John Swinney is expected to become SNP leader following the resignation of Humza Yousaf last week.

The former deputy first minister, who at this point is the only confirmed candidate in the party to succeed Mr Yousaf, was last week expected to stand uncontested in the race after the former finance secretary Kate Forbes announced she would not be standing.

However, over the weekend, a little known SNP member to the wider public Graeme McCormick announced he wanted to enter the contest and take on Mr Swinney.

Mr McCormick pulled out of the race late on Sunday evening after talks with Mr Swinney.

He said he had secured enough nominations to trigger a contest but would now “instead support John Swinney's nomination for Party Leader and First Minister of Scotland."

Like all prospective candidates, the convener of the SNP's Dumbarton branch would have needed to have received 100 nominations from 20 party branches to be able to run in the contest.

Mr Swinney is now expected to be annnounced as the new party leader just after midday on Monday and is expected to be elected as First Minister by Holyrood on Tuesday. He is likely to be officially sworn into the role of Scotland's seventh First Minister at the Court of Session on Wednesday, when he may also reshuffle the Cabinet.

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On Sunday, Mr McCormick faced a backlash from senior figures in the party for challenging Mr Swinney and potentially drawing out the process of putting in place a new leader.

Some of the party's politicians - including the net zero secretary Mairi McAllan - have warned another 'bruising' contest like last year's race could focus public attention on internal party divisions and harm the party in the coming weeks ahead of a general election, expected later this year.

The Herald: Former SNP finance secretary Kate Forbes last week announced she would not stand in the SNP race to succeed Humza Yousaf.   Photo: PA.

Pollster Mark Diffley noted such concerns on X, formerly Twitter, had Mr McCormick put himself forward.

"To put it mildly, if this happens it is not the situation that either John Swinney or the SNP will want. A three week series of debates and hustings which delays the inevitable, exposes divisions and costs money is not what the party needs right now," Mr Diffley said.

In TV interviews on Sunday morning, Mr Swinney warned potential rivals about entering the race saying it would "delay the ability for the [party] to start its rebuilding".

The Herald: SNP member Graeme McCormick. 

He told the Sky News programme Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips he felt an internal contest would hamper the SNP’s ability to recover from its turbulent period quickly.

The MSP for North Perthshire said: “I think the SNP has got a chance to start rebuilding from the difficult period that we have had, under my leadership, and bluntly, I’d just like to get on with that as quickly as I possible can do, because every day that we spend in an internal contest, which I think we all probably know the outcome of, we delay the possibility for the SNP to start its rebuilding.”

Responding to Mr Swinney's interventions, Gillian Martin, SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East, and minister for energy, just transition and fair work, wrote on X, formerly Twitter: "The question anyone who cares about our cause should ask themselves is, are my actions furthering that cause?

READ MORE: John Swinney: Cabinet reshuffle and reset: What's ahead

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Gavin Newlands SNP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North also hit out over Mr McCormick's bid.

He wrote on X: "I like the fact that the SNP are so democratic, but this attempt is a self-indulgent waste of time which is being egged-on by folk from other parties and seized on by the media with great glee. All whilst many of us are out campaigning hard for an SNP win in GE2024 for independence."

Rhiannon Spear, a former SNP councillor in Glasgow, described Mr McCormick's intention to enter the race as "self serving".

She wrote on X: "Graeme McCormick is well aware that he will not win, yet he wants the SNP to plow money into his personal vanity project rather than into winning the GE or independence. I like that any member can stand for leader but this is entirely self serving and misguided."

Meanwhile, some pro-Union figures appeared to relish Mr McCormick's bid to stand.
Sam Taylor, chief executive of pro-UK group These Islands, posted a video of Mr McCormick's speech from last year's SNP conference and called Mr Swinney's comments suggesting a contest was not in the party's interests 'disrespectful'.

He wrote on X: "Leadership contender Graeme McCormick gets a rapturous reception at last year’s special SNP conference in Dundee. (He proposes a unilateral declaration of independence.)"

Mr Taylor also noted: "John Swinney writes off Graeme McCormick’s chances before the contest has even begun. Very disrespectful."

Mr Swinney's expected succession to SNP leader comes after a week of drama at Holyrood, sparked by Mr Yousaf announcing last Thursday that he had terminated the powersharing agreement the SNP had with the Scottish Greens.

That decision ultimately brought to an end his 13-month tenure as First Minister.

He announced his resignation last Monday, saying he would stay on only until a successor is found.

If Mr Swinney does become SNP leader today he is likely to be formally elected as Scotland's seventh First Minister tomorrow.

He would then be formally sworn into the role at the Court of Session, probably on Wednesday, when he is also expected to reshuffle his Cabinet.

Last year Mr McCormick challenged Michael Russell the then party president for his role. 

However, he lost the race with delegates to the party's annual conference voting by 79 to 599 for Mr Russell to continue. Mr Russell stood down from the role last December after taking up the post of chair of the Scottish Land Commission, a non political role. It is understood he is no longer a party member.

In a statement on Sunday night, Mr McCormick said: “I refer to my nomination to be Leader of the SNP and would thank everyone from across the country who support me. We met the thresholds set by the Party rules.

“I'd also like to put on record my thanks to John Swinney MSP with whom I had a lengthy and fruitful conversation.

“John and I agreed the challenges which the SNP, our Government and our people face, and explored new thinking on a range of issues which I am confident, as they are advanced, will inspire activists both within the SNP and wider Independence Movement in the following weeks and months.

“This is a fresh start for our members and our politicians, and I'm sure that John's determination to deliver Independence will be rewarded at the forthcoming General Election.

“I have therefore concluded that I shall not proceed with my nomination for Party Leader but instead support John Swinney's nomination for Party Leader and First Minister of Scotland"