May 7, 2024

Who is John Swinney?

Everything you need to know about John Swinney — the First Minister of Scotland
What you need to know
The Announcements
Research, Tracking, Engaging Made Smarter
Easy to use tools to uncover risk, track issues and report your engagement
Thanks for getting in touch. Redirecting you now...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Short Bio

  • Swinney was sworn-in as First Minister of Scotland on Tuesday May 7 2024.
  • John Swinney is a Member of the Scottish Parliament representing the Scottish National Party (SNP). Swinney has been the Member for Perthshire North since 2011, and previously represented North Tayside from 1999 to 2011. On 6 May 2024, Swinney became Leader of the Scottish National Party unopposed.
  • Swinney joined the SNP at the age of 15 in 1979 and quickly rose to prominence in the SNP serving as the National Secretary from 1986 to 1992, and Deputy Leader from 1998 to 2000.
  • Swinney was born in Edinburgh on 13 April 1964, and was educated at Forrester High School, before graduating with a Master of Arts (Honours) in Politics at the University of Edinburgh.

Previous Jobs

  • Swinney previously served as SNP leader from 2000 to 2004 after the resignation of Alex Salmond.
  • Swinney has also held various Scottish Cabinet roles from 2007 to 2023, including: Deputy First Minister of Scotland (2014 to 2023), Cabinet Secretary for COVID Recovery (2021 to 2023), Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (2016 to 2021), Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy (2014 to 2016), and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth (2007 to 2014).
  • Following the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon in February 2023, Swinney stood down as Deputy First Minister and served on the SNP’s backbenches for the duration of Humza Yousaf's premiership.
  • Swinney served in the UK House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Tayside North from 1997 to 2001 before going on to be elected to the inaugural Scottish Parliament in 1999. Having survived a leadership challenge in 2003, Swinney then stepped down from the SNP leadership following lacklustre results in the 2004 European Parliament elections.
  • Before politics, Swinney worked as a research officer for the Scottish Coal Project (1987 to 1988), a senior management consultant with Development Options (1988 to 1992), and a strategic planning principal with Scottish Amicable Life Assurance (1992 to 1997).

Positions on Popular Issues

  • Swinney has stated that for an independent Scotland, the monarch should remain the head of state.
  • During the 2023 SNP leadership contest, Kate Forbes said she would not have voted for gay marriage if she had been an MSP at the time. Swinney publicly intervened to say he profoundly disagreed with Forbes despite having "deep religious faith" himself.
  • While Swinney is a strong advocate for an independent Scotland, he is seen to represent the cautious side of Scottish nationalism.
  • Announcing his candidacy, Swinney said he would stand in the ‘moderate centre-left’ of Scottish politics, “where a majority of people want their government to stand”. Swinney also stated that he wants to “focus [his] efforts on reaching out in Scotland with respect and courtesy to address the obstacles in the way of winning the case for independence.’

Party Voting History

  • In the 1990 SNP leadership contest, Swinney supported Margaret Ewing, seen to be from the left-wing of the party.
  • Swinney contested the 2000 leadership contest against Alex Neil. Swinney represented the Gradualist wing, who advocated Scottish devolution as a step to independence, while Neil represented the Fundamentalists who supported a more radical approach.
  • In 2003, Swinney defeated a leadership challenge from party member Bill Wilson, who argued that Swinney’s proposal for an independence referendum prior to negotiations with the British government was inadequate.
  • Following Salmond’s resignation due to the defeat of the Yes Scotland campaign in the 2014 referendum, Swinney ruled himself out of the leadership contest and endorsed Nicola Sturgeon.
  • In the 2023 leadership contest, Swinney endorsed the candidacy of Hamza Yousaf.
  • In the 2024 leadership race, Swinney was endorsed by Ian Blackford, Stephen Flynn, Kate Forbes, Jenny Gilruth, Neil Gray, and Màiri McAllan.

Notable Other

  • Swinney is married to Elizabeth Quigley, a BBC Scotland news reporter. They have one son, Matthew, born in 2010. Quigley was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2000.
  • Swinney also has two children, Judith and Stuart, with his first wife, Lorna King. Swinney and King split after a newspaper revealed King had an affair with a married nursery teacher. Their marriage was subsequently annulled so that Swinney be allowed to marry in the Catholic Church.
  • Swinney has described himself as "a man of deep Christian faith".
  • Swinney enjoys hill walking, running, and cycling.
  • Swinney was reportedly going to be standing down as an MSP in 2026 and has said that he intends to serve a full term as SNP leader.
  • On 25 May 2022, Swinney became the longest serving Deputy First Minister, surpassing the previous record which was held by Nicola Sturgeon.
  • Having been re-elected in 2021, Swinney became the longest-serving elected parliamentarian in Scotland.
  • Swinney has cited his anger at the way in which Scotland had been portrayed by television commentators at the Commonwealth Games for his reason to join the SNP in 1979.
  • Swinney was censured by the Scottish Parliament for letting the Scottish Variable Rate lapse. Subsequently, a freedom of information request showed that even if Swinney had acted, the HMRC IT system was not capable of collecting the tax.
  • Swinney has survived two votes of no confidence. In August 2020, as Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Swinney was accused of creating an exam results system which "unfairly penalised pupils at schools which had historically not performed so well". In March 2021, as the minister in charge of liaising with the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, Swinney twice refused to publish legal advice requested by the committee. Following the announcement of a vote of no confidence, Swinney published the advice.
  • Swinney is the Convener of the Cross-Party Group on Social Enterprise.
  • Swinney is an Honorary Professor in the Centre for Public Policy at the University of Glasgow.
  • Swinney is a voluntary director of the Logierait Bridge Company, the owners of the only community-owned ex-railway bridge in Scotland.

Constituency Description

  • Perthshire North is a constituency covering the northern part of the council area of Perth and Kinross, located in the centre of Scotland. The constituency is part of the Mid Scotland and Fife electoral region and includes part of the City of Perth, and the towns of Aberfeldy, Blairgowrie and Rattray, Coupar Angus, Dunkeld, Pitlochry and Scone. Created for the 2011 parliamentary elections, Perthshire North was formed from parts of the Angus, Perth, and North Tayside constituencies.
  • The SNP, and John Swinney as its candidate, has represented the area as both the MSP for North Tayside and Perthshire North since the inaugural Scottish Parliament. Swinney has maintained a strong SNP margin for the constituency.

Our website stores cookies on your device and discloses information in accordance with our Cookie Policy. Choose “Customise Settings” to control cookies. We may collect certain aggregate and anonymised data from your browser independent of your cookie preferences. Cookie Policy