John Swinney is seen as the only SNP figure who could unite his party and lead a minority Government

All eyes are on former deputy first minister John Swinney in the race to succeed Humza Yousaf.

A Swinney-less field could result in another bitter and nasty SNP leadership contest.

It could pit Kate Forbes, who lost last year to Yousaf, against a Cabinet Secretary such as Jenny Gilruth.

Forbes would be favourite but her social conservatism - she said she would have voted against gay marriage - would rip the SNP apart.

Swinney, who was a Cabinet ever-present between 2007 and 2023, would clear the field.

He is respected on all sides of the party and would be unlikely to be challenged.

The challenge would be persuading him to step up.

He was SNP leader in 2000 and resigned after four miserable years in charge.

He was scarred by the experience and told me in the year of the 2014 referendum he would never do it again.

'Unreservedly, absolutely, in no circumstances, there is no way of you configuring any signal I am possibly giving you, to say anything other than 'no'," he said.

But Swinney is a party man and his party is in the middle of one of its biggest ever crises.

The SNP is staring general election defeat in the face and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar fancies himself to be the next First Minister.

Swinney is the choice of senior SNP figures to unite a divided party and lead a minority Government.

They want him to take over but are unsure if he has the stomach for the fight.

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