Ian Blackford standing down as Westminster leader for SNP

Ian Blackford has announced he is standing down as the SNP leader at Westminster.

It comes a week after he said he would be the last SNP group leader in Westminster. In a statement released on Thursday, Mr Blackford said he told MP colleagues he would not continue in the role after five years.

The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber will continue to represent his constituents and said he would be taking on a new role at “the centre of the SNP’s independence campaign”, leading on “business engagement”.

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In the run up to the next general election, which the SNP plans to run as a de facto referendum, Mr Blackford said "right now is the time for fresh leadership".

Blackford stepped aside as party's senior figure at House of Commons

He said: "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’s annual general meeting is being held on Tuesday. Stephen Flynn, the party’s energy spokesperson, is expected to succeed Blackford. It comes as a new poll suggests Yes is four points ahead, after the Supreme Court ruling.

The proportion of people who support Scottish independence has risen ahead of those who do not following a Supreme Court ruling on the issue, with 49% of Scottish respondents saying they would vote Yes and 45% said they would vote No if there were to be a referendum tomorrow on whether Scotland should be an independent country. The remainder said they do not know.