Mhairi Black to stand down as an MP at the next election over 'poisonous' Westminster culture

The SNP MP said Westminster is “one of the most unhealthy workplaces you could ever be in”

Mhairi Black, the SNP’s deputy Westminster leader, has announced she will stand down at the next general election, citing the “poisonous” culture in Westminster.

Ms Black became the youngest MP in more than 300 years after winning the Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat from Labour’s Douglas Alexander at the age of just 20 in 2015.

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She is the sixth SNP MP to announce they will quit at the next election, which is widely expected to be held next year. Her departure will be a major blow for a party struggling to regain momentum amid a high-profile police investigation into its finances.

Mhairi Black is to stand down as an MP. Image: House of Commons/UK Parliament.Mhairi Black is to stand down as an MP. Image: House of Commons/UK Parliament.
Mhairi Black is to stand down as an MP. Image: House of Commons/UK Parliament.

Ms Black said Westminster “is one of the most unhealthy workplaces you could ever be in”.

Speaking to The News Agents podcast, the 28-year-old said: “I am tired and the thing that makes me tired is Westminster. I think it is one of the most unhealthy workplaces that you could ever be in. It’s a toxic environment. Just the entire design of the place and how it functions is just the opposite of everything that I find comfortable.

“It’s definitely a poisonous place, whether that’s because of what folk can get away with in it or the number of personal motivations and folk having ulterior motives for things, and it’s just not a nice place to be in.”

Ms Black won her seat with 23,548 votes in 2015 while she was still a student at Glasgow University. She held onto it with 16,964 votes in 2017 and 21,637 votes in 2019.

SNP Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black. Image: Press Association.SNP Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black. Image: Press Association.
SNP Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black. Image: Press Association.

She said: “In the run up to the next general election, I’ve realised that will be almost ten years that I’ll have been elected, so a third of my life I’ve spent in Westminster, which gives me the ick.”

Ms Black added: “I actually think the fact I am younger is partly why I suppose I see everything that’s wrong so starkly. I can understand why people get absorbed into the world of Westminster, how folk can spend 40 years working there. It’s a world unto itself. It’s got its own culture, its own history and everything, which is just still alien to me.”

Ms Black said she had no regrets about her time as an MP. She said she had decided she would not stand again on election night in 2019.

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In a statement after the podcast was released, Ms Black thanked campaigners and activists within the SNP who had supported her.

She said: “I have always maintained how outdated, sexist and toxic a place Westminster is. Watching people in my constituency being continually harmed by a UK Government they never voted for – despite my best efforts to fight against its cruel policies – is beyond demoralising.

“While representing this brilliant constituency is a true honour, this aspect is painful and would take its toll on anyone that cares, as it has me.”

She added her family had been in a “constant state of anxiety” because of abuse on social media, threats, and the murders of Jo Cox and Sir David Amess.

The SNP MP said: "I will, of course, continue to represent my constituency to the best of my abilities, and I look forward to continuing to campaign for an independent Scotland and for the SNP at the general election, but I will do so as a campaigner rather than a candidate."

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped to see Ms Black in the Scottish Parliament in future.

She said: “[I am] both gutted by and entirely understanding of this. Her reasons resonate. But what a loss of unique talent, not just to the SNP, but to politics generally. I only hope it’s temporary. The world needs more Mhairi Blacks in politics, not fewer.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf called Ms Black a “trailblazer”. He said: “It is difficult to overstate the impact that Mhairi Black has had on Scottish and UK politics since her election in 2015 as the youngest MP ever, and more recently as deputy leader of the SNP at Westminster.

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“She has been a trailblazer – a passionate supporter of independence, equality, social justice, and simply of trying to make life better for her constituents and the wider Scottish public. She has also served as a role model for young people, especially women, with an interest or a desire to get involved in politics.

“I know that Mhairi has been critical of the toxic, hostile environment of Westminster, which serves as an important wake-up call to those who are determined to safeguard our democracy. The case for modernising our political system is stark. We must make sure it works for everyone, so we don’t deter people from standing for election or speaking out for what they believe in.

“Despite choosing not to stand again as an MP, I know Mhairi will continue to make an immense contribution to the cause of independence, and I look forward to working with her in advancing our cause.”

Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, tweeted: “In a class of her own.”

Ian Blackford, the party’s former Westminster leader, has already announced he will stand down at the next election. SNP MPs Peter Grant, Angela Crawley, Douglas Chapman and Stewart Hosie are also set to quit.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “Mhairi Black’s decision to step down is yet another damning verdict from a senior SNP MP on the failing leadership of both Humza Yousaf and Stephen Flynn.

“As much as the depute leader tries to blame Westminster, in typical SNP fashion, the public won’t be fooled. Mhairi Black knows chaos is engulfing her party, which is why they are fighting like Nats in a sack. It speaks volumes about how bitter those feuds have become that Mhairi Black has thrown in the towel, just a few months after agreeing to become deputy leader, and decided not to fight another election despite not yet turning 30.

“It is the Scottish public who are paying the price for the SNP’s infighting and civil war, with the party completely distracted from focusing on Scotland’s real priorities such as the cost-of-living crisis and fixing our NHS.”



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