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New SNP leader John Swinney.

John Swinney becomes new leader of the SNP and is likely to be next Scottish first minister

Swinney is now expected to go on to become Scotland’s seventh First Minister.

FORMER SCOTTISH DEPUTY first minister John Swinney said he was “deeply honoured” to have become the new leader of the SNP.

Swinney reacted on social media after the party confirmed he was the only candidate to succeed Humza Yousaf, who announced one week ago he was stepping down as SNP leader and Scottish First Minister.

Swinney is now expected to go on to become Scotland’s seventh first minister, though before he does he will need to win the backing of MSPs in a vote at Holyrood.

That ballot could take place as early as Wednesday, with Swinney likely to be officially in place in the top job in Scottish politics the following day.

Commenting after it was confirmed he was the only candidate, Swinney posted on X, formerly known as Twitter that he was “deeply honoured to have been elected as Leader of @theSNP”.

He pledged:

I will give all that I have to serve my party and my country.

Yousaf’s tenure as first minister came to an end after he tore up the powersharing agreement the party had enjoyed with the Scottish Greens at Holyrood, which left him facing a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

That means Swinney will have to lead a minority government at Holyrood, requiring support from other parties before vital legislation can proceed.

Yousaf congratulated Swinney as his successor as SNP leader and called on the party to heed his call for unity.

He posted on X, formerly Twitter:

Congratulations to @JohnSwinney on becoming leader of @theSNP and FM-elect.
John’s central message has been one of unity. As a party, we must heed his call, whatever has happened in the past should remain there.

“Let’s get behind John & his team so they can deliver for Scotland.”

Second time leader

It is the second time that Swinney has taken on the leadership of his party, having previously held the job from 2000 to 2004.

But then he was leader of the main opposition party at Holyrood, with a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition in charge.

Now, after holding a variety of senior posts in the Scottish Government, including finance secretary, education secretary and deputy first minister, a position he held for eight years under Nicola Sturgeon, he will get his first chance to be first minister.

Confirmation of Swinney’s appointment as party leader comes 25 years to the day after the first elections to the Scottish Parliament with Swinney one of only three MSPs to have held the same seat at Holyrood continuously since then.

While Yousaf’s downfall was sparked by his decision to terminate the powersharing deal the SNP had had with the Scottish Greens, the smaller pro-independence party urged Swinney not to ditch the “progressive” agenda that had been enshrined as part of that arrangement.

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said the party’s seven MSPs would meet to discuss how they would vote in the ballot for first minister.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross meanwhile urged Mr Swinney to “govern for all of Scotland by abandoning his relentless push for independence”.

Ross insisted his party would seek to “hold John Swinney to account when he lets the Scottish people down – just as we’ve done with Humza Yousaf”.

But the Conservative added: “It’s difficult to see how he can be the fresh start Scotland needs, when he’s the ultimate continuity candidate.

Meanwhile Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “John Swinney’s coronation is entirely about managing the SNP rather than running our country and delivering for Scotland.

“At a time when Scotland is crying out for change, the SNP is offering more of the same.

John Swinney has been at the heart of this incompetent government for 17 years and at the heart of the SNP for 40 years.

Sarwar said: “From presiding over the exam results scandal as education secretary to destroying public finances as finance secretary, John Swinney’s record is one of failure.

“This is a stitch-up by a chaotic and dysfunctional party that is more interested in protecting its own interests than serving the interests of the people of Scotland.”

Press Association