The Racing Card

The Bet - Who will be the next leader of the Scottish National Party?

John Swinney 1-5
Alex Neil 4-1
Margo McDonald 8-1
Roseanna Cunningham 12-1
Margaret Ewing 33-1
Sean Connery 100-1

(Source Ladbrokes)

Alex Salmond managed to keep his resignation as leader of the SNP such a well-kept secret that, when he made the announcement, some of the media thought that there must be some sinister reason for his decision to quit. Some made the ludicrous claim that it had something to do with gambling. The evidence for this was that he writes a betting column in a Scottish newspaper!

So far, the gambling on his successor has been brisk, with John Swinney being the clear favourite. Although he has not yet declared himself as a candidate, he is sure to run, and will carry on the same political line as Salmond. Alex Neil, the party's social security spokesman is the only MSP to declare that he will run, which is why he has been installed as the second favourite.

Margo McDonald will be the standard-bearer for SNP members who want to see more emphasis on fighting for independence - she has been openly critical of the leadership's emphasis on making devolution work. No SNP election would be complete without a Ewing in the race, and Margaret seems the most likely to stand. Nicola Sturgeon, described by the Govan shipyard workers as a "nippie sweetie", is more likely to stand for the post of deputy. Most of the talk has been about who will run for deputy, but Swinney has ruled out announcing a running mate to form a "dream ticket". The party's top strategist, Mike Russell, has yet to show his hand, but he may well be thinking of running the Swinney campaign. If so, he will have to improve on his efforts in the Scottish Parliament elections.

This article first appeared in the 31 July 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Why Tony Blair is a Bobo