Blackford insists he would have won SNP leadership vote

Ian Blackford says he's stepping down as SNP Westminster leader

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Ian Blackford has branded politics a “dirty business” – while insisting he would have won re-election had he opted to put himself forward for re-election as the SNP’s Westminster leader. Meanwhile, party colleague Pete Wishart has hinted at an internal power struggle after saying the change had left him “bemused” while stepping down from his front bench role.

Mr Blackford said: “Look, politics is a dirty business, isn’t it? We all know that. You’re never going to please all the people, all of the time.

“Some people have a different way of wanting to do things and I think it’s fair to say that some people probably wanted to see the end of my backside off the front bench. That’s fine. They’re entitled to that.

“I discussed things with the First Minister and I said, ‘look, give me a job because we need to convince people in the business community that we have a plan for an independent Scotland’. I’m really relishing doing that.

“I’ve started, by the way, I’ve had two meetings today, actually. Being unleashed, I can do the things that maybe I’ve not always been able to do.”

Mr Blackford, who represents Ross, Skye and Lochaber in Parliament, added: “At the end of the day I’ve moved on. There’s an opportunity there and Stephen’s taken that. He has all my best wishes.”

The former leader also joked about writing a book about his time in office.

He said: “I am delighted. I’m going to get my life back.

“I’d been Westminster leader for five and a half years. You’re talking about four Prime Ministers.

“I’ve enjoyed it. I mean, maybe if I do write a book I’ll call that I’ve Had A Ball, because I have had a ball.”

However, Mr Blackford said the commute to Westminster “took its toll”.

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He continued: “I live right at the north end of the Isle of Skye. I have a horrendous commute – I frequently have to leave at the weekend from Scotland and get back off home as we go into the weekend.

“I’m not complaining about that. That’s how it’s been. But now I’ve got the opportunity to change tack, change direction.

“I’m going to be the First Minister’s business ambassador in Scotland, still represent my constituents, but have a better work-life balance. And, you know, I took the view that it was time to to move on, to stand down.”

Meanwhile Pete Wishart, who was first elected to Westminster in 2001, and has held a variety of front bench posts, most recently serving as the group’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesman, made little effort to disguise his displeasure at the situation.

In a statement announcing his resignation from the front benches, he told Mr Flynn he did not understand his reasons for seeking leadership change.

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He wrote: “I remain bemused as to the reasons why you felt it was necessary to seek a change in our leadership, particularly when we see yesterday’s opinion poll, which shows support for independence at a near all-time high and support for the SNP at Westminster at an unprecedented 51 percent.

“Usually change of this significance accompanies failure, whereas we are looking only at sustained and growing success as a movement and party.

“I am sure that this is something that will become apparent to me during the course of your leadership.

“I also look forward to learning first-hand what you hope to do differently in the day-to-day management of the group.”

Nevertheless, the Perth and Perthshire North MP told Mr Flynn he had his “full support”, adding “I remain at your service if you do wish to make use of my experience in the Westminster group.”

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