Ian Blackford: Former SNP Westminster leader standing down at next election | Politics News

Ian Blackford, the former leader of the SNP in Westminster, has told Sky News he will be standing down at the next election.

Mr Blackford was replaced as leader of the independence-backing party’s Commons delegation at the end of last year by Stephen Flynn.

The outgoing MP said he had been thinking “long and hard” about whether he would stand again, and having decided not to is still looking “forward to playing my part in the continuing campaign for Scottish Independence and supporting our first minister and the SNP as we go forward to the next election and beyond”.

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During his five and a half years leading the SNP in London, he was a firm ally of Nicola Sturgeon, and had been offered the job of business ambassador for the party after losing his position of power.

Despite the turmoil of Ms Sturgeon’s departure and the subsequent issues within the SNP, Mr Blackford said this will still go ahead.

He added that he has been working on a report “mapping Scotland’s industrial future” which will be released in the coming weeks.

Generational change is taking place in the SNP

Joe Pike

Political correspondent


This is a big loss for the SNP

Ian Blackford is one of the party’s best-known, most experienced faces – but today’s news is perhaps not a surprise for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Mr Blackford is 62. By standing again, he’d need to commit to being in parliament until he was 68.

Secondly, he’s already reached the top. He was the leader of their Westminster group for five and a half of the eight years he has been in the Commons.

Thirdly, he was deposed from that position by his own MPs last December.

And finally, he lives far, far from Westminster.

He represents Ross, Skye and Lochaber and lives on the Isle of Skye – getting home after a week in parliament involves a flight to Inverness and then a three-and-a-half-hour drive by car to the island, where he has a small farm.

Mr Blackford has been a significant figure – having joined the party in the late seventies he has been a member for almost 50 years, although briefly was a member of Scottish Labour.

He fell out with former SNP leader Alex Salmond in the late nineties and early noughties – although more recently he has been very close to Nicola Sturgeon.

But there has been a generational change in the party, with Ms Sturgeon standing aside.

Mr Blackford’s Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency is being broken up in the boundary changes taking place before the next election, but SNP sources have told me there’s little chance the Lib Dems will win there.

It will be one to look out for when it comes to next year’s general election.

Mr Blackford, 62, was first elected to the House of Commons for the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency in 2015, winning the seat from the late Charles Kennedy.

The seat is now being split up as part of the changes to constituency boundaries ahead of the expected 2024 general election.

Before entering politics, Mr Blackford worked in the banking sector and currently lives on a croft – or small farm – in his constituency.

During his time as Westminster leader of the SNP, he became known for his long questions at Prime Minister’s Questions, which sometimes drew heckles from MPs around the chamber.

He has been ejected from the House on multiple occasions, once due to his frustration at the way Brexit votes were being conducted, and also because he stated that Boris Johnson had misled the Commons over partygate.

Mr Blackford faced criticism for the way he reacted to one of his MPs sexually harassing a staff member.

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Leaked recordings showed he encouraged SNP MPs to support Patrick Grady following the allegations.

Current SNP Westminster leader Mr Flynn said: “I know Ian will be sorely missed by his constituents and colleagues when he stands down as an MP but I am confident that he will have a key role in continuing the campaign for Scotland to become an independent country.”


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