Who will replace Humza Yousaf as Scotland’s first minister?

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Humza Yousaf’s resignation on Monday as Scotland’s first minister came less than a week after he ended a power-sharing deal between his Scottish National party and the Scottish Greens.

Yousaf’s decision to step down fired the starting gun on the race to replace him as head of the Scottish government and the leader of the country’s biggest party. The SNP leader, who took office in March last year, said he intended to remain in post until a successor was appointed.

SNP figures have pointed to six contenders who could launch bids to become first minister and take the helm of a fractious SNP as it tries to remain in office as a minority government.

Kate Forbes

Kate Forbes speaking into a microphone
Kate Forbes © POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Kate Forbes, 34, is a daughter of evangelical missionaries who was pipped to the post by Yousaf in the leadership election last year, which was triggered by the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon as first minister. The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch is a deft parliamentary operator and effective former minister, but her campaign was upended by socially conservative comments that alienated much of the left-leaning SNP. 

John Swinney

John Swinney pictured in the street
John Swinney © Getty Images

John Swinney, 60, is the MSP for Perthshire North and a senior figure within the SNP, having served as deputy first minister to Sturgeon until last year. Supporters believe his experience could be an asset to the SNP in a general election year. But he angered Forbes’s camp when he backed Yousaf in the divisive leadership election. 

Neil Gray

Neil Gray waving to the camera
Neil Gray © Getty Images

Neil Gray, 38, is MSP for Airdrie and Shotts. A close ally of Yousaf, he was moved from the economy to the health brief earlier this year. As economy secretary, the former athlete had made progress in resetting relations with a business community in Scotland that had lost some confidence in the SNP-led administration.

Stephen Flynn

Stephen Flynn giving a speech
Stephen Flynn © Getty Images

Stephen Flynn, 35, is the SNP’s leader at Westminster. He won the seat of Aberdeen South from the Conservatives in 2019 and has since had a fast rise, becoming head of the party’s grouping in the House of Commons in 2022. He ruled himself out of the contest to succeed Yousaf as first minister later on Monday, telling The News Agents podcast that Swinney was the “one person with the experience to do the job” and “unite the party”.

Màiri McAllan

Màiri McAllan smiles as she carries a folder
Màiri McAllan © Getty Images

Màiri McAllan, 31, was first elected to Holyrood in 2021. As net zero and energy secretary, McAllan this month announced that the government was shelving a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 from 1990 levels, triggering the dispute with the Scottish Greens. The MSP for Clydesdale previously worked as a special adviser to Sturgeon and is expected to take parental leave this summer.

Jenny Gilruth

Jenny Gilruth smiles for the camera
Jenny Gilruth © Getty Images

Jenny Gilruth entered Holyrood as the MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes in 2016 and was appointed education secretary last year. A former teacher, Gilruth backed Yousaf in the leadership contest and is a close ally of Swinney, having served as his parliamentary aide. She is married to Kezia Dugdale, former leader of Scottish Labour.

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