Swinney becomes the clear frontrunner as a potential opponent says she will not run.

Scottish National Party (SNP) veteran John Swinney has emerged as the clear frontrunner to become Scotland’s next leader after a potential opponent rules herself out of the contest and backs him.

The SNP is looking for a new leader after Monday’s resignation of Humza Yousaf as party chief and Scotland’s first minister.

The turmoil in the SNP after a series of political missteps and a funding scandal has boosted the British Labour Party’s hopes of regaining ground in Scotland as it seeks to win UK parliamentary elections this year.

Kate Forbes, who lost a leadership contest to Yousaf last year, said in a statement on Thursday that she would not seek the nomination to become the SNP’s leader and she and Swinney shared a “common purpose”.

Other party members have until Monday to declare their candidacy. If more candidates emerge, a ballot of SNP members will be held from May 13 to 27.

The SNP wants to regain its once-dominant position in Scotland and rejuvenate the push for an independence referendum.

‘Modern, diverse, dynamic Scotland’

Swinney is viewed as a calm head capable of stabilising the SNP and repairing its broken relationship with former power-sharing partners the Green Party.

After Yousaf took office in March last year, Swinney stepped down from government, saying it was time for a “new generation” to lead.

Glasgow-born Yousaf, whose paternal grandparents and father emigrated to Scotland from Pakistan in the 1960s, had been hailed as a polished communicator who the SNP hoped would be able to unite the fractured party.

But since then, internal divisions have been laid bare between progressives pressing trans rights and tough action against climate change and more conservative members interested in core issues such as the economy.

Swinney could not resist the call by senior SNP figures to return to try to revive his party’s fortunes.

“I want to build on the work of the SNP government to create a modern, diverse, dynamic Scotland that will ensure opportunity for all of our citizens,” Swinney, 60, said at a news conference.

“I want to unite the SNP and unite Scotland for independence.”

Scotland, one of the United Kingdom’s four nations, has a semi-autonomous, or “devolved”, government run by a first minister. Issues such as defence and national security are overseen by the British government.

Yousaf quit after his decision to end a coalition with the Green Party backfired. The new SNP leader will lead a minority government in the devolved Scottish Parliament.

Swinney was SNP leader from 2000 to 2004 and has served as Scotland’s deputy first minister and finance minister. He backed a gender recognition reform bill that prompted a backlash from some SNP lawmakers.

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