Who could be the next SNP deputy leader?

Angus Robertson stood down as SNP Deputy LeaderAngus Robertson stood down as SNP Deputy Leader
Angus Robertson stood down as SNP Deputy Leader
Despite his standing with the rank-and-file membership, there was always something of an inevitability about Angus Robertson's resignation as SNP Deputy Leader.

The well-regarded former MP for Moray, who lost his seat at the snap general election last year, ended his stint as Nicola Sturgeon’s number two earlier this month.

Mr Robertson’s successor as Westminster leader of the party, Ian Blackford, has announced that he won’t stand for the deputy leadership role.

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The duties of deputy leader aren’t clearly defined, something which a number of potential candidates want to address should they be elected.

Angus Robertson stood down as SNP Deputy LeaderAngus Robertson stood down as SNP Deputy Leader
Angus Robertson stood down as SNP Deputy Leader

We look at the runners and riders who could fill one of the biggest roles in Scottish politics, starting with those who have confirmed they are standing to those whose ambitions are mere speculation for now.

James Dornan

The Glasgow Catchcart MSP was the first to throw his hat in the ring after the departure of Mr Robertson, and has clearly set himself up as the candidate for those agitating for a second referendum as soon as possible to back.

The degrees to which candidates put the constitutional issue at the heart of their campaigns could be a significant factor in the contest.

Angus Robertson stood down as SNP Deputy LeaderAngus Robertson stood down as SNP Deputy Leader
Angus Robertson stood down as SNP Deputy Leader

Mr Dornan made it clear over the weekend that he rejects the conventional wisdom that calling for a second referendum caused the SNP’s brutal reverse at last year’s election, when they lost 21 seats.

His call for a second plebiscite as early as next year could endear him to a section of the party’s membership, but could lead to potential clashes with Nicola Sturgeon.

Ivan McKee

A former businessman, Mr Mckee’s announcement that he was considering standing in the election came as something of a shock.

Mr McKee was only elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2016, making him less experienced than the 2015 intake at Westminster.

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While he may not be considered a genuine contender, the Glasgow Provan MSP clearly thinks there needs to be a debate around the role, writing in The National “We need to understand what the purpose of the deputy leader job is.”

In previous inter-party elections, someone with the pedigree of Mr Wishart, who has been an MP for nearly 17 years, would have been almost a shoo-in.

Modern Scottish politics, however, has brought a number of new politicians to the fore, and Mr Wishart might not fancy his chances against some of his relatively more junior colleagues in Westminster.

The former keyboardist for the band Runrig said that the SNP must take stock of what role Leave voters have to play in any future referendum debate.

If, as expected, Mr Wishart decides to stand, he will likely be among the frontrunners.

Tommy Sheppard

Mr Sheppard wouldn’t be the first politician to fail in a bid for political office only to try again, but he was a distant second to Angus Robertson in 2016’s deputy leadership contest.

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Ian Blackford rules out SNP deputy leadership bid

Billed by supporters as the left-wing alternative, the Edinburgh East MP could (correctly) conclude that the near universally well-liked Mr Robertson was a near impossible candidate to beat.

With a far wider field expected (as many as eight candidates could stand) Mr Sheppard might think that this time he could go one better.

Kirsty Blackman

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The only SNP representative in the North-East outside of Dundee to retain her seat at June’s general election, the Aberdeen North MP has impressed since she was first elected in 2015.

However, her current frontbench role as deputy to Westminster leader Ian Blackford could cause tension within the SNP group should she also take on the job of deputy party leader.

Other MSPs

There hasn’t been much in the way of speculation about MSPs taking on the deputy leadership role, perhaps reckoning that with John Swinney firmly ensconced as deputy First Minister, there is only so much power in Holyrood to go around.

Humza Yousaf ruled himself out and it is not thought that any other ministers will fancy the added responsibility as they navigate minority government.

An experienced hand like Bruce Crawford or Richard Lochhead would be able to command support from colleagues.

Other MPs

While Messrs Mckee and Dornan are keen to challenge the notion that the deputy leader should be an MP, it is still from that group that the frontrunner is expected to emerge.

Among the names mentioned are Joanna Cherry, a QC, and Hannah Bardell, who has become well-known for her colourful performances in the House of Commons, including a recent impromptu Brexit rap.

Stewart McDonald is another who has had a positive impact at Westminster, and would likely be popular with younger members, but has a weighty brief as shadow defence secretary.


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Half of the candidates in the last deputy leadership election weren’t actually members of Holyrood or Westminster, with MEP Alyn Smith and councillor Chris McEleny commanding around a quarter of the votes cast between them.

Unless Smith is prepared to mount another campaign, it is unlikely someone from outside the ranks of the parties MPs and MSPs will stand.