John Swinney

John Swinney was officially installed as Scottish First Minister today after Humza Yousaf

John Swinney
John Swinney

The new SNP leader was elected to the post in a Holyrood vote, with the Greens ensuring he could not be blocked. 

The confirmation came hours after Mr Yousaf signed his resignation letter to the King, and gave a valedictory speech slamming ‘bigots’.

Mr Swinney becomes the third holder of the top role in barely a year, and paid an emotional tribute to his wife Elizabeth, who suffers with MS. He voiced ‘profound and eternal gratitude’ that she was willing to make sacrifices so he could serve Scotland. 

Attention will now turn to his Cabinet, with questions over whether Kate Forbes will be handed the key post as his deputy amid tensions over her devout Christian views. Appointments will happen after he is sworn in tomorrow.

Despite swipes that he is a ‘Sturgeon apologist’ and ‘continuity’ option, Mr Swinney was the only SNP leadership candidate running when nominations closed yesterday.  

He managed to convince former finance secretary Ms Forbes to join his team rather than challenge him, in a move billed a ‘stitch-up’ by opponents.

John Swinney is set to be installed as Scottish First Minister after being confirmed as the new SNP leader yesterday

In a valedictory speech at Holyrood this afternoon, Humza Yousaf thanked colleagues who had shown him 'kindness' amid the 'toxic nature of our political debate'

In a valedictory speech at Holyrood this afternoon, Humza Yousaf thanked colleagues who had shown him ‘kindness’ amid the ‘toxic nature of our political debate’

Humza Yousaf officially quit as Scottish First minister today paving the way for John Swinney to be installed within hours

Mr Swinney won the backing of 64 MSPs, with his nearest rival Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross picking up 31. As the Greens abstained that was enough for a simple majority. 

Pitching for the role in the chamber, Mr Swinney said: ‘I hope we can all recognise that despite our political differences, we’re all here because we want the best for Scotland, whatever our specific role happens to be.

‘For me, it is with all my experience – but with much more than that – with my burning ambition for a better future for this country, that I am seeking to become first minister.’

He said his ‘core belief’ is that ‘Scottish self-government is the right way forward for Scotland’.

He pledged to listen to those who voted for pro-independence parties in 2021 as well as those who did not.

Mr Yousaf said in his final speech: ‘Let me offer thanks to every single colleague across the political divide for the kindnesses that you have shown me over the years.

‘We often, and I’m guilty of this too, lament the toxic nature of our political debate and it’s true, there is entrenched tribalism that feels difficult to free ourselves from.

‘However I will remember far more fondly the kindness and generosity of colleagues over the years.’

Mr Swinney swerved a late obstacle yesterday as he persuaded activist Graeme McCormick not to go ahead with forcing a leadership contest, even though he had secured the support required to stand.

In his victory speech in Glasgow yesterday, Mr Swinney acknowledged the scale of the infighting and crises which have engulfed the SNP and admitted the party has been through a ‘rough, tough time’. 

But he claimed that his party has now ‘come back together again’ under his leadership and ‘got our act together’.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said Mr Swinney would just ‘double down on the independence obsession’ rather than tackling Scotland’s problems.

‘It’s difficult to see how he can be the fresh start Scotland needs, when he’s the ultimate continuity candidate,’ he said.

‘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?

Mr Yousaf’s time as First Minister was spent dealing with a long list of crises, including developments in the police probe into the SNP’s funding and finances, a series of policy U-turns, disciplinary issues, defections and bitter infighting between factions in his party.

In his speech yesterday, Mr Swinney claimed the speedy leadership process can allow the SNP to ‘get back on the front foot’. 

A Norstat poll at the weekend showed the SNP is on course to fall to just 15 seats following the general election, and to slide behind Labour at the next Holyrood election.

The SNP vote share in a Westminster election was seen as dropping to its lowest level since the 2014 independence referendum.

The party would hold just 15 of its 43 seats with Scottish Labour winning 28 – a dramatic increase from its current two.

Mr Swinney was the only nominee for SNP leader after he persuaded former Finance Secretary Kate Forbes (pictured) to join his team rather than challenge him

Mr Swinney was the only nominee for SNP leader after he persuaded former Finance Secretary Kate Forbes (pictured) to join his team rather than challenge him

Mr Yousaf's fall from grace was sparked when he summarily ditched the coalition deal with the Greens in Scotland

Mr Yousaf’s fall from grace was sparked when he summarily ditched the coalition deal with the Greens in Scotland

Mr Yousaf signed his resignation letter to the King as the transition takes effect

Mr Yousaf signed his resignation letter to the King as the transition takes effect

According to the Sunday Times survey, the SNP had support from 29 per cent of the electorate – a fall of three points in a month, while Labour’s share increased by two points to 34 per cent.

Under Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP became the third largest party at Westminster, winning 56 of 59 Scottish seats in 2015.

The Scottish Conservatives, whose vote share remained at 16 per cent in the poll, would add three seats to return nine MPs – while the Liberal Democrats, on 8 per cent, would boost their yield by one to five MPs.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: ‘John Swinney’s coronation is entirely about managing the SNP rather than running our country. 

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

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