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John Swinney Enters SNP Leadership Race, Vows to Unite Party and Pursue Scottish Independence

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SNP leadership contest: John Swinney declares candidacy to replace Humza Yousaf as Scotland's First Minister

Following Humza Yousaf's resignation this past Monday, the quest to identify the next SNP leader and Scotland’s head of government is underway.

Scottish correspondent @Jenster13

Thursday, May 2, 2024, 11:

John Swinney has declared his intention to succeed Humza Yousaf as the leader of the SNP and as Scotland's First Minister.

The MSP for Perthshire North has occupied a backbench position for the past year following his resignation as deputy first minister, a role he relinquished when Nicola Sturgeon stepped down in 2023.

During his announcement to pursue the role of first minister at the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh on Thursday, he expressed his desire to expand on the initiatives of the SNP government to develop a contemporary, vibrant, and diverse Scotland that provides opportunities for every citizen.

"I aim to bring together the SNP and rally the whole of Scotland behind the cause of independence."

Mr. Swinney acknowledged that the SNP lacks the necessary unity to successfully attain its objective of a second independence referendum.

He stated, "This needs to be different. I could have remained passive, trusting others to resolve the issues, but my deep concern for Scotland's future and the Scottish National Party compels me to act."

Emphasizing his early membership in the SNP during his teenage years and his lengthy tenure of 16 years as a senior minister, he stated: "I am confident that my experience and abilities have earned me the trust and confidence of citizens throughout the nation. I am committed to consolidating the SNP, concentrating on our core strengths—unifying Scotland, serving its people, and striving to forge an optimal future for our country."

Further Details on Humza Yousaf

Kate Forbes will not contend in the SNP leadership contest to succeed Humza Yousaf as the First Minister of Scotland.

John Swinney: Who is leading the race to succeed SNP leader and First Minister Humza Yousaf?

John Swinney and Kate Forbes are set to deliver remarks ahead of the anticipated leadership contest within the SNP.

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The hunt is now underway for a new head of the SNP and for Scotland's leadership after Mr. Yousaf stepped down this Monday.

Shortly after he stepped down, numerous key members of the SNP rallied behind Mr. Swinney, with prominent endorsements coming from the party's leader in Westminster, Stephen Flynn, Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth, and MPs Pete Wishart, Ian Blackford, and Alyn Smith.

Ex-finance chief Kate Forbes is slated to make an announcement later today, Thursday. She is being considered a likely lead contender to enter the leadership contest.

Mr. Swinney stated, "Our team at the Scottish government includes numerous skilled individuals. I am keen for Kate Forbes to have a major role within this group."

"She is a smart, innovative, and considerate individual who has a lot to offer to our country's future. If I am elected, I will ensure that Kate has the opportunity to make her valuable contribution.

"This will contribute to forming a cohesive group that unites all factions of our party. Given my profound commitment to the SNP, I believe I am the most suitable person to assemble this team."

Mr. Swinney has held the position of MSP since the founding of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, representing North Tayside, and had earlier served as the MP for the same area in Westminster starting in 1997.

Supporters claim that the politician, previously serving as finance secretary during Alex Salmond's administration, possesses the requisite experience to guide the nation after Mr Yousaf's exit.

Under Ms. Sturgeon's leadership, he held various cabinet positions such as education secretary, COVID-19 recovery secretary, and also served as finance secretary, stepping in for Ms. Forbes while she was on maternity leave.

Throughout his tenure as Ms. Sturgeon's second-in-command, he solidified his status as a tenacious advocate for his leader and a steadfast supporter of the SNP.

He narrowly survived two no-confidence motions in the Scottish Parliament, initially stemming from his management of school examinations amid the COVID-19 crisis, and later due to his initial reluctance to release legal counsel pertaining to the investigation into the mishandled harassment allegations against Mr. Salmond.

The ex-chief of the SNP, who stepped down from his position in 2004 after disappointing outcomes in the European Parliament elections, confirmed he would not enter the 2023 contest for leadership to succeed Ms. Sturgeon, stating the need to prioritize his young family.

He stated today, "One advantage of withdrawing from active politics a year ago is that it has given me the chance to view our political landscape from a new angle."

Mr. Swinney stated that the SNP had accomplished a great deal for the Scottish populace, emphasizing his pride in the introduction of the Scottish child payment, the provision of free university education, and the significant growth in childcare services.

He stated that SNP policies "raise children out of poverty, provide them with an improved beginning in life, and facilitate their access to university education."

He stated: "The SNP alone aligns with the majority of citizens who prefer their government to occupy the moderate center-left of the Scottish political spectrum.

"This is my position. If chosen by my party and confirmed by parliament, my objectives as first minister will be deeply rooted in the center-left tradition."

"Striving for economic expansion and social fairness. The aim of economic growth is not merely for its own benefit, but to bolster the services and the community we all aspire to create."

"I am committed to focusing on key areas that will position Scotland as a leading example of a progressive, forward-thinking, and vibrant country."

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Mr. Swinney stated that additional measures are necessary to lift more children from poverty.

He further stated that the climate crisis poses an immediate and serious danger to our society, emphasizing that any strategies for achieving net zero emissions should be inclusive of both individuals and businesses.

Addressing the issue of independence, he stated, "Throughout my entire adult life, I have been convinced that Scotland would thrive as an independent nation. However, I acknowledge that we need to persuade more individuals of this view before independence can be realized.

"I am dedicating my energy to engaging respectfully and thoughtfully in Scotland to overcome the challenges that hinder our path to securing independence. My goal is to convince citizens that the best future for Scotland lies in gaining the full capabilities that come with independence."

Further reading: Yousaf cautions about harmful leadership battle, questions party's future path.

Stay informed on the most recent updates from the UK and globally by tuning into Sky News.

In a Wednesday interview with Sky News, Mr. Yousaf dismissed claims that he was being pushed out to clear a path for Mr. Swinney as "total nonsense."

Today, Mr. Swinney stated, "I am not a caretaker. I am not an interim leader."

He also mentioned his plans to continue guiding the SNP past the upcoming general election and through the 2026 Scottish Parliament election, emphasizing: "Therefore, my clear and straightforward message is that I am advancing to unify the SNP, to foster economic development and social fairness, and to secure the finest possible future for all in a contemporary, vibrant, and varied Scotland.

"I aim to bring together the SNP and rally all of Scotland behind the cause of independence. I call on all members of the SNP and citizens across the nation who are ready to embark on this path with me to come forward now."

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The deadline for submitting nominations for the leadership of the SNP is set for midday on Monday, May

Aspiring candidates must secure the backing of 100 members from 20 distinct SNP branches to be eligible to enter the race.

The upcoming vote is scheduled to commence at noon on Monday, May 13, and will conclude at 12pm on Monday, May 27.

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