Minister Launches Deputy Leadership Bid

Transport and veterans minister Keith Brown is standing to be the new deputy leader of the SNP, saying he wants to move the party and the country forward in the wake of the referendum defeat.

The former marine said he was putting himself forward for the job after more than half the MSPs at Holyrood asked him to do so.

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday stood down as SNP deputy leader as she declared herself as a candidate to succeed Alex Salmond as both leader and first minister.

Stewart Hosie, the SNP Treasury spokesman at Westminster, is expected to confirm he will be running for the position of deputy leader this afternoon, paving the way for a vote by party members.

Announcing his candidacy, Mr Brown said: "I'm seeking the position of deputy leader, I'm doing so because I have been asked by a large number of members and colleagues within the Scottish Parliament.''

He added: "This was not anticipated, it's been a consequence, of course, of the First Minister's announcement last week.''

Mr Brown, the MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, said his desire for Scotland to be independent was "as strong as when I joined the party 30 years ago this month''.

While he said a referendum was the only way to achieve that, he refused to give a time when another such ballot could be held - a stance which mirrors Ms Sturgeon's position.

Mr Brown told a press conference in Edinburgh: "We've just had a referendum as we all know and we have to accept the result of that referendum, which wasn't the result I wanted.''

He stressed: "Any further attempt to ask the people to support independence has to be through the ballot box and through a referendum.''

But he added that "in terms of putting a time limit, you can't do that, it really does depend on circumstances and the people''.

He claimed the SNP had made "huge progress'' in recent years, attributing this in large part to the work of Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon, who he hailed as "two of the most exceptional politicians that Scotland has ever produced''.

Mr Brown said by standing for deputy leader - which would then pave the way for him to become deputy first minister - he wanted to help the "rapidly-growing'' party achieve its two main goals of independence and furthering the interests of the Scottish people.

Following the promise made by the three main Westminster parties of further devolution, he stressed: "Those interests must include the maximisation of the powers we need to addressing the pressing needs of the people of Scotland for jobs, for greater equality, and for greater life chances, generally for greater social justice.''

He went on: "I also wish to help those 36,000-plus new members and of course the 25,000 or so existing members, come together so they can all play a full and active part.

"It really is about building a political party which reflects the interests of now more than 60,000 members.''

He continued: "I have known Nicola Sturgeon since we joined the party in the 1980s.

"I have worked with her in the same portfolio over the last two years and I believe that close working relationship would continue both in the party and in the Scottish Parliament, where we would be campaigning to achieve those greater powers.

"I believe that's a very good relationship and can serve the party well."

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