John Swinney Looks Likely to Be Scotland’s Next First Minister

By John Mercury May 4, 2024

Just days after Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, announced his resignation, one of his party’s most experienced politicians, John Swinney, emerged on Thursday as his likely successor after the most prominent potential challenger pulled out of the race.

Mr. Swinney, 60, is a former leader of Mr. Yousaf’s Scottish National Party, and presents himself as the unity candidate for a party that has been in a state of crisis since the departure last year of the previous first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, once one of Britain’s most popular politicians.

That crisis reached a new level of urgency this week when Mr. Yousaf terminated a coalition agreement with another party that campaigns for Scottish independence, the Scottish Greens, only to find himself facing two confidence votes he risked losing. On Monday, he said he would step down as soon as a replacement was chosen.

For much of the past year, the S.N.P. has been enduring the fallout of a police investigation into the handling of funds it raised for a future referendum campaign.

Ms. Sturgeon was arrested and questioned last year but has not been charged with any offense. Her husband, Peter Murrell, a longtime chief executive of the party, was charged last month with embezzlement.

In the race to succeed Mr. Yousaf, Mr. Swinney is seen as a continuity candidate. He has previously served as deputy first minister, and he had already been endorsed by several senior colleagues before his formal declaration on Thursday that he would run.

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