Ian Blackford rules out SNP deputy leadership bid

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford has ruled himself out of the race to be the party's deputy leader.

Mr Blackford said he was focused on leading the SNP’s group of 35 MPs and representing his Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency, and admitted that the deputy leadership would be “simply too much to ask”.

Senior SNP figures have previously warned against a “coronation” for Mr Blackford.

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He told the Press & Journal: “To be honest I had made my mind up last weekend but I wanted the opprtunity to reflect.

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“First and foremost for me it is an absolute privilege to be the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber. I think there is something special that comes from being a Highland MP.

“I am the Westminster leader and that is not something I anticipated. I am very much enjoying leading the group and I think there is an immense task over the coming period getting through the morass of Brexit.

“I take quite seriously the responsibilities I’ve got as leader in Westminster and supporting the government in Holyrood.

“If I was depute leader as well, something would have to give. I think it is maybe simply too much to ask.”

Angus Robertson, who stepped aside from his role after losing his Moray seat in the 2017 general election, held the leadership role at Westminster as well as being deputy leader, but the posts have traditionally been separate.

Mr Blackford’s announcement leaves the door open to one of several candidates among the SNP MPs believed to be considering a run, including Tommy Sheppard, Joanna Cherry, Philippa Whitford, Pete Wishart and Hannah Bardell.

Mr Blackford added: “I look forward to working with whoever becomes depute leader. I want to be part of that team but I want to do it as leader at Westminster and as a constituency MP.”

Glasgow MSP James Dornan is the only candidate to declare his intention to stand so far. Nominations have yet to open, with a successor to Mr Robertson expected to be announced at the SNP conference in June.