Controversial MSP Kate Forbes says she won’t run in the SNP leadership race, but John Swinney will

Kate Forbes in Holyrood

Former SNP finance secretary Kate Forbes will not run in the party’s leadership race, she has announced on social media – but fellow MSP John Swinney has confirmed that he plans to throw his hat in the ring.

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch – who has faced controversy for her views on LGBTQ+ issues – was tipped as a favourite to succeed Humza Yousaf as Scotland’s first minister following his resignation on Monday (29 April).

In a statement released on X/Twitter on Wednesday afternoon (2 May), Kate Forbes has threw her support behind former deputy first minster John Swinney, saying she had “listened very carefully” and the two of them share a “a powerful common purpose for the country”.

“That includes a passion to revitalise our party, reach out to those who feel disempowered and reinvigorate the independence movement,” she wrote.

“It also includes an understanding that economic growth and tackling poverty must again be key priorities, and that a just transition to ‘net zero’ must work with, and not against, our communities and businesses.”

She added Swinney is “determined to return the SNP to governing from the mainstream” with a “competent, candid government earning the trust of the people”.

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“That was the vision I offered in the last leadership contest & is evidently demanded by the Scottish public.”

Addressing those who are disappointed she will not run, Forbes said: “I recognise many might be disappointed that I’ll not be contesting the position of Leader. To those people I say this – you can be certain that delivering on the priorities for which we have, together, advocated in recent years has been at the heart of today’s decision.

“It is now clear from this morning’s statement that in @JohnSwinney we have someone who not only understands that need for reform, but has now committed to delivering it. I look forward to playing my role in making that happen.”

Swinney, who has been endorsed by a number of figures within the party, seen by many as a safe pair of hands to replace Yousaf due to his lengthy experience in government.

Swinney has previously spoken out about Forbes and questioned whether her stance on gay marriage made her an “appropriate” leader for the party,  after Forbes made it clear that she would not have voted for gay marriage if she had been an MSP in 2014.

He said: “I’m a man of deep Christian faith but I do not hold the same views. Kate is perfectly entitled to express her views, but party members are equally entitled to decide if someone who holds those views would be an appropriate individual to be SNP leader and First Minister.”

John Swinney announced his intention to run as SNP leader at a press conference at 10.30am on Thursday (2 May) in Edinburgh.

Speaking to a crowd at Grassmarket Community Project in the city centre, Mr Swinney said he is “not a caretaker” and he will not be an “interim leader” should he become the next first minister, adding: “I am offering to lead my party through the Westminster elections, to lead us beyond the 2026 elections, to contest, which I intend to win for the SNP and for Scotland.”

He has been backed by SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, deputy leader Keith Brown and cabinet ministers Neil Gray, Jenny Gilruth, Shirley-Anne Somerville and Mairi McAllan, as well as Kate Forbes.

Any potential candidate has until Monday to secure at least 100 nominations from 20 SNP branches.