SNP leadership race: John Swinney announces bid to replace Humza Yousaf

John Swinney has formally announced his bid to be the next leader of the SNP.

The former deputy first minister of Scotland gave a statement in Edinburgh at 10.30 am on Thursday, making him the first contender to announce their intention to replace Humza Yousaf as SNP leader. 

Announcing his bid, Swinney said: “I want to build on the work of the SNP government to create a modern, diverse, dynamic Scotland that will ensure opportunity for all of her citizens.”

“I want to unite the SNP and unite Scotland for independence.”

Swinney initially revealed he was considering running for the top job in the hours after Yousaf’s resignation as first minister of Scotland. On Monday, he announced he was giving “very careful consideration” to challenging for the leadership.

Politics@Lunch: Why ‘Humza the Brief’ resigned

Swinney, who also led the party from 2000-2004, said he had been “somewhat overwhelmed” by messages from colleagues in the SNP urging him to take on the role. 

After making that statement on Monday, he had already received the backing of numerous senior SNP figures — including the SNP’s leader at Westminster Stephen Flynn, who had been tipped by some as a potential contender to succeed Yousaf himself.

Speaking to the News Agents podcast on Monday, Flynn ruled himself out of the race to replace Yousaf and threw his support behind Swinney. “There’s only one person who can unite the party … and country”, he said.

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Ian Blackford, Flynn’s predecessor as SNP Westminster leader, also went on to back Swinney. Speaking to the BBC, he said: “I know that John Swinney … has indicated that he may well indeed put his name forward”.

He added: “I would encourage John to do so for a whole host of reasons because of the type of person he is, as someone that can build support, not just in the party, but across parliament and across the country, someone with the depth and breadth of experience in government”.

Kate Forbes, a former finance secretary who came second to Humza Yousaf in the 2023 SNP leadership race, is also expected to make a statement on the contest later on Thursday.

It comes amid reports Swinney and Forbes held a meeting at the Scottish parliament earlier this week to discuss whether they could thrash out an agreement that could avoid a full contest.

Forbes later confirmed the meeting had taken place but insisted it was merely a “courtesy”. 

The former finance secretary also indicted she would finally disclose whether she had decided to stand, indicating the public would find out “soon”.

If she opted to run, she could thwart the Swinney coronation that many in the SNP — especially the party old guard — appear to be rallying behind. 

Politics@Lunch: Will Kate Forbes foil the SNP’s succession plan?

Swinney stood down as deputy first minister following then-FM Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation in 2023. At the time, he ruled himself out of the contest to succeed Sturgeon, citing that he had to put his young family first.

The MSP for Perthshire North went on to serve as finance secretary under Humza Yousaf‘s government.

Josh Self is Editor of, follow him on X/Twitter here.

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