Who will replace Angus Robertson as SNP leader at Westminster?

Joanna Cherry.  Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Joanna Cherry. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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The SNP has some big shoes to fill after Angus Robertson, its respected leader at Westminster, lost his seat last week.

While the post-election front pages in Scotland were dominated by Alex Salmond’s defeat, the loss of Robertson is much more of a headache for Nicola Sturgeon’s party.

An experienced Commons operator, he regularly won plaudits from across the political spectrum for his forensic grilling of Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions.

It is not yet clear whether Robertson will stay on as depute leader of the SNP. But the party urgently needs to replace the former journalist at the dispatch box.

Here are just some of the runners and riders in contention for the party’s top job at Westminster.

Joanna Cherry

The QC’s name was one of the first to be mentioned after news filtered through that Robertson had lost in Moray.

As the SNP’s justice spokeswoman at Westminster, Ms Cherry has significant experience at dealing with difficult, weighty issues, as well as tangling with Government ministers.

Pros: Has already gained admirers across the chamber for her forceful debating style and managed to hold her Edinburgh South West seat despite strong challenges from both Labour and Conservative.

Cons: Was caught up in a scandal of sorts after mistakenly briefing journalists on the background of a nurse who questioned Nicola Sturgeon during a recent televised debate.

Ms Cherry will need to assure colleagues she has learned her lesson.

READ MORE: SNP Depute Leader Angus Robertson among party losses

Ian Blackford

If Ms Cherry’s achievement in holding her seat was notable, then Ian Blackford’s is arguably even more impressive.

As SNP seats fell across the Highlands, the former investment banker managed to increase his majority - although his vote share did fall significantly.

Pros: With the economy set to dominate, Mr Blackford’s keen financial mind could be invaluable when challenging the Prime Minister at the SNP’s guaranteed weekly slot at Prime Minister’s Questions.

He is also well-regarded among the party’s MPs, and could be seen as a unity candidate for the remaining 35 parliamentarians to rally around.

Cons: Mr Blackford hasn’t been free from criticism during his short political career after being linked to a company which has been probed over cold-calling.

He remains chairman of the Golden Charter trust though would be expected to give up any outside work if he was elected Westminster leader.

Tommy Sheppard

A left-field choice in more ways than one. The former Labour party official was re-elected to his Edinburgh East seat with a reduced majority, though the fall in his vote share was modest compared to others.

The Northern Irishman is also a strong parliamentary performer and was one of a number of prominent Yes campaigners urged to make the move into elected politics following the referendum in 2014.

Pros: Has the left-wing credentials to be a solid foil to a Labour party less centrist under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. He is also firmly against some of the more archaic processes of the House of Commons which could win him plaudits among fellow reformers.

Cons: His popularity among the membership isn’t assured, given he finished a distant second to Angus Robertson in the depute leadership election of 2016.

He is also more outspoken on certain issues than his more cautious colleagues in the SNP group, where he is not, to say the least, universally popular.

Some in the current inner circle Nicola Sturgeon are also thought to be suspicious of Sheppard.

Stephen Gethins

The man with the most marginal constituency in the country. The SNP’s Brexit spokesman clung on to his North East Fife seat by just two votes after three recounts.

Gethins is well-regarded in the party and with Brexit front and centre of this young parliament, his experience in that field will be invaluable.

Pros: A good speaker, with established relationships at the top of the party, Mr Gethins was quoted by many before the election as a potential leader should Angus Robertson lose.

Cons: The obvious drawback is that minuscule majority. The Lib Dems are said to be pondering a legal challenge to the result after they were denied another recount.

With another snap election also still possible, even if a court bid to have the result overturned fails, Mr Gethins could find himself defeat if another vote is called.

Others

No obvious names stand out among the remaining 31 MPs. Stewart Hosie will serve as acting Westminster leader, and does have skills and experience, however he is tainted by a recent personal scandal.

Mhairi Black is still a strong speaker and media performer, but is considered still too young and lacking the organisational ability to manage such a large group.

None of the party’s six Glasgow MPs are expected to put their names forward, though they will be important for any potential leader to court.