Who could replace Humza Yousaf as SNP leader?

Who could replace Humza Yousaf as SNP leader?
Humza Yousaf fights back tears as he resigns as Scottish first minister

Just hours after Humza Yousaf announced he would stand down as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) – and, therefore, first minister – attention has turned to who within the SNP ranks could replace him and begin a new administration in Scotland.

All of this discussion has happened after Yousaf held a press conference on Monday (29 April) in which he admitted he had “clearly underestimated the level of hurt and upset” caused by his ending the SNP’s Bute House agreement with the Scottish Greens to run a minority government.

He said: “I’ve concluded that repairing a relationship across the political divide can only be done with someone else at the helm.”

Yousaf added he’d remain in post until his replacement is elected, but who could that be?

Allow us to run through some of the potential candidates…

John Swinney

One name has already emerged as a frontrunner, and that’s Perthshire North MSP John Swinney.

He’s already had a spell leading the SNP between 2000 and 2004, and was the cabinet secretary for finance from 2007 and 2016.

Swinney also served as deputy first minister, and you may have seen him a lot more during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as he served as deputy first minister from May 2016 to March 2023, with the last two years of this job including the 'Covid recovery' brief.

And he hasn’t hesitated when it comes to making his feelings known after Yousaf’s resignation, as he told reporters in London on Monday that he was giving the idea of standing in the leadership election “very active consideration”.

He said: “I’ve got lots of things to think about, there’s the whole question of my family, and I have make sure I do the right thing by family, they are precious to me.

“I have to do the right thing by my party and my country, so there is lots to be thought about.”

Health secretary Neil Gray and cabinet secretary for education and skills Jenny Gilruth have both been floated by some outlets and journalists, but there’s reports that they are both urging Swinney to stand instead.

Kate Forbes

The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP has already stood for election as SNP leader before – indeed she came second in last year’s contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as first minister which was won by Yousaf.

During that election campaign, she came under fire for a number of personal views across a range of subjects, including saying she would have opposed same-sex marriage “as a matter of conscience” if she had been in parliament when it became law in Scotland a decade ago.

Forbes also said that having children outside of marriage “would be wrong according to my faith” and would personally “seek to avoid” it, and back in 2018, she commented on abortion rights and urged politicians to “recognise that the way we treat the most vulnerable – whether the unborn or the terminally ill – is a measure of true progress”.

Stephen Flynn

Before we provide further background on the SNP Westminster leader (he replaced Ian Blackford), it’s probably worth mentioning that this isn’t possible, for the simple fact that Flynn is a member in the UK parliament, when the first minister has always been a member of the Scottish parliament.

Nevertheless, people have expressed their interest in seeing him made leader at some point. Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry praised Flynn for “[healing] some of the division” from the previous SNP Westminster leadership and said “we need that sort of approach at Holyrood”.

For now, though, only time will tell.

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