Scottish voters on the drama at Holyrood

John Swinney has announced he will run for the SNP’s leadership and to become first minister of Scotland after Humza Yousaf’s resignation earlier this week.

A spokesperson for former finance secretary Kate Forbes, who was seen as another contender for the leadership, confirmed that she had an “informal meeting” with Swinney on Tuesday, increasing speculation he was likely to pitch himself as a unity candidate and offer her a senior role in his administration.

The news comes after a turbulent year in Scottish politics that has included Nicola Sturgeon’s sudden departure and the dissolution of the SNP-Green power-sharing deal, the Bute House agreement.

With the country’s politics hanging in the balance, five voters in Scotland share what they would like to see from a new government.

‘The SNP have long-term incumbency syndrome’

Changing governments is part of a healthy democracy, but the SNP are able to avoid public scrutiny by casting themselves in perpetual opposition to Westminster. The SNP has long-term incumbency syndrome. I share the frustrations of many Scots about the repeated election victories of the incompetent Tories in Westminster, but this does not excuse the SNP’s own failings, which have grown as it ferments in an environment where it is not adequately challenged.

I think sorting out Scotland’s NHS needs to be a priority – we have the autonomy to make that better. I’d also like to see decent transport and infrastructure for the Highlands – if they’re going to make so much out of tourism, we need to see some money back. I hope that Scotland can flourish under a federal UK, where Westminster adopts a proportional voting system, and I’m crossing my fingers for an SNP wipeout (at least for now) and a return of Labor to Holyrood.

I am quite confident in Scottish democracy, but I strongly dislike Kate Forbes and I’m hoping she doesn’t become first minister. I’m concerned about her views of ella on LGBTQ+ issues and on abortion (although Forbes has said she does not allow her faith of ella to affect how she votes on abortion and recently backed the government’s bill for safe spaces outside abortion clinics). There are some really regressive (views) that won’t be good for Scotland. The SNP are viewed as being left, but they do have a strong rural conservative base.
Callum Young, 24, Highland

‘It feels like the backfiring of a bad strategy’

Nicola Sturgeon had a quiet competence about her and I don’t think we got that with Yousaf. His resignation feels like the backfiring of a bad strategy – one of trying to please everyone but failing to please anyone. Backpedalling on gender and climate (policies) has bitten them in the backside and lost them my support.

In the future, I’d like to see a government more aligned with not making things worse. Independence is also important to me – the SNP are not the only independent-minded party but they’re the only ones who could probably command a majority. If I were to vote for the SNP it wouldn’t be necessarily ugly (to the party) but just wanting to get back to the EU.

I’ll potentially tactically vote Scottish Greens from now on because climate is a key issue for me alongside independence, better housing, and better rights for trans people.
Deborah, 56, image editor, Edinburgh

‘The Green leadership seems disconnected from most voters’ realities’

The climate emergency is a massive thing for me – no one’s taken that seriously enough. I’m a parent of young kids and don’t want their futures compromised by this. I would like to see more long-termism in politics in general – no one takes a long-term view of the NHS, or the care system either.

I think the SNP are in big trouble – they’ll clean up on as minority government. No one in the SNP wants an election – they will lose seats to Labour.

I think Yousaf comes across as a decent, principled politician who inherited a poisoned chalice in the form of a party deeply divided between left and right, as well as an intransigent, overzealous political partner. I am a previous Green voter and I think Yousaf was probably correct to take control and ditch the Bute House agreement – ​​the current Green leadership seems increasingly disconnected from most voters’ realities. The Green party has got too tied up in identity politics – the overemphasis alienates many ordinary people for whom it’s not massive concern.

But I do wonder how well-advised Yousaf was in the run-up to that announcement and its timing and handling. I respect the fact that he put his hands up and took the fall by resigning, but it’s a disaster for the SNP.
James, 51, NHS worker, Glasgow

‘John Swinney has got a lot of experience’

It’s disappointing to see Yousaf go – he inherited a very difficult situation and stabilized the party. He spoke out early about the situation in Gaza and bravely took a stand against the war. His main mistakes include his terrible handling of ending the deal with the Greens. That was the right thing to do, at the right time, but it couldn’t have been handled worse.

The other mistake was not including Kate Forbes, my local MSP, in his cabinet. She is very well thought of locally, despite the way she handled questions on (her personal views of her on) equal marriage. Ella she’s opposed to abortion on a personal level but was prepared to vote for a progressive bill by backing the need for safe spaces outside abortion clinics. So I think there’s more separation between her politics and personal beliefs than people would think.

In terms of the next leader, John Swinney would be the candidate for me as he’s well respected. He’s got a lot of experience and could build bridges across the (ideological) divide of the SNP.

For the future, Scotland must get a say on independence and with it rejoin the European Union. Brexit and austerity have hollowed out this country; our public services are crumbling and being sold off. With independence we can build our country free from Westminster’s toxicity and austerity.
Martin Baillie, 40, Gaelic teacher and architect, Skye

‘I believe Scotland today would vote for independence’

I hope to see a united front on independence. I feel that there is a general support for independence across large parts of the population, especially among young people. Many people feel cheated that there was a very strong message in the previous referendum that if we voted for independence we would lose access to Europe. I know many people voted no for that reason. And then we were removed from Europe against Scotland’s wishes by an English majority. I really believe that if we were to have a referendum now, there would be a yes majority.

Recent (and partly Green-inspired) laws have made Scotland a much more socially progressive country than England, with a clear direction of progressive anti-poverty policies – Scottish Child Payments, Baby Boxes, free prescriptions, free university education and so on.
Ronnie Neilson, 61, business consultant, Perth and Kinross