Swinney: SNP has had ‘rough time’ but I’m sorting that out

The First Minister said there was no need for a minister for independence because everyone in his Government would be making the case.

First Minister John Swinney said he is focusing the Scottish Government on key priorities
First Minister John Swinney said he is focusing the Scottish Government on key priorities (Jane Barlow/PA)

John Swinney has said the SNP has gone through a “rough time” and he is focussed on “sorting that out” after becoming the party’s leader and Scotland’s First Minister earlier this week.

Mr Swinney also said all his ministers would be making the case for Scottish independence, after the position of Minister for Independence was dropped from his Government team.

On Friday, Mr Swinney visited a number of projects around Scotland, including the new Cameron Bridge railway station being built in Fife.

The station is due to officially open this month and means rail services will return to Levenmouth after 50 years.

John Swinney during a visit to the Levenmouth rail link at Cameron Bridge station
John Swinney during a visit to the Levenmouth rail link at Cameron Bridge station (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

Speaking to journalists at the station, Mr Swinney said: “I’ve accepted that the SNP’s had a very rough time and I’ve come into the leadership of the SNP and to be First Minister of Scotland to sort that out.

“That’s what I’m getting on with doing. I’m focusing the Government on key priorities: addressing the cost of living crisis that people are facing; the eradication of child poverty; about making sure that we stimulate economic growth in our country; deliver net zero; and improve our public services.

“That’s what my Government will be focused on.”

Mr Swinney said he would be meeting NHS leaders next week to discuss delayed discharge in Scottish hospitals.

Reflecting on how recent days had been for him personally, he said the last week had been “frenetic” and his life had “changed entirely in the space of about two weeks”.

John Swinney checks out the new station
John Swinney checks out the new station (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

Discussing the minister for independence role, he said: “This is the business of government, to deliver independence.

“All my ministers are going to be arguing and setting out the case for independence and I’ll be leading the arguments for independence.

“So we don’t need one individual to do that.”

Earlier, Mr Swinney said that independence can be delivered within five years “because the arguments for it are compelling”.

Mr Swinney told Sky News that independence is the “answer” to the cost-of-living crisis and Brexit, since these were the result of decisions taken in Westminster.

He also denied the appointment of Kate Forbes as his deputy would make his Government less socially progressive, insisting the rights of LGBT people remain a priority.

However, he acknowledged support for independence is not yet “compelling”.

He added: “We have got work to do to build greater support for independence, to make that support level compelling within Scotland, and that’s what my leadership will be about.”

In response to Mr Swinney’s comments on independence, Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “John Swinney has made it crystal clear that he and his Government will not just continue, but accelerate, their relentless and divisive push for independence.

“The latest SNP leader is just another nationalist obsessed with plotting to break up the United Kingdom.

“The real priorities of Scots will continue to be ignored because vital time and resources are being wasted on the SNP’s push for independence.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “People in Scotland want both their Governments to be concentrating on the issues that matter most to them, like growing our economy, further reducing inflation and improving public services.

“We want to work constructively with the Scottish Government to tackle our shared challenges because that is what families and businesses in Scotland expect.

“This is not the time to be talking about distracting constitutional change.”