SNP's Ian Blackford to step down as party's leader in Westminster

Scottish politician says it is time for 'fresh leadership' before the next general election

Ian Blackford says support for independence has grown during his time as SNP leader in Westminster. PA
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The Scottish National Party's leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, has announced that he will not stand again for the position, saying it is time for “fresh leadership”.

On Thursday, Mr Blackford said he told MPs he did not plan to continue in the role he has held for five years.

In the run up to the next general election, a vote the SNP plans to use as a de facto referendum on Scottish independence, Mr Blackford said the party needed new leadership in Westminster.

“During my time as leader, the SNP won a landslide victory in the 2019 general election, with an increased share of the vote and MPs, and support for independence has continued to grow with polling this week showing a majority in favour,” he said.

“While I am stepping down as Westminster leader, I will continue in my role as the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and I have also accepted a new role at the centre of the SNP’s independence campaign, leading on business engagement.

“I would like to thank our MPs and staff for all their support over the past five years.

“Whoever replaces me as Westminster leader will have my full support as, together, we stand up for Scotland’s interests and democratic right to choose our future in an independence referendum.”

The SNP holds 48 seats in the House of Commons following a strong performance in the 2019 general election.

The party has called for a new referendum on independence from the UK, a move the governing Conservative Party has opposed.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. PA

Their independence plans were dealt a blow after the UK Supreme Court ruled the Scottish parliament could not legislate for another vote without Westminster’s consent.

Mr Blackford said support for independence under his tenure in Westminster had increased.

Hs announcement comes despite saying last week that he “looked forward” to putting himself forward for re-election as the party’s Westminster leader.

It is also a week since fellow SNP MP Stephen Flynn dismissed reports he planned to challenge Mr Blackford for the role.

Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon paid tribute to Mr Blackford.

He has done an "outstanding job in holding the Tory Government to account and in promoting the case for Independence", she said.

“I would like to place on record my thanks for Ian’s diligence, tenacity, friendship and loyalty in his time as group leader," she said.

Updated: December 01, 2022, 12:54 PM