Who will replace Nicola Sturgeon?

With the shock resignation of Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, the big question this week is who will replace her.

For her part Sturgeon says her party has an “array of talent” – but who will take up the challenge to succeed her. Here Parliamentnews.co.uk takes a look at the likely runners and riders for the top job.

Kate Forbes, 32 10/3 Paddy Power

Forbes is the Scottish finance secretary and Gaelic speaker, who is currently on maternity leave after having her first child.

Seen as being more of a centralist than Sturgeon, Forbes is hugely popular within the party and respected at Holyrood.An active member of the Free Church of Scotland she was seen as opposing the SNP’s transgender policy, which lead to the row about a male rapist potentially being sent to a women’s prison.

On the downside, there have been briefings that she will not totake on the role, so soon after the birth of her child.

John Swinney, 58 – 7/1 Ladbrokes

Swinney was Sturgeon’s trusted deputy first minister and one of the very few senior figures she truly trusted.


He would bring the most experience of Government and alsoserved as SNP leader between 2000 and 2004 after Alex Salmond unexpectedly quit.


On the downside, he had a difficult time while leading the party leading some to suggest he was not up to the job and is also seen as the “continuity candidate” which could act as a drag on his ticket if the SNP want to take a different direction.



Humza Yousaf, 37 15/2 Paddy Power

Humza Yousaf, currently the health secretary, is one of Scotland’s most senior Muslim politicians. Like Forbes he is part of the younger generation of 30 somethings working there way through the party. Having held a number of other senior positions including justice secretary and Europe minister he would bring significant experience to the role.

On the downside, he has faced repeated demands from opposition parties that he resign over crises in the NHS, particularly over his failure to tackle delays in A&E waiting times and the appalling level of drug deaths in Scotland.

Angus Robertson, 53 EVS Paddy Power

Robertson is the culture and external affairs secretary, and a former Westminster leader of the SNP. Popular both at Holyrood and Westminster he helped to run numerous SNP election campaigns and is one of the few surviving veterans of the Salmond era and the bookies favourite.

On the downside, he has ruffled feathers on the left of the party, by changing SNP policy in 2014 to support an independent Scotland joining Nato.


Keith Brown, – 10/1 Paddy

Brown, the oldest of the potential candidates, is deputy leader of the SNP and represents the Clackmannanshire and Dunblane constituency.


He has a wealth of government experience having held five ministerial roles since becoming an MSP in 2007, including justice secretary and economy secretary.


On the downside, his critics say he is boring and lacks the charisma and skills to lead the party or appeal to voters as the SNP face a resurgent Labour Party.

Neil Gray, 36 – unlisted

Gray, seen as something of a dark horse, elected in 2021, he is the current culture, Europe and international development minister. Although relatively new to Holyrood, he brings his previous experience from Westminster as an MP.


Colleagues describe him as “level-headed” and he won plaudits for the way he handled the Ukrainian refugee programme north of the border.


On the downside, he is seen as lacking experience and faced criticism for quitting his Westminster seat to stand for Holyrood, forcing a by-election costing tax-payers a reported £175,000.


Màiri McAllan, 30 – unlisted

McAllan, another of the newer generation, is the current environment minister. A former special adviser, she is seen as the rising star of the party.


Bright and solid media performer she is little known outside of Holyrood she has the least political baggage of any of the potential candidates.


On the downside, she is seen as inexperienced having been an MSP for only two years and many believe the contest has come too soon for her to mount a serious leadership attempt.



Alistair Thompson

Alistair Thompson is the Director of Team Britannia PR and a journalist.