Words from John Swinney

Speech by John Swinney, seeking election as leader of the SNP

I would like to thank you, Lorna, and the Party staff for the professional way this leadership process has been run at such short notice – enabling the Scottish National Party to get back on the front foot so quickly.

A year ago, even a week ago, I did not think my future would involve standing here accepting the Leadership of the Scottish National Party.

Things have turned out differently and before I say any more about my leadership I want to pay tribute to Humza Yousaf.

He has conducted himself throughout the last year with grace and dignity in some acutely difficult circumstances.

In particular, his moral leadership on the issue of Gaza has been a light in very dark times.

Our party must continue and will continue to be a light.

We must continue to illuminate hope, fight for international justice and be willing to stand up for what we believe to be right.

That is what Humza Yousaf did. I know that Humza will continue to make a substantial contribution to the public life of Scotland and I thank him for all that he has done as our Party Leader and First Minister.

Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our party’s history – a chapter that will be about coming together, uniting and dedicating ourselves to the service of Scotland.

I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the many Party members, and the many Elected Members, at Westminster and Holyrood, and in our Councils, for their encouragement to me to stand for the Party leadership.

My decision to stand is not borne out of long-held ambition, but rather a profound sense of duty to my Party and my country.

I know there is controversy for some that I am the only candidate to stand for the leadership. Perhaps not surprisingly I take a different view. For me, the fact that I am the only candidate demonstrates the Scottish National Party is now coming back together again.

I promised I would create an inclusive and unified team. And I will do that.

I promised I would enable open and respectful dialogue in the SNP. And I will do that.

I promised to make sure the SNP looks outward to the people of our country and not inward amongst ourselves. And I will do that.

I have had the privilege of contributing a significant amount to the SNP story.

In that time, I have seen the lows and the highs of our modern political history as a Party. And, over those highs and lows, one thing has been clear time after time:

Scotland wins when the SNP wins.

Yes, we have faced a rough time recently as a Party. But remember what has been happening during that rough time.

The Scottish child payment is lifting 100,000 children out of poverty.

Free University tuition opens a better future to record numbers of young people from poorer backgrounds.

And, the massive expansion of child care is giving children from every background a better start in life.

So however tough it has been recently for the SNP, never ever forget that at the same time, SNP policies and actions are transforming lives here and now in our country.

As I begin my leadership of the party I love, I want to speak not just to everyone here at this SNP gathering.

I want to speak to each and every person in this country.

To those who know me and those who don’t.

To those who support the SNP and those who never have.

And, to those who support independence and those we are yet to convince.

I want to set out the vision I have of our nation’s future.

I said when I launched my candidacy for leadership that I wanted to create a modern, diverse, dynamic Scotland.

Today I am standing in a building that speaks of that future.

It is the Advanced Research Centre of the University of Glasgow.

Here in the heart of one of the oldest universities in Europe, research into the newest, leading edge technologies push back the boundaries of what is possible.

Experience and innovation combined.

History and modernity together, forging a new future.

That is the perfect vision for Scotland.

A country with a depth of history, can blend the old and the new and forge the best future for herself.

A country where people have good jobs, the climate is protected, the vulnerable are lifted up and opportunity is available to all.

That is the new chapter I offer.

One built on experience.

On skills honed over decades.

Every moment of my journey devoted to building the new Scotland I believe is possible.

Later this week, Scotland will choose a new First Minister.

In putting my name forward, it is important that I set out what kind of First Minister I will be.

I spoke last week about unifying our party and about what we can do for Scotland together.

I believe the same is true of our Parliament.

In 2021, the share of the vote commanded by Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all fell.

The SNP recorded our best ever share of the constituency vote.

In fact, we won more votes and a higher share of the votes in the constituency ballot than any party in the 25 year history of devolution.

That is our mandate but it does not give us a monopoly on good ideas.

It means that we have the right – in fact, the duty – to form the government. But it does not mean we can stop listening to people and voices outside our party.

The polarisation of politics does not serve our country well.

Too often, too many people are too busy fighting to win battles when we should be seeking solutions to problems.

That is what I pledge I will seek to do.

I will reach out to everyone willing to join with us in good faith and seek compromises that serve our nation well.

That does not mean debate will end – far from it – but it does mean that, should I be elected, I will first seek to find common ground, to join together in coalitions of the willing and solve the problems our country faces.

We need to stop shouting at each other and talk.

More than that, actually, we need to listen.

And as First Minister, I will do exactly that.

And Friends, I believe recent events show that this approach works.

Last week I met with Kate Forbes. We came together and discussed the shared ambitions we have for our country and how best to go forward. I welcome Kate’s support for my leadership.

And over the weekend, I reached out to my party colleague Graeme McCormick.

He wanted to stand for election so he could be heard. So I listened and assured him the views of party members up and down the country will be properly listened to.

The simple lesson is that dialogue can bring us to points of agreement and strength.

And that is my message today to every party in the Scottish Parliament. Focus on solutions to problems and you will find no one more willing to listen than me.

Together we can make a real difference to the lives of people in Scotland. That is the job we have all been sent to Parliament to do.

Of course, I believe that this country could do more if we had the powers of a normal independent nation – the powers of independence. The cost of living crisis and the damaging impact of Brexit are two examples of Westminster decisions that are bad for Scotland. They demonstrate why Scotland needs to have Independence to make our own decisions and create our best future.

I will always seek, with respect and courtesy, to persuade people of the case for Independence.

All I ask of those who oppose that vision is they also act with the same courtesy and respect.

That means Independence is not a reason for them to refuse to work with us to build the economy, support jobs and improve the health service.

If elected First Minister, my focus will be the economy, jobs, the cost of living. It will be the NHS, our schools and our public services. It will be addressing the climate crisis.

So to everyone in every party, to every MSP, to every MP. In fact, to everyone in our great country, I say this:

Join me.

Do not let our disagreements dominate.

Join me as we open a new chapter.

As we create a vibrant economy in every part of our country.

As we tackle the challenges faced by the NHS.

As we build on the strengths of our schools.

As we build more homes.

Take climate action.

Improve public transport.

And create jobs.

That’s my job, that’s our job.

And I plan to get the job done.

Thank you

John Swinney

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