John Swinney and Kate Forbes 'held talks' over SNP leadership deal to avoid bitter contest

John Swinney and Kate Forbes held talks yesterday over striking a leadership deal to avoid a bitter contest to replace Humza Yousaf.

Senior Nationalists are anxious to avoid a repeat of last year's leadership race which quickly turned toxic and saw the party's support slump in the polls.

Despite being widely encouraged to declare himself a candidate to become the next SNP leader, Swinney has so far refused to confirm he will stand.

Forbes has similarly failed to make a firm commitment so far despite her supporters' encouragement.

That has led to growing speculation the pair are locked in talks about a possible powersharing deal.

A spokesman for Forbes said: "We can confirm Kate spoke to John yesterday. It was a purely informal meeting. Kate is continuing to weigh up whether to run and is grateful for the growing outpouring of support."

Swinney's camp are hopeful Forbes would accept a senior Cabinet position in order to avoid a full-blown leadership contest.

Rishi Sunak has repeatedly refused to rule out a general election taking place as early as July.

Many Nats are fearful their chances could be dented if Scots are put-off by another bruising contest to become the next First Minister.

The SNP were plunged into fresh crisis on Monday when Humza Yousaf dramatically announced his resignation after a little over a year in Bute House.

Yousaf insisted he did not regret ending the deal - but continued: "I just regret the manner in which I ended it".

The First Minister also said he would not endorse a candidate in the SNP leadership race to succeed him - although no member has as yet confirmed their intention to run.

"I would say to supporters of any candidate that we will gain nothing if we talk each other down," he added.

"The only people who benefit from that are our opponents."

Asked if he felt Scotland could have a first minister who opposes gay marriage, referring to Kate Forbes, Yousaf said "you can be a person of faith and be first minister".

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