First candidates set to declare as race to replace Sturgeon begins


Candidates are expected to formally enter the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP and first minister today – after the timeline for the contest was unveiled last night.

No individual has officially announced their bid to become Ms Sturgeon’s successor at present.

But on Thursday, numerous candidates ruled themselves out of the running.

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The SNP’s newly elected Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, who replaced Ian Blackford following his resignation in December, told Sky News: “I’ll indeed not be standing.”

“Of course, the next leader of the Scottish National Party needs to have the ability to be first minister – no MP has the ability to be first minister for obvious reasons that we are located in London and not Edinburgh.”

Deputy first minister John Swinney, who had a short stint as SNP leader in the early 2000s and was tipped as one of the most likely contenders, also confirmed he would not be putting himself forward.

In a statement posted on Twitter, he said: “To create the space for that fresh perspective to emerge, I have decided not to be a candidate for leadership in the SNP.”

SNP MP Joanna Cherry was another to rule herself out of the battle.

She said in her column in The National newspaper: “Our next leader must be able to become first minister and so she must come from within the current Holyrood contingent and it should be someone with at least some ministerial experience.”

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The legacy of Nicola Sturgeon

Read more:
Who will replace Sturgeon?
The controversies which piled pressure on Sturgeon
How she survived ‘cesspit of vipers’ but failed to achieve dream

Could Scotland’s first Muslim cabinet minister go for top job?

The Daily Record newspaper reported that Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is expected to enter the race to become the SNP leader.

However, Sky News understands Mr Yousaf, 37, who has held a number of ministerial positions in the Scottish government since 2012, is still debating whether to run.

Mr Yousaf is the first non-white and first Muslim cabinet minister in the Scottish government.

Other potential candidates who could throw their hats into the ring include Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, and Deputy Leader of the SNP Keith Brown.

When will new leader be announced?

After a meeting of the party’s national executive committee, those eying the top job have until 24 February to choose to submit their nomination, with the vote open between 13 and 27 March.

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How the SNP will elect its new leader

The results of the six-week contest will be made public as soon as the result is determined, the party said, and after the candidates have been told.

The SNP has said its special independence conference on 19 March, in which members were set to discuss the path towards an independence vote, will be postponed.

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