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by Staff Reporter
06 May 2024
John Swinney pledges to be ‘unifier’ as he becomes new SNP leader

John Swinney is the new leader of the SNP | Alamy

John Swinney pledges to be ‘unifier’ as he becomes new SNP leader

John Swinney pledged to heal the divisions in his party as he became the SNP’s new leader.

Swinney was the only candidate for the leadership following the resignation of Humza Yousaf last week.

He is set to become Scotland’s new first minister in a vote expected to be held in the Scottish Parliament later this week.

Putting forward his candidacy last week, Swinney pledged to find a role for former finance secretary Kate Forbes who was initially said to be considering her own leadership bid before backing the former deputy first minister.

At the weekend it was reported that Swinney was facing an unlikely challenge from SNP member Graeme McCormick. McCormick claimed to have the necessary level of support to enter the race but dropped out last night following a conservation with Swinney.

Speaking today as he was confirmed as the new SNP leader, Swinney said: “Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our party’s history – a chapter that will be about coming together, uniting and dedicating ourselves to the service of Scotland.

“I know there is controversy for some that I am the only candidate to stand for the leadership. Perhaps not surprisingly I take a different view. For me, the fact that I am the only candidate demonstrates the Scottish National Party is now coming back together again.”

First elected to Holyrood in 1999, Swinney was previously SNP leader between 2000 and 2004. He served as both finance seceretary and deputy first minister under Nicola Sturgeon.

In his speech at the University of Glasgow today, he said his decision to stand was due to his “profound sense of duty to my party and my country”.

He said: “I promised I would create an inclusive and unified team. And I will do that. I promised I would enable open and respectful dialogue in the SNP. And I will do that.

“I promised to make sure the SNP looks outward to the people of our country and not inward amongst ourselves. And I will do that.”

Swinney said that while the SNP had the right to form a government it did not mean it could “stop listening to people and voices outside our party”. Following the ending of the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens, the SNP is now a minority government and will have to work with other parties to get legislation passed.

“The polarisation of politics does not serve our country well,” Swinney said.

“Too often, too many people are too busy fighting to win battles when we should be seeking solutions to problems.”

Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Swinney’s “coronation” was more about the SNP than Scotland.

He said: “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.

“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.

“The SNP must stop running scared and gives Scots a say in their next First Minister by calling an election.”

Tory leader Douglas Ross added:  “The stitch-up the SNP have engineered to ensure John Swinney’s coronation highlights the mess they’re in. Is a failed former leader from two decades ago – who, as education secretary, sent Scotland plummeting down international league tables – really the best they have to offer?

 “With John Swinney at the helm, the SNP will double down on their independence obsession – the one issue they agree on – and ignore the real priorities of the Scottish people, such as fixing our ailing public services and growing the economy.

 “Voters know that in key seats across Scotland, only the Scottish Conservatives can beat the SNP and get the focus back on to the issues that really matter.”


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