MIDNIGHT NEWS: John Swinney rules himself out of SNP leadership contest

His withdrawal comes as SNP announces it has postponed its special conference on independence

Leadership vote will close on March 27 with the results made public as soon as it is determined

By Bill Heaney

STV News is reporting that Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said he will not be standing to take over the SNP leadership post from Nicola Sturgeon, who has resigned as First Minister.

His announcement comes as the SNP announced it has postponed its special conference, with the party saying the ballot to select the First Minister’s successor will close on March 27.

The party’s new leader is to be revealed as soon as the ballot has been determined.

Swinney, who has been in the Scottish Parliament since 1999 and served as leader of the party between 2000 and 2004, said he had “thought carefully about whether I should stand and have had to be sure whatever I do is right for my family, the Scottish National Party and our country”.

Meanwhile, according to her predecessor, Alex Salmond, pictured left,  Nicola Sturgeon led the Scottish independence movement “up a cul-de-sac” before resigning as First Minister.

The former SNP leader – now head of the pro-independence Alba Party – said the outgoing FM’s decision to step down could allow for a new leader to “reinvigorate” the campaign to leave the UK after the Supreme Court blocked efforts to hold a second vote on the issue in October this year.

Sturgeon called for the next general election to act as a “de-facto” referendum on membership of the union, a move that proved divisive among some members of the party and wider Yes campaign. One person said the whole idea of this was “completely daft”.

Salmond, who stood aside to allow his former protégé to take up office following defeat in the 2014 ballot, admitted he was “very surprised” at the timing of the resignation.

Top picture: John Swinney pictured with Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament.

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