THE new SNP Westminster group leader Ian Blackford has said he is “first and foremost” an MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, despite his promoted position in the House of Commons.
The former banker replaces Angus Robertson, who lost his Moray seat in last week’s general election, but has pledged to continue to work hard for his constituents.
Skye-based Mr Blackford was elected as the party’s top man at Westminster on Wednesday afternoon after beating off competition from fellow Highlander, MP Drew Hendry, and Joanna Cherry, MP for Edinburgh South West.
Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard withdrew from the running due to lack of support.
Mr Blackford was returned as the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP last week with one of the strongest majorities of his party.
Speaking to the Ross-shire Journal yesterday, he said it was “a privilege” to be elected SNP group leader and hoped his position would bring issues affecting the Highlands to the forefront.
“Whether it had been me or someone else I think it is very important to have a rural MP as leader as rural issues are massively important,” he said.
“This gives me the opportunity to represent the whole of the SNP but also to fight for all issues important to people in the Highlands and Islands. It was a privilege to be elected Westminster group leader by my colleagues, but I am first and foremost a constituency MP and will continue to work for the constituents who elected me.”
First elected in 2015, replacing the late Charles Kennedy, Mr Blackford is still relatively new to Westminster but is already looking forward to challenging the government, despite the number of SNP MPs dropping to 35.
“I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into it and challenging Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions,” he said.
“We are a smaller group now, which obviously I regret.
“But we also have a hung parliament now instead of a Conservative majority so in many ways we can actually be more effective in this parliament.
“Hopefully we can be more effective in things like protecting Scotland’s interests against a hard Brexit but also in the wider social and economic agenda like the WASPI campaign and the rape clause.”
Mr Blackford’s experience was described as “formidable” by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. She said: “I’m delighted to see Ian Blackford elected as leader of the SNP’s Westminster group.
“Ian has formidable professional and political experience and has played a key role in the last two years as part of the effective opposition to the Tory government.”