Who is John Swinney? The SNP veteran tipped for the top job

The longest-serving deputy first minister has said he is ‘actively considering’ running for SNP leader.

Who is John Swinney? Former deputy Scottish first minister tipped for SNP leadership PA Media

Scotland’s longest-serving deputy first minister has emerged as the early frontrunner as the SNP seeks its second new leader in the space of 13 months.

Several high-profile figures in the party backed John Swinney as the best candidate for the job in the wake of Humza Yousaf’s abrupt resignation as First Minister.

The experienced politician would be seen as providing calm leadership at what is a time of political turmoil for Scotland’s governing party.

And it would not be the first foray into the leadership for the former Tayside North MP, should he make the decision to go for it.

John Swinney thanking supporters after being elected SNP leader in 2000.PA Media

In September 2000, he took over as leader following the first departure of Alex Salmond, having served as his deputy for two years previously.

His tenure would not be a happy one.

The party’s fortunes would sink, returning just five MPs at the 2001 Westminster election and 22 MSPs in the 2003 Holyrood vote.

After seeing off an attempt to oust him by a party activist, Swinney stepped down voluntarily after a poor showing at the 2004 European elections.

John Swinney as finance secretary with Alex Salmond.PA Media

But that was not the end of his political story and he was brought back by Salmond to serve as finance secretary when the SNP took power in 2007.

He served in the role for the entirety of Salmond’s tenure, before being appointed deputy first minister by Nicola Sturgeon when she took over.

Over the following nine years, the Perthshire North MSP occupied several ministerial offices, including education secretary, Covid-19 recovery secretary and again in finance – taking over from Kate Forbes during her maternity leave.

Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney hug at the former first minister’s last First Minister’s Questions.PA Media

During his time as Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy, he cemented his reputation as a dogged defender of his boss, as well as an SNP stalwart.

But it was not without its challenges, as he faced two close no-confidence votes in Holyrood – first over the handling of school exams during the pandemic, and his initial refusal to publish legal advice during the inquiry into the botched handling of harassment complaints against Salmond.

The election of Humza Yousaf as First Minister saw Swinney call time on his career in Cabinet, but the urging of colleagues may be enough to see him seek the top job.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code