John Swinney – the SNP veteran who has pledged to unite the party

Holyrood’s longest-serving deputy first minister has announced he will stand for the top job in Scottish politics as the SNP seeks its second new leader in the space of 13 months.

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

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

But it would not be the first foray into the leadership for the former Tayside North MP.

SNP leader John Swinney
Mr Swinney celebrates after being elected SNP leader in 2000 (PA)

His tenure was not a happy one.

Under his leadership, the SNP’s fortunes slid, 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, Mr Swinney stepped down voluntarily after a poor showing at the 2004 European election.

Scottish budget
John Swinney as finance secretary with then first minister Alex Salmond in 2010 (PA)

He served in the role for the entirety of Mr 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 in the Scottish Government, including as education secretary, Covid-19 recovery secretary and again in finance – taking over that brief from Kate Forbes while she was on maternity leave.

First Ministers Questions
Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney embrace after her final session of First Minister’s Questions in 2023 (Jane Barlow/PA)

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 Mr Salmond.

The election of Humza Yousaf as first minister saw Mr Swinney call time on his career in the Scottish Cabinet – but he is now gearing up to take the helm.

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –