In brief

New Scottish First Minister says he remains committed to referendum, though scraps Independence ministry

John Swinney is seen as a more gradualist independence campaigner than his predecessors

John Swinney.
John Swinney. Author: SNP
The new Scottish First Minister, John Swinney, has told the BBC that his SNP party’s commitment to independence remains unchanged: Swinney has reiterated that a majority of seats in the next UK election (due in January 2025 at the latest) will equate to a new mandate for a second referendum.

However, Swinney has reshuffled the Scottish government, and it is striking that he has abolished the Ministry of Independence, which was in charge of Scotland’s strategy for full sovereignty and the production of documents on the country’s independence. Swinney, who is seen in Scotland as a more gradualist pro-independence figure than his predecessors in office, has said that all ministers in his government are “for independence.”

Kate Forbes’ appointment as the government's deputy first minister has also caused a stir. Forbes holds socially conservative positions on LGBT rights: she said she was opposed to equal rights for same-sex marriages and also stated that, according to her faith, having children outside of marriage is “wrong”. The Greens, the SNP's former partners in government, have blasted Swinney for what they interpret as a rightward shift by the pro-independence party. Swinney has replied that his government will be “on the moderate centre-left.”

Swinney has been elected first minister and SNP president following the resignation of Humza Yousaf, who has held both posts for little more than a year. In April, Yousaf broke his coalition agreement with the Greens and, faced with the threat of a no-confidence motion, announced his resignation.