JOHN Swinney has responded to criticism over him being the sole candidate to put themselves forward to be SNP leader.

In the wake of Humza Yousaf's resignation, Swinney quickly emerged as a favourite among senior figures. 

It was also reported that former leadership contender Kate Forbes would run for the role, but opted not to after meeting with Swinney. She is expected to take a senior role in Swinney's government, once he becomes first minister.

READ MORE: John Swinney's full speech after becoming SNP leader

On Sunday, grassroots activist Graeme McCormick revealed he was running for the top job and believed he could hit the threshold of 100 nominations from 20 branches. After the pair had a discussion, McCormick withdrew - leaving Swinney as the sole candidate by the time the ballot closed at midday, making him the party's new leader

Among independence supporters, there has been criticism of the lack of contest - and opposition parties such as the Tories have described Swinney's appointment as a "stitch-up".

The National: The new SNP Leader, John Swinney MSP, delivers an acceptance speech at Glasgow University

Speaking in his acceptance speech at Glasgow University, Swinney discussed the row.

"I know there is controversy for some that I am the only candidate to stand for the leadership," he said.

"Perhaps not surprisingly I take a different view. For me, the fact that I am the only candidate demonstrates the Scottish National Party is now coming back together again.

"I promised I would create an inclusive and unified team. And I will do that."

 Swinney said he was not motivated by personal ambition but that he had stood for leader “out of a profound sense of duty” to his party and his country.

The SNP chief also took the time to make a pitch to his Holyrood colleagues of varying political colours, arguing that there was too much division in the Parliament.

Swinney condemned “polarisation” and pledged to “listen” to factions within the party, and said he had met Forbes to discuss “shared ambitions” and “how best to go forward”.

READ MORE: Scottish wood-burning stove firm calls for SNP to reconsider ban

The National:

Swinney said: “The polarisation of politics does not serve our country well. We should be seeking solutions to problems.

“I will reach out to everyone willing to join with us in good faith and seek compromises that serve our nation well. We need to stop shouting at each other and talk. More than that, actually, we need to listen. As first minister, I will do exactly that.”

Elsewhere in the speech, Swinney said he had no intentions to return to the Bute House Agreement with the Greens.

Yousaf's resignation was prompted by his binning of the co-operation deal last month.

At Monday, Swinney said he preferred to take issues on a case-by-case basis.

Asked what his key policy idea is, Swinney pledged to eradicate child poverty.

The former deputy FM said: “My principle policy interest, the thing I’m determined to do, it to eradicate child poverty in Scotland.”

He added: “It is a curse and under my leadership I want to eradicate it in Scotland.”