Candidates are expected to enter the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and first minister today – after the timetable for the contest was revealed last night.
Neither person has officially announced their bid to be made Mrs Sturgeon’s successor in the present.
But on Thursday, many candidates ruled themselves out of the running.
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The SNP’s newly elected Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, who replaced Ian Blackford after his resignation in Decemberhe told Sky News: “I really won’t stand up.”
“Of course, the next leader of the Scottish National Party must have the ability to be first minister – no MP has the ability to be first minister for the obvious reasons that we are in London and not Edinburgh.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who had a brief stint as SNP leader in the early 2000s and was seen as one of the most likely candidates, also confirmed he would not put himself forward.
In a statement posted on Twitter, he said: “To create the space for this new perspective to emerge, I have decided not to stand for the leadership of the SNP.”
SNP MP Joanna Cherry was another to drop out of the fray.
She said in her column in The National newspaper: “Our next leader must be able to become first minister and so must come from the current body of Holyrood and must be someone with at least some ministerial experience.”
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Could Scotland’s first Muslim cabinet minister be in for a top job?
The Daily Record reported that Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is expected to enter the race to become SNP leader.
However, Sky News understands Mr Yousaf, 37, who has held a number of ministerial posts in the Scottish Government since 2012, is still debating whether to run.
Mr Yousaf is the Scottish Government’s first non-white and first Muslim cabinet minister.
Other potential candidates who could throw their hats in the ring are Constitution Minister Angus Robertson, Finance Minister Kate Forbes and SNP Deputy Leader Keith Brown.
When will the new leader be announced?
After a meeting of the party’s national executive committee, those seeking the top job have until February 24 to choose to run, with voting open between March 13 and 27.
The results of the six-week contest will be released once the result is determined, the party said, and after the candidates have been notified.
The SNP said the special independence conference on March 19, at which members were due to discuss the path to an independence vote, would be postponed.