SNP’s John Swinney to Stand for Leadership After Yousaf’s Departure

(Bloomberg) -- John Swinney said he plans to stand in the race to succeed Humza Yousaf as leader of Scotland’s governing Scottish National Party, after the first minister said he was stepping down.

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“There’s going to have to be change: we just cannot go on as we are today,” Swinney told reporters in Edinburgh on Thursday. “That’s the reason I’m standing because if we go on the way we’re going on today, I think we’ll face tough times. But I’m stepping up to the plate to sort that.”

Swinney, 60, is the first candidate to confirm they’ll run for the leadership, which is being vacated by Yousaf after just over a year in the job. A former party leader and deputy first minister himself, Swinney is the most popular choice among SNP voters, but former finance secretary Kate Forbes is preferred by the Scottish electorate, according to an Ipsos poll published May 2.

Forbes narrowly lost to Yousaf in last year’s leadership race and has said she’s “considering all the options” this time around. Whoever wins the contest will face the challenge of reversing a slide in the polls that’s seen the SNP lose ground to the opposition Labour Party ahead of a UK-wide election expected in the second half of the year.

Yousaf earlier this week said he plans to step down as SNP leader and Scottish First Minister once his party has chosen a new leader. He chose to resign rather than face a vote of no-confidence which he was likely to have lost. His successor as SNP leader would have to win a vote in the Scottish Parliament to also succeed him as first minister.

While Swinney has been talked about as a potential interim leader to steer the party through the general election before handing over to someone else, he told reporters on Thursday that he’s in it for the long haul, including the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2026.

“I am no caretaker,” Swinney said. “I’m offering to lead my party through the Westminster elections and to lead us beyond the 2026 elections. Two contests which I intend to win for the SNP.”

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