John Swinney to become Scotland’s new first minister after Holyrood vote | UK News

John Swinney will become Scotland’s new first minister after being backed by a majority of MSPs.

Following his victory in the SNP leadership race on Monday, the 60-year-old faced a vote at Holyrood to confirm him as Humza Yousaf’s successor.

The Scottish Greens abstained from the vote, with Mr Swinney able to fend off challenges from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, and Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

His name will now be submitted to the King, with an official swearing-in ceremony expected to take place at the Court of Session in Edinburgh as early as Wednesday.

Mr Swinney will then be able to appoint his cabinet.

New first minister John Swinney with former first ministers Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon. Pic: PA

Following the vote, Mr Swinney said: “It is an extraordinary privilege and it is my honour to accept the office of first minister, committing myself to do the best I can for Scotland.

“I will be unapologetic about bringing to this parliament the measures we can take to eradicate child poverty and I look forward to seeking the support of others to achieve that aim.

“I recognise, that is how it is going to have to work. I am leading a minority government. I will need to reach out to others to make things happen.

“If we want to fund our schools and our hospitals, if we want to give our businesses a competitive edge, if we want to take climate action, if we want to eradicate child poverty, if we want to change people’s lives for the better, we have to work together to do so.

“I commit my government to working to create that agreement across the chamber. I hope there is the space and the willingness for that to happen in the interests of the people who sent us here.

“To the people of Scotland I would simply say this – I offer myself to be the first minister for everyone in Scotland. I am here to serve you. I will give everything I have to build the best future for our country.”

Newly elected leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) John Swinney, sits in the chamber at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture date: Tuesday May 7, 2024.
Mr Swinney at Holyrood on Tuesday. Pic: PA

In his acceptance speech, Mr Swinney spoke about his wife’s multiple sclerosis (MS) and the impact it has had on his family.

He offered “eternal gratitude” to his wife Elizabeth for the “sacrifices she is prepared to make to enable her husband to serve our country as first minister”.

He told the chamber: “Members will know that my wife Elizabeth has multiple sclerosis.

“She is indefatigable in trying to make sure that MS does not get in the way of her living life to the full. But, much to her frustration, she does often have to rely on her husband for support and assistance.

“I could not just commit myself to become first minister without being able to properly work out with my family how we would be able to manage as a family.”

Mr Yousaf was forced to step down last week in the face of two votes of no confidence after terminating the power-sharing Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens.

During his final speech as first minister, Mr Yousaf said his heart would “forever belong to Scotland” as he told how leading his country had given him the opportunity to defy “racist bigots”.

Humza Yousaf makes his final speech to the Scottish Parliament as outgoing First Minister, at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture date: Tuesday May 7, 2024.
Mr Yousaf delivering his final speech as first minister. Pic: PA

He said: “Young Humza Yousaf could never have imagined he would be able to lead this country.

“I was six years old when I was first told to go home, and I am afraid since then it has been a regular occurrence – in fact, almost daily if you look at my social media feeds.”

He said that “racial slurs” had hurt him most “simply because I have no other home than this one, I never will, I never have”.

Humza Yousaf is clapped after his final speech to the Scottish Parliament as outgoing First Minister, at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture date: Tuesday May 7, 2024.
MSPs clapping at the end of Mr Yousaf’s speech. Pic: PA

Humza Yousaf is hugged by the former first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, after making his final speech.
Pic PA
Ms Sturgeon hugging Mr Yousaf at the end of his speech. Pic: PA

Mr Yousaf continued: “My heart will forever belong to Scotland.

“So, to have the opportunity to defy the far-right, to defy the racist bigots who told me to go home, to be in a position to serve my home, to contribute to public life in my home, and to have the opportunity to lead my home – that has been the most tremendous honour that I didn’t think was reserved for people who looked like me.”

Former deputy first minister of Scotland John Swinney with party supporters and fellow MSPs after a press conference at the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh, where he confirmed he is running to succeed Humza Yousaf as both SNP leader and Scotland's next first minister. Picture date: Thursday May 2, 2024.
Mr Swinney with party supporters and fellow MSPs. Pic: PA

Mr Swinney was unopposed in the SNP leadership contest and promised a “new chapter” for the party as he pledged to use “respect and courtesy” to make the case for Scottish independence.

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Former finance secretary Kate Forbes had been tipped to join the race, but instead threw her support behind him.

Mr Swinney previously said he would want Ms Forbes to “play a significant part” in his government if elected.

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Responding to questions after his post-win speech on Monday, Mr Swinney confirmed he will not be reinstating the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens, preferring to take issues on a case-by-case basis.

Before the vote took place for a new first minister, the Scottish Greens announced its MSPs would be abstaining.

Party co-leader Lorna Slater said that although the SNP is the largest party at Holyrood and has the right to form a government, “it does not have an automatic right to our votes”.

She added: “We need to see what vision the first minister has for Scotland and what direction he wants to take.”

Ms Slater said her party would work “positively and constructively” and would “not indulge in opposition for its own sake or political game-playing”.

She added: “We will aim to work with and support the Scottish government on an issue-by-issue basis.

“We will back them when they are delivering progressive policies that protect our environment and help to tackle child poverty, and we will oppose them or push them to go further and raise their ambitions when we think they need it.”

John Swinney speaks to the media after being voted in as First Minister at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture date: Tuesday May 7, 2024.
Mr Swinney speaking to the media after being voted in as first minister. Pic: PA

Mr Ross congratulated Mr Swinney on his win, urging him to “swiftly change course” and deliver a “bold new policy agenda for this SNP government instead of treading water like his predecessors”.

The Scottish Tory leader said the fresh start should be treated as a “reset moment” as he called for the campaign for independence to be put on the “backburner”.

Mr Ross added: “Scotland waits to see whether he will be a nationalist leader, like his predecessor, or as we on these benches hope, a national leader that Scotland needs to take our country forward.”


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