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Swinney to become SNP leader

Graeme McCormick, a well-known party activist who stood to become SNP president in 2023, claimed he would gather the 100 signatures to mount a challenge…reports Asian Lite News

John Swinney could face a leadership contest before he becomes Scottish National party leader after an activist said he expected to win enough nominations to stand.

Graeme McCormick, a well-known party activist who stood to become SNP president in 2023, claimed he would gather the 100 signatures needed from 20 different party branches to mount a challenge for the leadership.

His supporters argue it would be undemocratic for the party’s leader to win an unopposed coronation and insist that Swinney ought to face a contest. If one does take place, Swinney will not be appointed as first minister until late May.

One of McCormick’s backers, Iain Lawson, posted on X on Sunday that he had already obtained the 100 signatures required and was planning to hand them in to the SNP “in person”.

Lawson also attacked Swinney for criticising the move, and in another post accused Swinney of being entitled and “raging” that an ordinary member was challenging him.

“So Graeme McCormick has succeeded in getting the nominations he needed. Disappointed that JS [Swinney] has already had a dig at him before nominations even close for daring to challenge him. He is to give ordinary members the chance to question the new leader. New idea?”

McCormick, some of whose allies want the Scottish government to mount a second independence referendum without Westminster’s approval, won applause from hardliners when he denounced the SNP’s caution as “flatulence in a trance” during last year’s party conference.

Nominations to succeed Humza Yousaf as SNP leader close at noon on Monday. If another candidate crosses the nominations threshold and forces a contest, Yousaf is expected to remain in post and as Scotland’s first minister until a winner is declared.

McCormick was very confident he would gather the signatures before the deadline after canvassing for support at an independence rally in Glasgow organised by All Under One Banner, the Sunday Herald newspaper reported.

Swinney, who has been expecting to be confirmed as the new SNP leader on Monday afternoon and be voted in as first minister this week, warned on Sunday that a contest would delay his efforts to rebuild the party and put its deep divisions on public display.

“I think it would be better if we just got on with things, that we started the rebuilding of the SNP and its political strength,” he told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show. “We had a lot of strains around a couple of issues in parliament and I think we’ve just had a rough couple of years.

“[The] SNP has not looked cohesive; the SNP has not looked together. The central point of my message is we’ve got to get ourselves together.”

An unopposed coronation would not be the SNP’s first: Nicola Sturgeon succeeded Alex Salmond in November 2014 without a contest.

Swinney’s call for SNP members to realise the urgency of the need to restore public confidence in the party was underlined by a poll by Norstat for Sunday Times Scotland, which said support for the party in a Westminster election had slumped to 29%.

The poll, the first to be carried out since Yousaf suddenly quit last week, put Labour on 34% and the Scottish Conservatives on 16%. Those figures suggest the SNP could lose 28 Westminster seats, a fall from 43 MPs at present to 15. Labour, which has only two Scottish seats, would win 28.

Meanwhile, former SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes confirmed earlier she was not standing and backed Swinney, having been promised a “significant” cabinet role if he becomes first minister.

If no other candidate meets the nomination deadline, Swinney would be free to seek parliamentary approval to become first minister.

Yousaf has decided to stay on in the role until a replacement is selected. Once his resignation has been accepted by the King, parliament has 28 days to select a replacement.

There will then be a vote in the chamber to decide the new first minister, which is passed by a simple majority. The SNP has 63 seats in the parliament, which means it does not have a majority, but the vote is likely to pass regardless.

The parliament’s presiding officer then recommends to the King that the winner be appointed as the new first minister.

Yousaf announced his intention to step down from the role last Monday. He had ended the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens, leaving him short of support for the minority SNP government at Holyrood.

He would have faced two votes of no confidence in his leadership last week had he not stood down.

The Scottish Conservatives dropped their motion after his departure was confirmed, while Scottish Labour’s – which was a vote of confidence in the entire government – was defeated with backing from the Greens. His resignation came 13 months after defeating Ms Forbes and Ash Regan, who has since defected to the Alba Party, in the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon.

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