John Swinney warns against rivals entering SNP leadership race

SNP leadership hopeful John Swinney has warned rivals against entering the contest, saying it would "delay the ability for the [party] to start its rebuilding".

The former deputy leader is currently the only candidate in the running to replace Humza Yousaf, who announced last week he would be stepping down as first minister after his decision to end a power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Green Party led to the collapse of his premiership.

But rumours have surfaced today that SNP activist Graeme McCormick has gathered enough support to launch his own bid for the top job, and if he submits an application before Monday's midday deadline, the party would begin a three-week leadership contest.

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Speaking to Sky News' Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, Mr Swinney accepted there was a "democratic process" for any candidate with 100 signatures from 20 local SNP organisations to enter the race.

However, in what appeared to be a warning to any potential rival, he added: "My bid to become SNP leader has received very, very comprehensive support within the SNP. I have sent out a message which is about unifying the SNP to strengthen our party and win Scottish independence.

"I think that is necessary as the SNP is not as cohesive today as the party needs to be, and my campaign has attracted very wide support.

"So I think the SNP has got a chance to start rebuilding from the difficult period that we've had under my leadership and, bluntly, I would just like to get on with that as quickly as I can do because every day that we spend in an internal contest, which I think we all probably know the outcome of, we delay the ability for the SNP to start its rebuilding and I want to get on with that as quickly as I possibly can do."

Mr Swinney also pointed to the backing he has got from Kate Forbes - the former leadership candidate who lost to Mr Yousaf last year, but had been considering running again.

Asked by Trevor Phillips whether he would appoint her into his government, he said there were "a couple of hurdles we've got to get over before we get to that".

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​​​​​​​However, Mr Swinney revealed the pair had spoken, adding: "I think she's got an important contribution to make to the national life of Scotland.

"And I've made it clear that she will have a significant role within any government that I have the privilege to lead."