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John Swinney pledges action on economy and jobs as he becomes SNP leader



John Swinney is set to become Scotland’s seventh first minister after winning the SNP leadership unopposed.

The Perthshire North MSP was announced as Humza Yousaf’s successor at noon when nominations closed.

“I am deeply honoured to have been elected as leader of the SNP,” Swinney said. “I will give all that I have to serve my party and my country.”

In his first speech as the party’s new leader in Glasgow, he paid tribute to his predecessor Yousaf.

“He’s conducted himself throughout the last year with grace and with dignity in some acutely difficult circumstances,” he said.

“In particular, his moral leadership on the issue of Gaza has been a light in these dark times.”


John Swinney is set to become Scotland’s seventh first minister after winning the SNP leadership unopposed. The Perthshire North MSP was announced as Humza Yousaf’s successor at noon when nominations closed. In his first speech as the SNP’s new leader in Glasgow, John Swinney paid tribute to Humza Yousaf and pledged his leadership is a ‘new chapter’ for the party. Read more on the STV News website. #johnswinney #snp #partyleader #humzayousaf #firstminister #politics #scottishpolitics #stv #stvnews

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He said he would return the SNP to a more centrist position with a focus on economic growth and social justice.

“If elected first minister,” he said, “my focus will be the economy, jobs, the cost of living. It will be the NHS, our schools and our public services. It will be addressing the climate crisis.

“Do not let our disagreements dominate. Join me as we open a new chapter. That’s my job, that’s our job, and I plan to get the job done.”

The former finance secretary pitched himself as the person to unify his party and his country and said he would reach out to those who disagree with him, both within his party and elsewhere.

Swinney said: “The polarisation of politics does not serve our country well. We should be seeking solutions to problems.

“I will reach out to everyone willing to join with us in good faith and seek compromises that serve our nation well. We need to stop shouting at each other and talk. More than that, actually, we need to listen.

“As first minister, I will do exactly that.”


John Swinney pledges action on economy and jobs as he becomes SNP leader Humza Yousaf’s successor could be voted through as Scotland’s seventh first minister as soon as Tuesday. Read more on the STV News website. #swinney #johnswinney #economy #jobs #humzayousaf #snp #snpleader #firstminister #politics #scottishpolitcs #scotland

♬ original sound – STV News

He said he was not motivated by personal ambition but that he had stood for leader “out of a profound sense of duty” to his party and his country.

He acknowledged there was “controversy” over the fact he was the only candidate for the role, but said this was a sign the SNP was “coming back together again.”

He pledged to create an “inclusive and unified team” and to enable “open and respectful dialogue in the SNP”, and said he would ensure the SNP looks outward to the people of Scotland.

A veteran SNP activist had threatened to derail Swinney’s ascension by submitting his own bid for the leadership.

Graeme McCormick said he had garnered enough backing from members to run but cancelled his bid on Sunday night after a “lengthy and fruitful conversation” with Swinney.

The Scottish Parliament is likely to hold a vote to elect Nicola Sturgeon’s former deputy as first minister as soon as Tuesday.

Swinney could then be officially sworn in on Wednesday before holding his inaugural First Minister’s Questions on Thursday.

A new Cabinet, expected to include former leadership contender Kate Forbes, will also be announced.

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It comes after Yousaf resigned last week a little over a year into his premiership following the bitter ending of his party’s power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Greens.

Swinney will be the third Scottish first minister since the Holyrood elections in 2021. He has held key government roles since the SNP came to power in 2007 until last year, including under former first ministers Alex Salmond and Sturgeon.

Opposition parties have called for a national ballot to be held but the fledgling leader has dismissed them, saying that Holyrood is a fixed-term parliament and that it’s MSPs who ultimately vote to elect the first minister.

To be voted through as FM, Swinney – who served under Sturgeon as Scotland’s longest-serving deputy first minister – will need the backing of a majority of MSPs, of which the SNP is two short.

With Scottish Labour, the Tories and the LibDems refusing to back him, he will likely have to rely on the Greens.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie has said his party would be willing to work with a new SNP leader, adding that the problem was with Yousaf, and not the wider Scottish Government.

But the Glasgow MSP added on Monday that Green support would be conditional on Swinney furthering a “progressive” agenda on climate change and inequality.

Swinney, who had previously stepped back from politics when he resigned alongside Sturgeon as her deputy last year, has said he would not be an “interim leader” or a “caretaker” first minster.

The SNP stalwart, who was previously leader between 2000 to 2004, said he would lead his party into the next Westminster election, within the next year, and the next Holyrood election in 2026.

John Swinney served as Nicola Sturgeon's deputy from 2014 to 2023.Scottish Government

Swinney becomes SNP leader at a turbulent time for the party.

Police Scotland’s investigation into the party’s finances recently led to the former SNP chief executive – and Sturgeon’s husband – Peter Murrell being charged with embezzlement last month.

It had already led to the arrests of Sturgeon and the party’s former treasurer Colin Beatie, although both were released pending further investigation.

Polling also suggests that the SNP is on course to win seats at the next election amid a resurgent Labour.

‘Green support for Swinney conditional’

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie signalled support for John Swinney - but said it would be conditional.Getty Images

The Scottish Greens said its support for Swinney, needed for him to be voted through as first minister, will be conditional on him supporting progressive policies on inequality and the environment.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The Scottish Greens congratulate John Swinney on his nomination and hope that he will do what is necessary to succeed in the role.

“We have worked with him over a number of years and in a number of roles, both in opposition and as part of the Scottish Government.

“Scotland needs a period of stable government. Mr Swinney knows that if he is to have our support then it must be on the basis of progressive policies that help us to tackle the climate crisis and build a fairer and more equal future.

“The next Scottish Government will face an important choice. Will they offer a progressive vision for Scotland’s future, or will they retreat toward the tepid middle ground, which would force them to rely on the Tories and other pro-union parties?”

He added: “Scottish Green MSPs will meet to discuss our approach to the votes taking place this week. We are committed to delivering on our vision of a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland, and are open to talks with John Swinney and his team about how we can work together to make that happen.”

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives said Swinney must abandon his “relentless push” for independence and “govern for all of Scotland”.

Douglas Ross said: “It’s difficult to see how he can be the fresh start Scotland needs, when he’s the ultimate continuity candidate. John Swinney was joined at the hip with the disgraced Nicola Sturgeon and his fingerprints are all over her numerous policy failures and cover-ups.

“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.”

The Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Swinney represented continuity and more of the same.

He told STV News: “This is all about managing the SNP rather than running our country and delivering for Scotland.

“This is a man who has been at the heart of the SNP leadership for the last 40 years, the heart of this SNP government for the past 17 years, and so he has a record of failure.

“I think underneath this veneer it’s clearly still a divided and chaotic party and it shows you why people across this country are crying out for change, and Labour is ready to deliver that change.

“This is a man who as finance secretary broke the country’s finances, as education secretary was the worst education secretary in our country’s history and who has been at the heart of this government for 17 years.

“The idea this has somehow changed is frankly laughable.

“This is continuity, more of the same, about managing his political party, not running Scotland and delivering for Scotland, and this is why people are demanding change.”

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