Arden activist steps back from SNP leadership challenge as Swinney set to become FM

Graeme McCormick SNP member and land reformer.
Veteran campaigner Graeme McCormick says he had enough support to mount a challenge to John Swinney. -Credit:Handout

John Swinney became the next leader the SNP yesterday after a veteran activist from Arden - who claimed he had enough nominations to stand - pulled out of a leadership challenge.

Graeme McCormick last week said he had sufficient backing from party branches to trigger a contest.

Mr McCormick only lost out by just over 1000 votes after challenging Labour’s Jackie Baillie to become MSP for Dumbarton in 2007.

At last year’s SNP conference he described the Scottish Government as “flatulence in a trance”.

Anyone who can gather 100 signatures, including from 20 different branches, can trigger a leadership race.

However despite saying he reached the threshold, the activist confirmed that he would not stand on Sunday night. This meant that yesterday Swinney could be declared as the leader and is set to be confirmed as the First Minister later this week.

John Swinney speaks as he launches his SNP leadership bid on May 02, 2024 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
John Swinney will replace Humza Yousaf as Scotland's First Minister. -Credit:Getty Images

McCormick said: “John and I agreed the challenges which the SNP, our government and our people face, and explored new thinking on a range of issues which I am confident, as they are advanced, will inspire activists both within the SNP and wider independence movement in the following weeks and months.

“This is a fresh start for our members and our politicians, and I’m sure that John’s determination to deliver independence will be rewarded at the forthcoming general election. “

He added: “I have therefore concluded that I shall not proceed with my nomination for party leader but instead support John Swinney’s nomination for party leader and first minister of Scotland.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf speaks during a press conference at Bute House, his official residence in Edinburgh where he said he will resign as SNP leader and Scotland's First Minister on April 29, 2024 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Humza Yousaf resigned in an emotional address last week. -Credit:Getty Images

Veteran MSP Swinney, 60, replaces Humza Yousaf in the role after he resigned last week after 13 months as FM.

McCormick has campaigned on land and tax reform and is an outspoken critic of Nicola Sturgeon’s focus on gender politics.

When asked about a potential contest on BBC Scotland’s the Sunday Show, Swinney said he respected party democracy but that he thought it would be better not to have a leadership election.

He said: “It’s the democratic right of members of the party to come forward.”

Posting on social after being confirmed as Humza Yousaf’s successor Swinney, who led the SNP between 2000 and 2004, said that he said he was “deeply honoured” to become party leader for the second time.

“I will give all that I have to serve my party and my country,” he added.