John Swinney urges SNP to 'come together' as race to succeed Humza Yousaf begins

John Swinney has urged the SNP to "come together" as speculation intensifies over whether he will soon launch a leadership bid to replace Humza Yousaf.

The former deputy first minister urged party members to "consider carefully" the implications of Yousaf's dramatic resignation on Monday.

Swinney, who previously served as SNP leader from 2000-2004, is considered the favourite to take on the top job after he received a string of endorsements from Scottish Government ministers and senior Nationalist MPs.

Nominations to become party leader have opened and party members have until Monday to put their names forward.

Asked by reporters whether he would be running to be leader, Swinney said: "I have a long day ahead of me in Parliament and obviously we'll have lots to think about throughout the course of the day."

Asked if he was the answer, or whether the party required fresh blood, he added: "The SNP has got to come together, it's the only way political parties thrive and succeed.

"These are all the issues I'm giving consideration to, and I'll have more to say in the coming days."

Asked if there was a stitch-up to ensure he was anointed as a new leader, Swinney responded: "There was dramatic news yesterday, and I think it's important we all take time to consider carefully all the implications of that. That's what I'm doing, to make sure we take the right decisions for the party.

"Everybody will be involved in taking that decision."

All eyes are now on former Kate Forbes as the former finance secretary considers whether to launch a second leadership campaign.

But critics of Swinney have already warned he is not the right candidate to lead the party into a crunch general election later this year.

Writing in the Record, former SNP minister Alex Neil said Swinney was "too closely associated with the Sturgeon era and the mess which poor Humza inherited".

SNP MP Carol Monaghan said although the former deputy first minister was "incredibly popular" within the SNP the new leader needed to have "wider appeal".

Veteran Nationalist Jim Sillars said he would support Forbes if she decided to enter the leadership contest.

He told the Record: "If we have a First Minister who can wipe the Sturgeon/Yousaf slate clean, and clearly indicate the next two years are going to be different, then the SNP can in fact recover.

"There is only one person who has that ability at the present time, and that is Kate Forbes. And I shall be voting for her if she puts her hat in the ring for the leadership."

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