John Swinney set to become next SNP leader and Scottish first minister as rival quits race

John Swinney appears set to become Scotland's next first minister after Graeme McCormick pulled out of the race to become SNP leader.

Mr McCormick's decision not to pursue a leadership bid leaves Mr Swinney as the only official candidate after Humza Yousaf announced he is stepping down.

Mr Yousaf said he was resigning last week after he decided to end the power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Green Party.

Reports of a contest began early on Sunday when Mr McCormick said he had secured the 100 nominations from 20 branches needed to run against Mr Swinney.

But in a statement shared with Sky News, the party activist said he had had a "lengthy and fruitful conversation" with Mr Swinney, adding he had "met the threshold set by the party rules".

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow Politics at Jack at Sam's wherever you get your podcasts 👈

"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," he said.

"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."

It means the party will avoid a three-week leadership contest, which would have been triggered had Mr McCormick not stepped aside and received the required 100 nominations.

Assuming there are no last-minute challengers, the leadership bid will not have to be put to SNP members and Mr Swinney is likely to become Scotland's next first minister as early as Tuesday.

Read more
Who is John Swinney?
What direction will the SNP take?

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Swinney warned potential challengers from entering the race, saying it would delay the party from "rebuilding".

"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," he told Sky's Trevor Phillips.

"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."