A TOP Tory MSP has said John Swinney is the “opposition’s choice” for SNP leader – but ruled out his party working with Kate Forbes.

Murdo Fraser claimed the SNP “establishment” was lining up behind Swinney – having secured a large number of high-profile endorsements before even saying whether he will stand – because they believe “he is the only candidate who can defeat Forbes”.

Forbes has also not announced whether she will run to replace First Minister Humza Yousaf but both she and Swinney have confirmed they are considering it.

Writing in The Scotsman, Fraser said Forbes “could be the fresh start the SNP need after 17 dismal years” because she “wants to concentrate on the economy, getting taxation and public services right in a way that might just appeal to most of Scotland’s voters”.

He pointed out that the “bright young things in the SNP” such as Neil Gray, Mairi McAllan or Jenny Gilruth (below) have so far backed Swinney and not thrown their hats into the ring.

The National: Jenny Gilruth

Fraser said: “This is a solid indication that they all expect the party to take a drubbing in the forthcoming General Election, and want someone else to carry the can.”

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But while the Tory business spokesperson talked up Forbes, he said she would fail to get the support of the Scottish Greens if elected leader.

He said: “They have a black ball which means that the 63 SNP MSPs’ votes count for nothing in the election of their own leader.

READ MORE: 'SNP machine' set on John Swinney coronation, Kate Forbes allies claim

“The Greens got rid of the last SNP leader in hapless Humza and now they get to choose his successor.

“It must be a bitter irony for SNP MSPs and MPs who advocate independence from a larger nation that, at Holyrood, they are in such stifling thrall to such a smaller party.”

The National: Kate Forbes

But Fraser said that the Tories would not work with the former finance secretary either, saying rumours a Forbes (above) administration would need to rely on support from his party “won’t be happening”.

He added: “It is not our job to put any SNP politician in power, and our voters would never stand for it.

“But the very fact that this story was briefed tells us all we need to know about the fear and loathing that exist in some quarters of the SNP for Forbes.

“Nothing was more calculated to damage her candidacy with SNP members than the suggestion that she would attract Tory support.”

Swinney and Forbes were approached for comment.