Here’s how SNP leadership elections work

Jonathon Shafi, ERS Scotland Campaigns Organiser

Posted on the 24th February 2023

The deadline for contenders to put themselves forward for the next SNP leadership passed at midday on the 24th February, so it is now confirmed there are three potential future leaders. Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan will seek the votes of SNP members across Scotland.

The party rules stipulate that candidates need 100 nominations from SNP members covering at least 20 geographical branches in order to stand. All three leadership hopefuls have secured the necessary backing. All existing SNP members will be able to vote in the upcoming contest.

The three names will now go forward to the party membership, who will rank the candidates in order of preference using the Alternative Vote. The ballot will open at noon on March 13th, and close at noon on March 27th. Then, the successor to Nicola Sturgeon will be announced as SNP leader.

Those interested in the finer details of electoral systems may be confused by Scottish press coverage which has said the election will be via the Single Transferable Vote (STV). STV is used to elect groups of people, such as the councillors in a Scottish ward, so it is a system that Scottish voters already understand. When the rules of STV are used to elect a single position they are, in effect, the same rules as the Alternative Vote. Hopefully, that clears things up…

After the conclusion of the election, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will submit her formal resignation to the King. The Scottish Parliament will be asked to recommend who should then be appointed as the new First Minister. While any MSP can technically stand, the SNP-Green coalition means the new SNP leader will become Scotland’s sixth First Minister since 1999. A new cabinet will then be chosen.

In 2014, following the resignation of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon was elected unopposed. Before that, the last competitive election took place in 2004, when Alex Salmond took over from John Swinney, the present Deputy First Minister. In that election, Salmond won with 75.8% of the vote, and a total of 4,952 votes. The current membership is over 72,000 illustrating the change in the size of the party since 2014.

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