Ian Blackford Is Standing Down As SNP Leader in Westminster
Ian Blackford is standing down as the Westminster leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the House of Commons, saying it is the "right time for fresh leadership".
Blackford has been the leader of the SNP in Westminster since 2017, and has had a weekly slot at PMQs which he has used to challenge four different prime ministers.
He told his MPs today that he would not seek re-election at the parliamentary group's AGM next week.
“After more than five years in the role, now is the right time for fresh leadership at Westminster as we head towards a general election and the next steps in winning Scotland’s independence," he said.
SNP insiders reportedly told the Telegraph that Blackford was forced to quit after it emerged Stephen Flynn, the Aberdeen South MP, had the support needed to oust him.
In his statement he highlighted how the SNP have increased their share of the vote in Parliament since he took the role, and claimed that the support for Scottish independence has "continued to grow".
He has accepted a new role at the centre of the SNP's independence campaign to lead on business engagement, but will continue as the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber.
Blackford faced criticism for his handling of the sexual harassment allegations surrounding former chief whip Patrick Grady, after an MP accused the SNP of “clearly falling short” of supporting harassment complainants.
Leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon paid tribute to Blackford and said he had done an "outstanding job" at preparing the case for independence.
"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.
"I look forward to working with Ian's successor as group leader at Westminster, as we continue to make the case for the people of Scotland to have a democratic choice on the country's future."
Joanna Cherry KC, SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, said she was glad that Blackford is standing down.
She tweeted: I’m pleased to hear this. It’s time for fresh leadership & tolerance of debate & diverse viewpoints.
"I hope the SNP Westminster group will be now be left to choose our new leader without outside interference & in accordance with our standing orders."
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