SNP leadership race: John Swinney new party leader and is now set to become Scottish first minister

John Swinney has won the SNP leadership contest and is set to be named as Scotland's new first minister, replacing Humza Yousaf.

Mr Swinney could become Scotland's seventh first minister as early as Tuesday.

The SNP leadership nominations closed at 12pm on Monday, with the party confirming Mr Swinney was the sole nominee.

He is expected to give a speech later on Monday.

Posting on X, he said: "I am deeply honoured to have been elected as leader of the SNP. I will give all that I have to serve my party and my country."

The former deputy first minister, who served under close ally Nicola Sturgeon, emerged as a frontrunner following Mr Yousaf's resignation last week.

Mr Yousaf had been forced to resign in the face of two votes of no confidence after terminating the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens.

Former finance secretary Kate Forbes had been tipped to join Mr Swinney, but later announced she would not stand and instead threw her support behind him.

Mr Swinney has said he would want Ms Forbes to "play a significant part" in his government if elected as first minister.

Potential challenger Graeme McCormick also withdrew his bid at the 11th hour.

The veteran SNP activist claimed he had secured the 100 nominations from 20 branches needed to enter the contest but backed out of the campaign on Sunday evening after a "lengthy and fruitful conversation" with Mr Swinney.

Mr Yousaf has since congratulated Mr Swinney on his win and thanked all those who have shown him support over the last year.

The outgoing first minister said: "It's now time for every single SNP member to get right behind John Swinney. Get behind his message to be united, united for independence."

Mr Yousaf called on members to take the message of independence to "every single doorstep in Scotland".

He also urged everyone to get "right behind" the Scottish government.

He added: "And be in no doubt, although I'm no longer party leader, I'll certainly be alongside you every single step of the way on our journey towards independence.

"John, you've been a fantastic friend over the years. You can continue to count, of course, on my friendship and my full support, be it from the backbenches."

The SNP had appeared keen to avoid an explosive leadership contest similar to the one that followed Ms Sturgeon's resignation.

Last year's race, involving Mr Yousaf, Ms Forbes and now Alba Party MSP Ash Regan, featured rows over religious beliefs, arguments about the recollection of past events, and widespread criticism of secrecy surrounding the vote.

It also led to the resignation of Ms Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell as SNP chief executive.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross congratulated Mr Swinney on becoming SNP leader for a second time, but urged him to abandon his "relentless push for independence".

Mr Ross added: "It's difficult to see how he can be the fresh start Scotland needs when he's the ultimate continuity candidate."

Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens co-leader, said Scotland "needs a period of stable government".

He added: "Mr Swinney knows that if he is to have our support then it must be on the basis of progressive policies that help us to tackle the climate crisis and build a fairer and more equal future."

Mr Harvie said his party remains "utterly committed" to the policies delivered as a result of the Bute House Agreement and will "oppose any move away from them or steps to dilute them".

He added: "We are committed to delivering on our vision of a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland, and are open to talks with John Swinney and his team about how we can work together to make that happen."

Read more:
Who is John Swinney?

What happens next?

Mr Swinney is now clear to take over as SNP leader, but will need to seek parliamentary approval to succeed Mr Yousaf as first minister.

The timing is decided by the parliamentary bureau, and could take place as early as Tuesday.

The parliament will have 28 days to nominate a replacement for Mr Yousaf once his resignation has been accepted by the King.

As the SNP is comfortably the largest party in Holyrood, the onus is on the party to find a new leader who can work with other parties in a minority government.

The SNP's tally of 63 MSPs leaves them just short of a majority in the 129-member parliament, meaning politicians from other parties would need to be persuaded to either vote for Mr Swinney, or at least abstain in the ballot, for the party to be successful.

The leaders from other political parties can also put themselves forward and MSPs can nominate a candidate, although it must be seconded by another member.

If that happens, any candidate that secures more than half of all votes will win the nomination.

If no one reaches that threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated - with the process repeated until the candidates are whittled down to two.

At that point, a candidate will only require a simple majority to win.

Whoever wins the vote is then formally appointed by the King.

An official swearing-in ceremony at the Court of Session in Edinburgh would then take place.

However, if no new first minister can be selected within the 28 days, the Scottish parliament would be forced to hold an extraordinary general election.