John Swinney elected as new Scotland leader

Swinney replaces Humza Yousaf, who formally resigned on Tuesday after just over a year in office.

Scotland’s Parliament has approved political veteran John Swinney of the Scottish National Party (SNP) to lead the country as first minister.

Swinney, 60, succeeds Humza Yousaf, who formally resigned from the role earlier on Tuesday after his announcement last week that he would step down after just more than a year in charge.

Yousaf, 39, made the announcement before a confidence vote in the Scottish Parliament that he was set to lose, having ditched the SNP’s junior coalition partners, the Scottish Green Party, in a row over climate policy.

Swinney won the backing of 64 members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) in the vote that was all but a foregone conclusion. His nearest rival, Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross, picked up 31.

The political veteran said it was “something of a surprise” to find himself taking the top job at this stage of his career but added it was “an extraordinary privilege”.

“I am here to serve you. I will give everything I have to build the best future for our country,” he told parliament after accepting the nomination.

Swinney, an old party hand who led the pro-independence SNP from 2000 to 2004 when the nationalists were in opposition, was elected unopposed as leader of the SNP on Monday.

He is seen as an experienced operator able to reach across the political divide, which is key to the SNP being able to rule as a minority government.

Swinney must also unite his divided party, split between those on the left supportive of trans rights and urgent climate action and members on the right wanting to focus on issues such as health and the economy.

He has said that alongside advancing the case for Scottish independence, he wants to eradicate child poverty.

But he inherits a difficult political legacy with former SNP leader and ally Nicola Sturgeon embroiled in a party funding scandal and a challenging domestic policy landscape.

Resurgent Labour

The SNP is expected to lose several seats in the United Kingdom Parliament to a resurgent Labour Party at a general election due this year.

The SNP currently holds 43 seats at Westminster. Labour hopes a comeback in its former stronghold of Scotland will help it win an outright majority in the nationwide vote.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a Conservative, said he looked forward to “working constructively” with Swinney “on the real issues that matter to families – delivering jobs, growth and better public services for people across Scotland”.

Critics have accused the SNP, in power in the devolved parliament in Edinburgh for 17 years, of focusing on pursuing independence at the expense of issues like the cost-of-living crisis and education.

The party has struggled to rebuild momentum for another independence referendum since Scotland voted against leaving the UK in 2014.

Despite the SNP slumping in the polls since Sturgeon quit in March last year, support for independence continues to hover around 40 percent, giving the party cause for hope.

The SNP holds 63 seats in the 129-member Scottish Parliament, two short of a majority, meaning Swinney will need the support of other parties to pass legislation.

He has said he will not resurrect the defunct power-sharing deal between the SNP and the Scottish Greens and will approach issues on a case-by-case basis.

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