John Swinney expected to announce he will run for SNP leadership and first minister

John Swinney expected to announce he will run for SNP leadership and first minister

John Swinney is expected to announce that he will run for SNP leadership and first minister of Scotland.

Swinney, 60, a hugely experienced politician who joined the party at the age of 15 and has served in many roles across several administrations, including as party leader, has already won the backing of a number of senior cabinet members and the SNP’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn.

He will hold a press conference on Thursday morning after it emerged on Wednesday that he had met the other frontrunners to succeed Humza Yousaf, who stepped down as first minister on Monday, for informal talks in an attempt to avoid another divisive and damaging leadership contest.

Swinney, who served as Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy for almost nine years, is considered the ultimate “safe pair of hands” within the party, known for his quiet charm as well as his steeliness.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the former finance secretary Kate Forbes confirmed that an “informal meeting” had taken place between her and Swinney on Tuesday, increasing speculation that Swinney would present himself as a unity candidate who can bring together different factions in time for the general election, but offering Forbes a senior role in his administration, potentially as his deputy first minister.

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If Forbes, 34, a former finance secretary who narrowly lost to Yousaf in last year’s leadership contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon, does decide to stand against him, a ballot will be held among SNP members.

On Wednesday evening, the SNP set out the timetable for electing a new leader. Nominations close on Monday at noon and – if there is more than one candidate – a ballot of the party membership will open on 13 May and close on 27 May.

Swinney served briefly as SNP leader from 2000, taking over after Alex Salmond unexpectedly quit, but resigned in 2004 after a poor European elections result.

Yousaf’s position became untenable after he unilaterally axed the governing partnership with the Scottish Green, prompting a fierce backlash that left him without enough cross-party support to win a vote of confidence in his leadership.

He said on Monday that he would remain as first minister until a new SNP leader had been elected.