SNP facing 'civil war' as Kate Forbes' ally compares John Swinney to Humza Yousaf

The SNP is facing "civil war" after leadership contender Kate Forbes' top ally compared her rival for the job to failed Humza Yousaf.

MSP Ivan McKee said backing a “continuity” candidate like John Swinney was “eerily reminiscent” of choosing Yousaf last year.

He blasted: “And we all know now how well that turned out.”

Swinney and Forbes, both former finance secretaries, are seriously considering running for the leadership after Yousaf’s resignation.

Nominations close on Monday and the winner of any contest is almost certain to be First Minister.

Swinney would play up his experience in the campaign while Forbes, who lost to Yousaf in last year’s election, would run on providing a fresh start.

In an article for the Record, McKee, a key Forbes supporter, wrote:

“More of the same isn’t going to cut it. We’ve tried that.

“In difficult times it can be tempting to cling to what we think feels comfortable, but that is precisely when we should be seeking to grasp the opportunities before us, not to be timid.”

This will be seen as a dig at Swinney, who led the party twenty years ago and who was Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy for nine years.

Swinney has also received the backing of most of Yousaf’s Cabinet and SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn.

But McKee wrote: “Rushing to endorse a ‘continuity’ candidate at this early stage is eerily reminiscent of what happened in last year’s contest – and we all know now how well that turned out.”

He also criticised the idea of Swinney getting the job without a contest:

“A coronation may be superficially attractive, but now is precisely when we should be engaging with those members, to hear their voices, and, through that engagement to motivate and mobilise them for the impending General Election campaign.”

McKee said it was “ridiculous” for the SNP to be beholden to the Scottish Greens, who effectively brought down Yousaf.

He concluded: “Kate Forbes is an outstanding talent with a formidable intellect. She is personable and popular - witness the scale of her constituency majority.

“She reaches parts of the electorate others cannot reach. If we are serious about facing the future, not the past, then we need to choose wisely at this critical time.”

Both contenders yesterday maintained their position of sounding positive about a leadership challenge without confirming it.

Swinney said: "Obviously we'll have lots to think about throughout the course of the day.

"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."

He said: “I have a lot of personal circumstances to think about to make sure that it would be the right decision for my family to do this.

“So I'm giving that all a great deal of thought to make sure I come to the right decision for my family, my party, and my country.”

He was asked about his comment last year that the SNP needed new blood.

“Events change, don't they? Nothing ever remains the same.”

“What's changed is that my party finds itself in a very different and more difficult situation than it found itself in 12 months ago and I would not be doing a service to the many, many, many people who have contacted me asking me to stand."

Forbes said: “I am obviously still weighing up all my options. I know there is a groundswell of support for me amongst the members. That was quite clear in the last contest.

“Clearly I’ll be taking that into account and also trying to evaluate what is best for the country, for the party and for my family.”

On Swinney attracting big name support, Forbes said the SNP’s members would make any decision if there is a contest:

“We have obviously got a large party membership, several tens of thousands and we are democrats."

She later added: "I am not ruling myself out. I am still considering all the options, but I also know that there is a lot of support for me across the country and across the party.

"What's key now is to think about what the next few months hold, and to ensure that the party is able to move forward, to fight that election and to ensure we have the trust of the people."

Forbes is expected to make her final decision within the next 24 hours.

Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie said “The SNP is teetering on the brink of a full-blown civil war while Scots pay the price for their incompetence.

“This chaotic and divided SNP government cannot deliver for the people of Scotland or tackle the challenges Scotland faces.

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