John Swinney promises 'new chapter' for SNP following 'rough time' for the party

John Swinney has promised a "new chapter" for the SNP as he became the leader of the party unopposed following the resignation of Humza Yousaf.

The new leader admitted his party had been through a "rough time" following the sudden departure of Mr Yousaf and the criminal investigation into Nicola Sturgeon and her husband.

On Sunday there were reports Mr Swinney may face a leadership contest when activist Graeme McCormick said he had the secured 100 nominations from 20 branches needed to run against Mr Swinney.

But later on Sunday, he confirmed he had backed out of the campaign after “lengthy and fruitful” conversations with Mr Swinney.

Speaking after being confirmed as leader he said he was "deeply honoured" to take on the role, promising to "give all that I have to serve my party and my country."

John Swinney promised a new chapter for his party. Credit: PA

It is the second time that Mr Swinney has been named as SNP leader – but this time he is also now likely to be declared as Scotland’s new first minister following a vote in the Scottish Parliament later this week.

Mr Swinney said he would seek to work with other parties now the SNP was in minority at Holyrood and said opposition to independence was no reason why they could not cooperate.

At the start of his speech at Glasgow University on Monday, Mr Swinney paid tribute to his predecessor, hailing Mr Yousaf’s “moral leadership on the issue of Gaza”, adding he would “continue to make a substantial contribution to the public life of Scotland”.

But he said his appointment to the post of SNP leader was “the beginning of a new chapter” for the party.

It was initially thought that former Finance Secretary Kate Forbes would contest the leadership, but Mr Swinney heaped praise on his potential rival, saying she would be offered a “significant” job in his team after she confirmed she would not run against him.

As there were no last-minute challengers, the leadership bid will not have to be put to SNP members, with Mr Swinney clear to take over.

He is likely to become Scotland’s next first minister – the third in just over a year – as early as Tuesday.

The Scottish Government Cabinet will meet on Tuesday, with MSPs later given the opportunity to elect a new first minister at some point in the Holyrood schedule.

Mr Swinney would then have to swear three oaths of office at the Court of Session in Edinburgh before officially becoming first minister.

The leadership race was triggered after Mr Yousaf confirmed his intention to resign last week after he abruptly ended the powersharing agreement with the Scottish Greens, facing significant backlash in Holyrood and a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…