Swinney elected first minister of Scotland

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Veteran Scottish National party politician John Swinney was elected Scotland’s first minister in a parliamentary ballot following the formal resignation of Humza Yousaf earlier on Tuesday. 

In a vote at Holyrood, the new leader of the SNP beat three rival nominees: Alex Cole-Hamilton, Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar, the respective leaders of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour. 

Swinney is expected to be appointed first minister on Tuesday with a royal warrant from King Charles. His swearing-in is scheduled for Wednesday at the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, where he will take the official oath. 

The 60-year-old Swinney’s path to power had been cleared earlier on Tuesday when the Scottish Greens said their seven MSPs would abstain. The SNP has 63 MSPs, with opposition parties holding 65 seats. 

Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Greens, said the SNP had the right to form a government but did not have “an automatic right to our votes”. “We need to see . . . what direction he [Swinney] wants to take,” she said. 

Ross accused the SNP of doing a “backroom deal with the Greens” to secure the abstentions that would win the vote for Swinney, who led the nationalist party between 2000 and 2004 and served as deputy first minister to Nicola Sturgeon.

Yousaf’s decision to end a power-sharing deal with the Greens triggered the political crisis that ended in his decision to resign last week when he could not rely on his former coalition partners in a vote of no confidence. 

Swinney, a former finance secretary, has said he will govern on a moderate centre-left policy agenda, working with parties across Holyrood to deliver legislation as a minority government. 

He has also pledged to spend time persuading Scots about the benefits of independence rather than focusing on the mechanisms needed to leave the UK.

“I commit my government to working to create that agreement across the chamber,” Swinney said in parliament on Tuesday. “I hope there is the space and the willingness for that to happen in the interests of the people who sent us here.”

His selection of ministerial candidates is also anticipated on Wednesday, with a vote in parliament coming later this week.

Kate Forbes, who narrowly lost last year’s leadership election to Yousaf, decided not to run against Swinney after he said she would have a “significant” role in his government. She declined to comment on her hopes for cabinet on Thursday.

Swinney won the leadership of Scotland’s biggest party on Monday unchallenged, after SNP activist Graeme McCormick on Sunday withdrew from the contest.

Sturgeon, first minister between 2014 and 2023, said on X that Swinney was “without doubt the right person to first minister in this moment, for both party and country”.

Yousaf, in his departing speech before returning to the backbenches, said he was proud of delivering a council tax freeze, removing peak fares on the railways and lifting an estimated 100,000 children out of poverty this year.

He also reiterated his call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, saying: “We need to stop the massacre of innocent people in Gaza.”


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