STEPHEN Flynn is being lined up as a “long-term option” for SNP leader with John Swinney simply being a “stop-gap” until the next Scottish election, party insiders have claimed.

Senior SNP sources have told The Independent there is a “succession plan” in place to prevent Kate Forbes ever becoming leader.

Swinney announced on Thursday morning he would be running for SNP leadership before Forbes confirmed shortly after she would not be entering into any contest as she endorsed Swinney’s vision.

With no other SNP MSPs expected to throw their hat in the ring, Swinney is set to be crowed on Monday once nominations close and it is almost certain he will become first minister.

But SNP insiders have claimed the former deputy first minister is “only a stop-gap” option until Scots hit the polls in 2026 with Westminster group leader Flynn set to be parachuted in as the “long-term option” for leadership.

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An SNP MP, who is an ally of outgoing First Minister Humza Yousaf, said: “Swinney has the authority, loved by the members, respected by officials. I would be content.

“And more crucially laser focused on what people’s concerns are, and not green obsessive nonsense. Crucially head and shoulders above anyone in that parliament (Holyrood).”

Asked who the long-term answer is, they said: “That would be Stephen Flynn.”

When it was pointed out that Flynn is in the wrong parliament with the SNP only accepting leaders based in Holyrood, the MP added: “He finds a way in 2026.”

Meanwhile, a friend of Forbes, said: “Sturgeon’s allies will do whatever they can to stop Kate. This is a ‘keep Kate out’ strategy and succession plan at all costs.”

Forbes caused some controversy in last year’s leadership contest when she expressed her views on gay marriage, which she is opposed to.

She also described having children out of wedlock as “wrong”.

Forbes said she believed it was “up to” individuals whether they had children outside of marriage but it was something she would “avoid”.

She added she would “celebrate” the birth of children outside of marriage “irrespective of the family”.  

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But despite her socially conservative views, she said she had a “groundswell” of support within the party to stand in a contest following Yousaf’s resignation earlier this week. 

However, on Thursday afternoon she said in a statement shared a “powerful common purpose for our country” with Swinney and would support him in his bid.

She told STV News there had been no pressure placed on her not to stand.

Asked about whether there had been, she said: “No I don’t think that’s right.

“This was not about pressure to stand or not to stand. This was ultimately about whether or not a contest was in the best interest of the members of this party on the eve of a General Election and whether it was in the interests of the people of Scotland who want to see their government ensuring they are delivering economic growth, tackling poverty and delivering net zero.”