leader Keith Brown.

He has served in numerous cabinet roles throughout the years and has been an MSP since the Scottish Parliament opened in 1999.

He was a close ally of Nicola Sturgeon, having served as her deputy first minister for nearly a decade.

Those backing him hope that he can bring stability and experience to a party that has been in turmoil in recent years.

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

Kate Forbes

Kate Forbes was narrowly beaten at the last SNP leadership election.Getty Images

Kate Forbes is considered among one of the most likely people to take over from Yousaf as SNP leader and as first minister.

She hasn’t put herself forward yet but has already been endorsed by SNP MSPs and brother and sister Fergus Ewing and Annabelle Ewing, while Cherry has spoken fondly of her.

Forbes was only narrowly beaten by Yousaf in last year’s SNP leadership – 48% to 52% – and she has a real chance of winning the next ballot.

She has made it clear during Yousaf’s premiership that she didn’t want to rule out throwing her hat into the SNP ring again.

But the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch would face a tougher time being elected as Scotland’s first minister.

The SNP only has 63 out of Holyrood’s 129 seats, meaning she would need the support of opposition parties.

That’s originally why the Bute House Agreement was formed. It gave Nicola Sturgeon a majority under an alliance with the Greens.

The Greens, who are historically allies of the SNP, have already ruled out backing Forbes.

“To go for someone who is economically and socially conservative would be a further, deeply serious misstep,” Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie told STV News.

“There are clearly some on the right wing of the SNP who are less able – not just to work with us, but to bring together the majority of the parliament. Even less so than Yousaf.

“I appeal to those in the SNP to look among their members and decide who is best placed to bring that majority together.”

Forbes came under fire last year during the SNP leadership contest for her views on social issues, namely abortion and LGBT rights.

She is also considered to be more economically conservative than Yousaf.

The lack of support from the Greens means she would need the support of the Tories or Labour.

That’s a tough ask.

‘There must be an election’

Anas Sarwar calls for Scottish election after Humza Yousaf resignation

Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both called for an election to be held in Scotland following Yousaf’s resignation while the Tories said they would also welcome a ballot.

If the next SNP leader becomes first minister – which is likely – that would be the party’s third in one parliamentary term.


Ash Regan has reacted to Humza Yousaf resigning as First Minister. She said it was “bizarre” that some SNP MSPs would rather he resign from the top post than do a deal with her pro-independence party, led by Alex Salmond. “The irony will not be lost on many that the event that has cost Humza Yousaf his job was removing the Greens from Government- something most people in Scotland agreed with,” she added. Read more on the STV News website. #stv #stvnews #politics #scottishpolitics #ashregan #scotland #firstminister #humzayousaf #Resignation

♬ original sound – STV News

Anas Sarwar said the people of Scotland must choose the next first minister.

The Scottish Labour leader said: “The SNP is a divided party which is out of ideas and incapable of rising to the challenges Scotland faces.

“They cannot impose another unelected first minister on Scotland in a backroom deal – the people of Scotland should decide who leads our country.

“There must be an election – it’s time for change and Scottish Labour is ready to deliver it.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex-Cole Hamilton added: “The political paralysis that has gripped the SNP – not just in the last week but for many of the last months just can’t continue.”

Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said his party would also welcome an election.

He said Yousaf had been a “victim of his own demise” and said Swinney, like Yousaf, would be another continuity candidate if he runs.

“If Scotland wants to move forward, we can’t continue with the same old faces and the same old story we’ve had for the last seventeen years from the SNP,” he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland.

“We need a fresh start and I think electing a candidate who is representing the past would be a serious error.

“That was the mistake they made with Humza Yousaf. Humza Yousaf came in saying he was going to continue the ruinous legacy of Nicola Sturgeon. For the SNP to do the same again would just add to the errors we’ve seen over the past year.”

Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, backed Swinney to become SNP leader, saying his party now has a “clean slate” to govern following the end of the Bute House Agreement.

Ross: We have ‘forced Humza Yousaf out of office for failing Scotland’

Labour and the Tories have suggested their no-confidence motions are still on the table.

But they are unlikely to succeed with the Scottish Greens signalling they would not take part in such a vote.

Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, said on Tuesday that they could back a new SNP leader who supported their progressive agenda.

But when asked who she wanted to run, Slater said “that is absolutely a decision for the SNP”.

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