Five things to know about new SNP leader John Swinney

John Swinney should be the next First Minister after he became SNP leader on Monday.

The MSP for Perthshire North was part of the original Holyrood intake in 1999 and has been a parliamentarian ever since. He also served as MP for North Tayside between 1997 and 2001.

The 60-year-old was born and raised in Edinburgh and studied politics at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1986.

He joined the SNP aged 15 in 1979 and became its national secretary aged 22 in 1986.

He served in that role for six years, before becoming vice convenor, senior vice convenor and deputy leader. The latter was between 1998 and 2000.

Here are five things to know about the man who takes over from Humza Yousaf.

John Swinney
John Swinney has been deputy first minister and SNP leader -Credit:Getty Images

He used to be SNP leader, but it ended badly

When Alex Salmond resigned as SNP leader in 2000, Swinney beat Alex Neil in the contest that followed.

Swinney's time as leader was not successful. His leadership was regularly undermined by his MSPs, many of which said they did not have confidence in him.

The SNP lost one seat in 2001 general election and eight seats in the 2003 Holyrood election.

Although he retained two seats in the 2004 European elections, he had lost control of the group and MSPs from all sides were briefing against him.

Salmond advised him to resign to stop senior figures openly calling for him to leave, and Swinney did so in June 2004.

Salmond's Finance Secretary for seven years

When the SNP first came to power in 2007, Salmond appointed Swinney as finance secretary.

He served in the job for all of Salmond's time as first minister, overseeing Scotland's finances during the 2008 financial crisis.

His reputation was damaged in 2010 when he did not notify parliament that he had let the Scottish Variable Rate lapse.

He was forced to apologise after MSPs voted that he had misled them.

Deputy first minister under Nicola Sturgeon

When Salmond was replaced by Nicola Sturgeon in 2014, one of her first moves was to make Swinney deputy first minister.

He continued as finance secretary for two years, before becoming education secretary after the 2016 Holyrood election.

Swinney was seen as Sturgeon's enforcer in cabinet and was one of the closest people to her.

Struggles as education secretary

Swinney was education secretary between 2016 and 2021.

Politics guru John Curtice said the SNP's poor record on education was part of the reason for its poor results in the 2017 general election.

But Swinney had a disaster over exam grades during the pandemic.

As there were no exams, results were figured out by a combination of teacher advice and historic school performance.

There was outrage after children from deprived areas were penalised and those from posh private schools had their results amplified.

He had to U-turn and give the results out based on teacher guidance.

Swinney faced a vote of no confidence but managed to see it off.

He was also criticised in 2021 for the lack of progress on the attainment gap.

The MSP was moved to the health brief that year after what had been a disastrous tenure.

Was eyeing retirement - until now

When Sturgeon announced her resignation last year, Swinney said he had no intention of replacing her and that he would stand down from government when a replacement was chosen.

He backed Humza Yousaf in the leadership contest and was reportedly going to be standing down as an MSP in 2026.

But now that Yousaf is gone, it seems that Swinney's political career won't be ending any time soon.

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