John Swinney has said he is “ready for what lies ahead” after being confirmed as the SNP’s new leader.

The veteran politician admitted that he had been “physically and emotionally exhausted” when he returned to the backbenches last year, after more than a decade and a half in government.

The Herald:

He told The Herald: “I was just going 100 miles an hour all the time. And when I stopped I became aware how physically and mentally exhausted I was.

“Although I have worked hard [over the last year] I've been doing different things, so today I’m now physically and mentally rested. I'm ready for what lies ahead.

“I hope I'm being clear to you today, how much of a privilege and an honour it is to be asked to be leader of my party and to hopefully be elected as First Minister of Scotland.”

“That inspiration and opportunity will fuel me through the challenges that lie ahead,” he added.

READ MORE: John Swinney confirmed as new SNP leader

Mr Swinney could become First Minister within days, with Humza Yousaf expected to tender his resignation to the King on Tuesday morning.

That would trigger a nomination process in Holyrood and, if the Parliamentary Bureau agrees, a vote as tomorrow afternoon.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton have all confirmed that they too will stand in the vote.

As the SNP does not have a majority, Mr Swinney will need some opposition MSPs to either back him or abstain.

The Herald:

During his acceptance speech at Glasgow University’s Advanced Research Centre, the former deputy first minister, who is now set to lead a minority government, said he was keen to work cross-party and “seek to find common ground” and “join together in coalitions of the willing and solve the problems our country faces”.

Mr Swinney, who has long been one of the Holyrood debating chamber’s most prolific hecklers, admitted that he had personally contributed to the polarisation in politics.

“I've obviously contributed to that. Of course, I have.”

He said politics was “in the worst state I've ever seen it.”

“So I'm here to do something about that, to change that so we can have an open and honest and respectful dialogue in Scotland about what the future holds for us, what the future should be.

“And I'm very clear what I think the future should be I'm also equally clear I won't get that by shouting at people. I'll get that by persuading people.

“That's what I'm committing myself to.”

Mr Swinney acknowledged there was “controversy” over the fact he was the only candidate for the role.

Initially, it looked as if Kate Forbes could enter the contest but she withdrew last week, offering her support to Mr Swinney.

Over the weekend, it looked as if he could face a grassroots challenge when Graeme McCormick, a prominent activist gathered enough nominations to enter the race.

He later pulled out after a “fruitful and lengthy” conversation with Mr Swinney.

The SNP leader told the audience of MPs, MSPs, councillors, activists, journalists and Scottish Government officials that this was a sign his party - which had been through a ”rough time recently” - was “coming back together again.”

He went on to say that his leadership was the “beginning of a new chapter in our party’s history.”

He pledged to create an “inclusive and unified team” and to enable “open and respectful dialogue in the SNP”, and said he would ensure the SNP looks outward to the people of Scotland.

READ MORE: Swinney pays tribute to Yousaf in his first speech as new SNP leader

The presumptive first minister said his focus would be on “the economy, jobs, the cost of living.”

“It will be the National Health Service, our schools and our public services. It will be addressing the climate crisis,” he added.

He said he would “seek, with respect and courtesy, to persuade people of the case for independence”.

But in a direct message to the other Holyrood parties, he said their opposition to leaving the UK was not a reason not to work with him on other policy areas.

Asked what his one big policy idea was, Mr Swinney said he was “determined” to “eradicate child poverty in Scotland.”

“I will start focusing the government on maximising what we can do within our powers to eradicate child poverty. It is a curse.”

Mr Swinney categorically ruled out another Bute House Agreement type deal with the Scottish Greens and hinted that he could yet ditch some of the policies brought forward as part of the powersharing agreement.

The comment came after Patrick Harvie warned the soon-to-be leader of the Scottish Government against "diluting" policies including the conversion therapy ban, rent control and the decarbonisation of heating in homes.

“We’ll take it on an issue-by-issue basis," Mr Swinney said. "Which means that on some issues, I'm sure we will be aligned with the Scottish Green Party. But I'm sure on other issues we'll have to find support and an agreement with other political parties.”

The Herald:

Mr Swinney refused to be drawn on tax plans but said he agreed with Kate Forbes that the government cannot “continually” keep on increasing taxation.

He said there were “sensitive judgments” to be made.

“You've got to make the right tax judgments in the right context and the right circumstances and that's what I think the Scottish Government has done.”

He said that people “who are on higher incomes are able to make more of a contribution to the public finance so we can lower the burden for those on lower ends of the spectrum, but that everybody benefits from the social contract that we make available to people in Scotland.“

At the start of his speech, he paid tribute to his predecessor, insisting Humza Yousaf would “continue to make a substantial contribution to the public life of Scotland.”

Earlier, Mr Yousaf had congratulated his successor, as he urged SNP members to “get behind John and his team so they can deliver for Scotland”.

READ MORE: Greens warn new SNP leader against 'diluting' conversion therapy ban

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross was scathing about Mr Swinney’s victory in the contest, describing him as the “ultimate continuity candidate.”

He said: “John Swinney was joined at the hip with the disgraced Nicola Sturgeon and his fingerprints are all over her numerous policy failures and cover-ups.”

The Tory added: “With John Swinney at the helm, the SNP will double down on their independence obsession – the one issue they agree on – and ignore the real priorities of the Scottish people, such as fixing our ailing public services and growing the economy.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar repeated his call for an election: “At a time when Scotland is crying out for change, the SNP is offering more of the same.

“John Swinney has been at the heart of this incompetent government for 17 years and at the heart of the SNP for 40 years.

“From presiding over the exam results scandal as education secretary to destroying public finances as finance secretary, John Swinney’s record is one of failure.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton agreed. He said: “As his party’s leader and a former wingman to both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney is now answerable for the SNP’s appalling neglect of public services over the past 17 years.

“He should immediately announce a plan for cutting NHS waiting lists and stopping sewage flowing into our rivers and if he can’t do that he should announce an election.”