SNP leadership: John Swinney confirmed as new SNP leader, succeeding Humza Yousaf

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Former Deputy First Minister is only nomination

John Swinney was today confirmed as the new leader of the Scottish National Party following the resignation of Humza Yousaf.

Mr Swinney – who also led the party from 2000 until 2004 and served as Nicola Sturgeon’s Deputy First Minister – is expected to be formally installed as First Minister later this week.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The SNP’s nomination process closed at noon today and Mr Swinney was the sole nominee.

Edinburgh-born John Swinney is expected to be formally installed as First Minister later this weekEdinburgh-born John Swinney is expected to be formally installed as First Minister later this week
Edinburgh-born John Swinney is expected to be formally installed as First Minister later this week

Mr Swinney, 60, was born in Edinburgh and went to Forrester High School, before attending Edinburgh University, where he graduated with an MA in politics in 1986. He joined the SNP at the age of 15 and became the party’s national secretary at just 22.

He was elected MP for North Tayside at the 1997 general election and two years later became MSP for the same constituency when the Scottish Parliament was set up. He served on the opposition frontbench as SNP spokesman on enterprise and lifelong learning.

When Alex Salmond resigned as SNP leader in 2000, Mr Swinney was elected his successor, defeating Alex Neil. But the party’s vote fell at the 2001 UK general election and it was reduced from six MPs to five. The 2003 Scottish Parliament elections also saw a drop in the SNP’s vote share as well as the loss of eight MSPs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At the 2003 party conference, Mr Swinney comfortably survived a leadership challenge from party activist Bill Wilson, who later served as an MSP. But after the 2004 European Parliament elections, there were calls for him to stand down and Mr Swinney eventually did so, paving the way for Alex Salmond’s return.

In 2005, Mr Swinney became shadow minister for finance and when the SNP came to power in 2007 he was appointed Finance Secretary. When Nicola Sturgeon replaced Mr Salmond as First Minister after the 2014 independence referendum he was made Deputy First Minister as well.

He switched from finance to the education portfolio in 2016 and was heavily criticised over the system adopted for exam results under Covid, which opposition parties said was unfair to certain pupils. He faced a vote of confidence over the issue in 2020, but survived by 67 votes to 58.

The following year he faced a second vote of confidence after he refused to publish legal advice over the Alex Salmond case. He survived again, by 65 votes to 57. After the 2021 Holyrood elections, he was made Covid Recovery Secretary.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

When Ms Sturgeon announced in 2023 that she was standing down as First Minister, Mr Swinney decided he would quit as well. He declined to stand in the election for her successor.

But when Humza Yousaf resigned after calling time on the SNP-Green power-sharing agreement, Mr Swinney quickly emerged as the favourite –and then the only – candidate to replace him. So 45 years after joining the SNP and 25 years after being one of the original MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Swinney is about to become Scotland’s seventh First Minister.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.