SNP's election result would have been worse without John Swinney, says senior MP

Pete Wishart MP says he is ‘not interested’ in the SNP infighting, and says the Westminster group is fully behind John Swinney

The SNP’s dire election result could have been even worse without John Swinney’s leadership, a senior MP has warned.

Pete Wishart, who is now the party’s deputy Westminster leader and its longest-serving MP, was speaking after party figures called for Mr Swinney to step aside as SNP leader after the party fell from 48 MPs to just nine at last week’s general election.

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Former MP Douglas Chapman claimed Mr Swinney needed to step aside so Westminster leader Stephen Flynn and Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes could take over the party.

Former MSP Alex Neil has also issued a call for the First Minister to resign.

However Mr Wishart said calls for Mr Swinney to step aside were “rubbish” and branded the comments from Mr Neil and Mr Chapman “singularly unhelpful”.

He said: “John Swinney became leader and within two weeks the election was called.

“If it was not for his leadership, it would have been worse.

“I speak on behalf of the whole [Westminster] group here when I say he has nothing but our full support in rebuilding the party.”

Pete Wishart MP, the SNP’s new deputy Westminster leaderPete Wishart MP, the SNP’s new deputy Westminster leader
Pete Wishart MP, the SNP’s new deputy Westminster leader

Mr Swinney was at Mr Wishart’s side on Friday morning when he was elected as the MP for Perth and Kinross-shire.

Mr Wishart said he was “not interested” in people pointing the finger at who is to blame for the SNP’s fall.

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He said: “I am pretty disengaged about the wider political discussion.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and we are listening carefully, but we are also getting on with the job of standing up for the people of Scotland.

“I am not interested - I’m sure a lot of people want to get stuff off their chest, but we are not letting it affect our work.”

Having been an MP since 2001, Mr Wishart knows what it is like to be part of a small SNP group at Westminster.

He told The Scotsman he could bring this experience to the new-look SNP group, as he understands what sort of challenges may lie ahead for the SNP nine. 

Mr Wishart said: “This has been traumatic - we find ourselves in a new position.

“This week we’ve been taking the opportunity to reflect, restructure, and get ourselves into an operational outfit.

“Over the weekend we will get into the business of the King’s Speech and there are some obvious things we want to look at like the two-child benefit cap.

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“And next week we will decide who is doing what, but that is a long process and we need to find out what our resources are.”

Earlier, Kate Forbes said it was “incumbent” on the SNP to look at how it needs to change after the election defeat. The deputy leader said she did not believe there needed to be new leadership but change was needed to ensure the party’s policy agenda matches the priorities of the public.

Asked if the SNP had identified what went wrong at the July 4 vote, she said: “It’s early days, but I think there’s a few things that are quite obvious.

“The first is that this was an election for change, and therefore it’s incumbent on us to look at how we need to change as well.

“Secondly, this was around regaining and earning, again, the trust of the Scottish people.

“So we need to look at why and how we didn’t inspire the number of voters to vote for us as we might have liked.”

Footnote: This article has been updated to make clear that Kate Forbes said she did not believe a leadership change was needed. We apologise for the typographical error

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