Kate Forbes holds the power in her high-stakes SNP leadership battle with John Swinney

SNP insiders believe a deal between John Swinney and Kate Forbes is the only way of avoiding party carnage.

The outlines of an agreement would be Forbes standing aside for the former deputy first minister and giving him a coronation.

She would be handed a top cabinet post and the opportunity to shine again in government.

He would lead the SNP into the general election, as well as the Scottish Parliament poll in 2026, before standing down mid-term.

The expectation is Forbes, who would still be in her thirties at this point, would be the favourite to take over from Swinney.

The alternative is a bruising leadership battle that would drag the SNP further into the gutter.

Experts believe the last contest slugged out between Humza Yousaf, Forbes and Ash Regan cost the party five per cent.

Senior SNP figures fear a rerun would send them into freefall ahead of an already-difficult general election.

Swinney’s role in signing the Bute House Agreement with the Greens would be put under huge focus.

He would be grilled on how he could offer a fresh start when he had already failed as leader twenty years ago.

Forbes’ social conservatism and ability to lead a divided group at Holyrood would also be scrutinised in full public view.

And the nightmare of Operation Branchform would hover above the contest like the blackest of clouds.

The problem for Swinney in persuading Forbes to drop out is she may feel this is her last chance of becoming First Minister.

The SNP are on course to lose the next Holyrood election and tumble into a deep period of opposition.

Forbes is also a brave politician who would not want to disappoint her supporters.

Swinney has a reputation for being the most accomplished deal maker in the SNP.

The jury is out on whether Forbes standing aside is a deal too far.

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