John Swinney fears 'deeply troubling' rise of Nigel Farage will see right-wing leader become Prime Minister

John Swinney on the general election campaign trail in Oban
-Credit: (Image: Tony Nicoletti/Daily Record)

John Swinney has warned right wing Nigel Farage is likely to become the next Tory leader and Prime Minister one day.

The SNP leader sounded the alarm over the “deeply troubling” rise of the Reform Party chief. He said: “It makes me feel ill.”

Swinney also said he would never campaign with former SNP leader Alex Salmond again after the former SNP leader’s bitter fallout with Nicola Sturgeon.

He also said he supported Labour plans for VAT on private school fees and called for Keir Starmer to devolve employment legislation to Holyrood.

Labour are in line for a stunning general election victory on July 4th, but Starmer’s party is locked in a battle with the SNP for first place in Scotland.

Opinion polls reveal the rise of Farage’s Reform party could wipe out the Tories and speculation is rife he could be the next Tory leader

In an interview with the Record, Swinney was asked whether he thinks Farage will take over from Rishi Sunak: "Yes, I think there is every possibility. I might even go as far as to say ‘likelihood’ that that might be the case.

“I don’t recognise the Conservative party.”

He added: “The Conservative Party is just drifting itself into a position where actually it is really quite at ease with the arguments of Nigel Farage."

Asked if he could see Farage becoming PM if a Labour Government fails to deliver, he said: “It’s a possibility.”

He also said a Farage-led Tory party or Government would put a strain on the Union.

Swinney, a party veteran who took over as First Minister from Humza Yousaf, is also estranged from Salmond.

Salmond and Sturgeon fell out spectacularly and Swinney is on the side of the first woman ever to become FM.

The Record asked him how he feels about a man he worked with for decades. “Distant,” he replied, after a long pause.

Asked how that made him feel, he said: “It doesn’t really put me up or down.”

Reform leader Nigel Farage -Credit:AFP via Getty Images
Reform leader Nigel Farage -Credit:AFP via Getty Images

He was asked if he would ever campaign again with Salmond. "No,” he said. “Because I feel very distant from who he is.”

Meanwhile, Swinney has accused Labour of planning “significant” spending cuts if they win power.

But he says he is hopeful there could be reset between Edinburgh and London if Starmer wins: "I do hope so. I would signal the willingness of the Scottish Government to work constructively with the UK Government.”

One of the things he wants is for employment legislation to be devolved straight away.

Labour plans to beef up workers’ rights, but Swinney wants the powers devolved in their own right.

He said this would lead to the SNP Government ending anti-strike laws, enhancing the living wage, increasing sick pay and ending fire and rehire.

One immediate area of cooperation could be the Labour plan for VAT on school fees.

Under the Labour proposal, 20pc VAT would be imposed on school fees and the £1.5bn revenues ploughed into state schools.

Around £150m would be redirected to Holyrood, which Labour says should be spent on schools north of the border.

John Swinney speaks with Daily Record political editor Paul Hutcheon
John Swinney speaks with Daily Record political editor Paul Hutcheon -Credit:Tony Nicoletti/Daily Record

Swinney, who is pitching to the Left of Labour in the general election, backs the policy and said his MPs would vote for it:

“I am sympathetic to the points they bring forward on VAT and private schools.”

“I understand where they are coming from.”

Despite the talk about resetting relations, Swinney says his top priority in the event of a Labour Government would be a deal on indyref2.

“What I want is for the mandate that’s been secured in the Scottish Parliament for there to be an independence referendum to be accepted.”

Polls show Labour on course for first place in Scotland and for the SNP to lose around 20 seats.

Asked if his so-called mandate would be invalidated by a really bad result, he said:

“No, it wouldn’t because that exists. That is the will of the Scottish Parliament.”

He nods to the recent troubles over the departure of Sturgeon and Yousaf, but insists the SNP have reason to be optimistic.

“I think the SNP has been through a rough time, to be blunt. I think what’s encouraging about the situation we find ourselves in the polls just now is that the position is improving.”

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