The SNP will be the “real opposition” to Boris Johnson’s government, Ian Blackford has claimed, as the nationalists paraded their 47 MPs at Westminster following last week’s general election landslide.
Setting the stage for a fresh constitutional clash following the Conservatives’ majority victory, which ends hopes of stopping Brexit, Mr Blackford said voters had reaffirmed the SNP’s mandate to hold a second Scottish independence referendum.
The SNP’s Westminster leader did not rule out a legal challenge when the Prime Minister refuses a formal request for the power to hold a referendum under the Scotland Act to be passed to the Scottish Parliament.
And amid growing signs that Scottish Labour could abandon its opposition to a second independence referendum following its near wipe-out last week, Mr Blackford praised the “generosity of spirit” of opposition parties “that Scotland should have that right to choose its future”.
Mr Blackford said a referendum “must happen in 2020 because we’ve got to make sure that we vote for Independence whilst the UK is still in transition”.
MPs arrived at Westminster yesterday and began inductions and training ahead of a two day swearing in process.
Downing Street confirmed that Brexit legislation will return to the House of Commons on Friday, following the Queen’s Speech to formally open the new parliament on Thursday.
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill could be debated at first and second reading in one day, if the Speaker agrees to the timetable.
Mr Johnson was due to address his new intake of Tory MPs arriving in Westminster at a drinks reception last night.
Ahead of the private speech, a Number 10 source said: “This election and the new generation of MPs that have resulted from Labour towns turning blue will help change our politics for the better.
“The PM has been very clear that we have a responsibility to deliver a better future for our country and that we must repay the public’s trust by getting Brexit done.
SNP MPs gathered in Victoria Tower Gardens next to parliament yesterday afternoon for a group photograph.
All were present except the Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil, who claimed over the weekend that if Mr Johnson refuses to allow a second independence referendum, the entire group could resign to trigger 47 byelections - a suggestion that was not endorsed by his party.
Mr Blackford said the election result, which gave the SNP a 45 per cent share of the vote and four-fifths of MPs, meant Scotland had the right to “rescue ourselves from the madness of Brexit”.
“The Tories fought on one simple message: say no to indyref2,” the SNP Westminster leader said. “Well Boris, you got your answer.
“You lost more than half your MPs. You trailed 20 points behind the SNP. Respect democracy. Respect the Scottish people. And recognise that we should have that power to determine the timing of our referendum.”
Adding that it was “not a good look” for the Conservatives to dismiss calls for a second independence vote in the wake of the election, Mr Blackford claimed: “This movement towards having a referendum is unstoppable.”