A former SNP MP has broken ranks to call for John Swinney to make way for Kate Forbes and Stephen Flynn to take charge of the party's leadership.

Douglas Chapman, who was first elected to Westminster in 2015 and stood down at the general election, said it was time for change at the top.

He is the first of the party's recent MPs to call for a fresh start under a new leader after last week's devastating result and as it prepares to fight the Holyrood election in 2026.

"I know there are discussions going on at branch level. I think it is up to the grassroots of the party to take a very serious look at where we can go in the future," the former SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife told The Herald.

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"Our focus needs to be on looking forward rather than looking back. Obviously there has been serious errors of judgement over the last eight years or so, since 2014 and the referendum.

"But in reality there are less than 700 days until the next Scottish Parliament elections and that is our opportunity to bounce back. But I believe we really do need that fresh start, that fresh impetus, and we need to look to our members to provide that and to be brutally honest with the leadership of the party about what they think has gone wrong and what they think the solutions might be.

"So I think it should be in the hands of branches and party members to make their views known.

"We are all well aware of the short comings that we've had in recent years and that's everything from the quality of delivery of services, the Scottish Government, and making sure that is reset and focused on, making sure we can get back to a situation where the people of Scotland can actually trust us as their government.

Former SNP MP Douglas Chapman. Photo PA.

"There is a direct correlation between that and moving towards independence. independence must be front and centre. It is not just putting it line one page one on a manifesto which then goes on not to mention it.

"It is our core belief and if the party are not taking that seriously there is something wrong."
Asked if Mr Swinney should continue as leader, Mr Chapman said: "I would be interested to hear the views of other members. But I really do think we need a fresh start.

"I know he has not been in the post very long, but I think it's time really to clear the decks and use the next 700 days to make sure there is a pro independence government in Holyrood come 2026."

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Asked if Mr Swinney should step down he said: "I would like to hear what a wider range of members have to say but my own feeling is we need a completely fresh start and that points to a new leadership team with the attitude of putting independence at the forefront, being honest with ourselves and having a policy platform that attracts people to independence."

Pressed on who he would like to take over the leadership, he said: "The two front runners would be Kate Forbes and Stephen Flynn. They proved themselves over the campaign that they are articulate communicators. I think it would be a good combination with their presence both at Holyrood and Westminster."

He also said he would like some senior figures in the party's local government teams to "be in the tent and making a contribution."

Mr Chapman is a former national treasurer of the SNP who resigned his role in May 2021 after complaining he could not get full access to the party's finances leaving him unable to do his job as he wished.

Speaking about the way forward for the SNP now he said decisions should be made at the party's annual conference which is due to take place at the end of August.

"We don't have a lot of time to waste," he said.

Asked if he would like to see a new leadership team unveiled at the conference or whether that would be the start of choosing a new leadership team, he said: "That would be the time to start choosing a new leadership team.

"I think we need to think our way through this and how to take a calm approach to making the changes that are required, bearing in mind when the next election will be upon us.

"There is nothing worse for political issues focusing entirely on internal issues.

"We need to be ready to look outwards as soon as we can. The conference in August allows us some thinking time but not a lot beyond that to make clear we can take the right path."

Mr Chapman said the party also needed to consider how the SNP worked with others such as Alba and the Greens to advance the independence cause.

"How do we work with the wider movement and other political parties who have got the same aims in terms of independence. That connection needs a lot of hard work and good will on all sides.
"As far as I can see at the moment that good will is not there but you only build that good will by being honest."

He was asked if Alba leader and former First Minister  Alex Salmond should be brought back into the SNP.

"That is purely a matter for Alex Salmond," he said.

He pointed to wider conversations which he thought should happen among the pro-independence parties.

"These discussions need to be had and I am hoping if we have a future leadership within the SNP, as the largest independence party it should be taking the lead. I know it's hard, I know it's difficult.

"There will be very difficult conversations to be had but I think they are absolutely necessary," he  said.

His intervention follows calls by party stalwarts Alex Neil, a former health secretary, and Jim Sillars, a former party deputy leader who have both called for Mr Swinney to stand down.

Both Mr Flynn and Ms Forbes have backed Mr Swinney remaining as SNP leader with the First Minister on Friday saying he was committed to rebuilding trust among voters.

Mr Flynn backed Mr Swinney’s leadership on Monday and said it was right to “genuinely congratulate” Sir Keir Starmer on his victory.

Ms Forbes also backed Mr Swinney to revitalise the party’s fortunes.

“Competence and integrity must be the hallmark of our leadership and it’s certainly the two words that have been on John Swinney’s lips prior to the election, throughout the election and now in the aftermath of the election,” she said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday.

“Those are two flags, as it were, that need to be planted on everything that we do and I believe John Swinney is the leader to do that and I am very pleased to be supporting him in his mission to achieve that.”

The SNP, which took just nine seats at last week's election, down from 48 in 2019, has been approached for a response to Mr Chapman's comments.