Swinney must rise to the challenge if he wants to avoid same fate as predecessors

Turning to a leader who resigned in frustration from the same job 20 years ago will seem odd to some voters.

John Swinney is almost certain to become the next first minister and his critics will say he reeks of the past. It is undoubtedly true he has been tainted by some of the scandals of the Nicola Sturgeon era.

Deleting his WhatsApp messages during the pandemic was a disgrace and has gone some way to tarnishing the Scottish Government in the eyes of voters.

Swinney will also have a bulging in-tray of problems, from tackling the NHS backlog to sorting out homelessness and cutting poverty.

He will also have to explain how he will grow the economy and give people their future back.

But there is a compelling case for saying the Tory-led move to oust Humza Yousaf and usher in Swinney could backfire on the pro-UK parties.

Swinney is a more skilled operator than Yousaf and may be able to reach parts of the electorate his predecessor could not.

He can speak to urban and rural voters, young and old, as well as reaching beyond the constitutional divide.

Elections guru Sir John Curtice goes so far as to say bringing down Yousaf was the “worst thing the Unionists could have done”.

He said Yousaf was “relatively unpopular” and Swinney is better at commanding an audience.

In a nutshell, the pro-UK parties may have given the struggling SNP a chance of a revival under Swinney. He will also bring rival Kate Forbes back into the Cabinet and at a stroke make the government top team better.

The general election looked like it was going to be a disaster for the SNP.

Operation Branchform, struggling public services and the general chaos of the Yousaf administration saw the SNP lose electoral ground.

It now looks like Labour have a fight on their hands in their quest to become the largest party at Westminster north of the border.

The smart money is on the SNP losing a substantial number of seats whenever the election is called. But Swinney is likely to stop the bleeding and present a more mainstream vision of the future to floating voters.

Holyrood desperately needs a reset where the people’s priorities are put front and centre of political life.

Voters are becoming scunnered with politicians and Holyrood is not blameless.

Swinney must rise to the challenge if he wants to avoid the same fate as his predecessors.

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