SNP activist backs out of leadership race and gives full support to John Swinney

SNP activist Graeme McCormick has ended his bid to become the next leader of the party and has given his full support to John Swinney, who is now the only official candidate.

Mr McCormick, who had made a last-minute bid for the leadership, said he would “not proceed” with his nomination and would instead support Mr Swinney, meaning the Perthshire North MSP is the likely candidate to replace Humza Yousaf in the top job and is set to become the next first minister of Scotland.

Mr McCormick told the PA news agency that he “met the thresholds for party rules”, but “after a lengthy and fruitful conversation” with Mr Swinney he decided to instead give his full support to him.

Mr McCormick wrote: “John and I agreed the challenges which the SNP, our Government and our people face, and explored new thinking on a range of issues which I am confident, as they are advanced, will inspire activists both within the SNP and wider independence movement in the following weeks and months.

“This is a fresh start for our members and our politicians, and I’m sure that John’s determination to deliver independence will be rewarded at the forthcoming general election.

“I have therefore concluded that I shall not proceed with my nomination for party leader but instead support John Swinney’s nomination for party leader and first minister of Scotland.”

Mr McCormick had told journalists at the weekend that he expected to secure the 100 nominations needed from 20 branches, but this had yet to be officially confirmed.

Mr Swinney, who described himself as the candidate to unite the party after a “difficult” few years, said an election contest would delay the SNP’s essential rebuild.

But he signalled he would win any potential contest, telling Sky News that party members “probably know the outcome” between the two potential candidates.

Mr Swinney will be named as the next SNP leader and a subsequent Holyrood vote later in the week could see him replace Mr Yousaf as Scotland’s first minister.

The SNP said it does not comment on such matters.