Ian Blackford re-elected as SNP Westminster leader

The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP has been unanimously re-appointed at the parliamentary party's AGM.

Ian Blackford: Enjoyed boost to his majority on election night. STV
Ian Blackford: Enjoyed boost to his majority on election night.

Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford has been unanimously re-elected as the SNP’s Westminster leader.

Blackford was re-appointed to the position – which he first took on in 2017 – at the SNP parliamentary group’s AGM on Wednesday.

It comes after the general election result on December 12 which saw the party gain 12 seats at the expense of all of its rivals, taking 47 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

The SNP picked up a 48th seat in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, but candidate Neale Hanvey was earlier suspended over anti-Semitism claims.

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With 45% of the vote north of the border, it was the Nationalists’ second best ever result after 2015, when Nicola Sturgeon’s party took 56 seats backed by 50% of the electorate.

The Scottish Conservatives lost seven of their 13 seats to the SNP, while Scottish Labour were reduced from seven to one.

UK-wide, Labour’s disastrous defeat to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives saw Jeremy Corbyn announce he would stand down as party leader, with the contest to replace him already beginning to take shape.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry announced her decision to stand earlier on Wednesday, while shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, former cabinet minister Yvette Cooper and Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips are also mooted as potential contenders.

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Blackford increased his majority in Ross, Skye and Lochaber to nearly 10,000, with 48% of the vote, despite his seat having been a key target of the Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dems alone gained a seat from the SNP, defeating Stephen Gethins in North East Fife, but in a huge blow saw party leader Jo Swinson unseated by 27-year-old SNP candidate Amy Callaghan.

Welcoming his re-election as SNP Westminster leader, Blackford said his party was “the only strong, united and focused opposition to Boris Johnson’s extreme Tory government and devastating Brexit plans”.

Kirsty Blackman, SNP MP for Aberdeen North, was also re-elected deputy leader for the party at Westminster.

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Blackford said: “The SNP is ready to get on with the job of being the only strong, united, and focused opposition to Boris Johnson’s extreme Tory government and devastating Brexit plans.

“SNP MPs will work every day to repay the trust that voters have put in us, and ensure Scotland’s democratic decision to vote against Brexit, against the Tories, and for a choice over our future with an independence referendum is respected.

“The Tories were resoundingly rejected in Scotland. They stood on a solitary pledge to block an independence referendum – and they lost more than half their seats.

“The Tories might rage against democracy but their position is completely unsustainable – they must respect Scotland’s democratic right to choose our own future.”

Blackman added: “The SNP has a strong and talented team at Westminster.

“We’re ready to hold Boris Johnson and this appalling hard right Tory government to account – while other parties are consumed by bitter infighting and division.”

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