The next SNP conference takes place in Aberdeen at the start of June. The first day will include the announcement of the party's new Depute Leader. Angus Robertson resigned from the position earlier this year, eight months after losing the constituency seat he held for 16 years.
View from the stands
First to shout that although they were not the sheriff, they most certainly wanted to be the deputy, was James Dornan who announced his bid two days after Robertson’s resignation. He withdrew from the contest before nominations closed on Friday 13th April, stating he wanted to focus on sectarianism.
It is perhaps the pressure of running a minority government or ambiguity about what the Depute role entails that led to several heavyweights declaring they will be keeping their hats on the rack and out of the ring. Ian Blackford, Robertson’s successor as Westminster Leader, and Westminster Deputy Leader, Kirsty Blackman, quickly ruled themselves out of the contest.
Minister for Transport & the Islands, Humza Yousaf, said that he has no appetite to take on another set of responsibilities. Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Pete Wishart, has also taken his score off the door, stating he did not believe he had sufficient support within the party. Derek Mackay noted his responsibilities as Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Constitution and as the party’s Business Convener when stating he would not be in the running. Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, Michael Russell, also said he will not be among those contesting the position.
Tommy Sheppard, touted by some as the most likely successor to Robertson and the candidate who came second when he first tried for job the in 2016, ruled himself out, alongside SNP Westminster spokesperson on Justice & Home Affairs, Joanna Cherry.
Down on the racetrack
The “surprise” candidate Julie Hepburn has worked for Pete Wishart and John Swinney. She is the current research manager for Westminster spokesperson on Immigration, Stuart McDonald, and is married to Minister for Employability & Training, Jamie Hepburn. She said she wants to utilise her 20 years of experience within the party to prepare for a second independence referendum.
Making his way to the starting blocks, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs & Fair Work, Keith Brown, entered the race with a pledge to utilise the Depute Leader position to prepare the party for a second independence referendum. Given his experience in a number of ministerial roles, the odds may well be in his favour.
The latest contender is Inverclyde Councillor, Chris McEleny, who also stood in the 2016 Depute Leader election. Unlike his seemingly more cautious rivals who have not given any timescale for another vote, Chris McElny has called for a second Scottish independence referendum within 18 months.
Nominations have now closed and ballots will be issued on Friday 18th May. The remaining candidates will take part in a series of hustings across the country, starting in North Lanarkshire later this month, and the new Depute will be announced at the SNP conference in Aberdeen on Friday 8th June.
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