Former SNP MP urges Swinney to make way for fresh leadership under Forbes and Flynn

The former MP broke ranks to call for a change at the top of the party

John Swinney must step aside as SNP leader to make way for a “fresh start” under Kate Forbes and Stephen Flynn, a former MP has said.

Douglas Chapman, who stood down as Dunfermline and West Fife MP at the recent General Election, confessed there had been “shortcomings” from his party’s leadership in recent years.

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It is the latest attack on former leadership after Nicola Sturgeon was branded “Stalin’s wee sister” by former SNP depute leader Jim Sillars in an open letter to party members.

John Swinney (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)John Swinney (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)
John Swinney (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

The SNP suffered a significant defeat at the July 4 vote, winning just nine seats, a loss of 39 on the 48 won in 2019.

Mr Chapman told the Herald newspaper: “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.

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“We are all well aware of the shortcomings 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 actually trust us as their government.”

He also took aim at the party’s independence strategy which put the issues on “line one page one” of the manifesto but failed to mention it enough during campaigning.

When asked if Mr Swinney should remain as SNP leader, Mr Chapman said: “I know he has not been in the post very long, but I think it’s time to really clear the decks and use the next 700 days to make sure there is a pro-independence government in Holyrood come 2026.”

He went on to say: “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.

“The two frontrunners 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.”

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Earlier, former SNP MP Mr Sillars launched a scathing attack on Ms Sturgeon, branding her leadership as a “cult”.

Ms Sturgeon stepped down in February 2023 and a leadership campaign fraught with infighting saw Humza Yousaf selected as her replacement.

But he quit over a year later after fallout from scrapping the partnership agreement with the Greens and was replaced by Mr Swinney just two months before the election.

Mr Sillars said: “If the SNP is to recover, as it must if the independence movement is to have any hope of achieving its aim, the party’s members should also realise that they have cause to repent.

“You acquiesced in changes to the constitution which shifted all power to a leadership cult, with the party then run by Stalin’s wee sister – imposing a politburo of two exercising an iron grip on the organisation.”

He added: “You made the mistake of believing that if you openly criticised the ineptitude of the Scottish Government, you were damaging the idea of independence, when in fact by not calling them out that is exactly what you were doing.”

He said under Ms Sturgeon, the SNP had become “just the referendum party committed to the suicidal policy of putting the cart before the horse” on independence.

He said a “reconstructed” SNP leadership must create a national Yes organisation in partnership with other pro-independence parties.

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Of the cabinet, he said “a good number” had to go, with members told to “demand a clear-out”.

Mr Sillars concluded his letter by telling SNP members to “reconstruct” the party with the “tarnished old guard” stepping aside.

He said: “Whether than happens is up to you. It is a responsibility you cannot escape. Another 2024 beckons in 2026 if you dodge it. And if you dodge it, you will be dealing what could be a fatal blow to independence.”

Ms Sturgeon, who was a part of ITV’s election coverage, said on air that it would be the “easy solution” for people to “take refuge in somehow it’s all my fault”.

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