Ian Blackford recording a 'nail in the coffin' says Rodger
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Mr Blackford, who took the role five years ago, will not seek re-election at the party’s AGM next week, he said in a statement on Thursday. The SNP is gearing up to fight the next general election as a de facto referendum following the Supreme Court’s ruling that Holyrood cannot legislate for another vote on independence without Westminster’s consent. But the Sunday Mail chief reporter Hannah Rodger has revealed Mr Blackford’s private support for Patrick Grady, a former SNP MP now standing as an independent after facing accusations of misconduct.
She told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: “I think anyone who is tuned into that at all can see there are some issues most notably the issues with Patrick Grady.
“Not only the handling of the whole saga before it became public but the handling of it afterwards.
“Of course we saw the leaked recording of the SNP meeting where Ian Blackford was seen to be supportive in private of Patrick Grady but in public was a very different view.
“I think that was the nail in the coffin.
“There were already rumours circulating before that but I think that just didn’t look great for him.”
Just last week, Mr Blackford told The Scotsman newspaper that he “looked forward” to putting himself forward for re-election as the party’s Westminster leader, adding that he hoped to be “the MP which leads the SNP group out of Westminster for the last time”.
The decision also comes in the week after fellow SNP MP Stephen Flynn knocked down reports he was seeking to challenge Mr Blackford for the top job.
The last year of his leadership has been marred by his handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against one of his own MPs.
Ian Blackford says he's stepping down as SNP Westminster leader
Patrick Grady was accused by a party staffer after the incident in a London pub in 2016.
He was later suspended from the Commons after an independent investigation and resigned his party membership, but the member of staff repeatedly criticised the SNP’s handling of the issue, saying his working environment had become “intolerable”.
Mr Blackford was also heard on a secret recording of a Westminster group meeting urging fellow SNP MPs to give Mr Grady their support.
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SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who has regularly been at odds with the SNP’s leadership in recent years, welcomed the announcement.
She wrote on Twitter: “I’m pleased to hear this. It’s time for fresh leadership & tolerance of debate & diverse viewpoints.
“I hope theSNP Westminster group will be now be left to choose our new leader without outside interference & in accordance with our standing orders.”
Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon paid tribute to Mr Blackford, saying: “He led the group at a time of huge electoral success for the SNP, particularly at the 2019 general election, and has done an outstanding job in holding the Tory Government to account and in promoting the case for independence.
“I would like to place on record my thanks for Ian’s diligence, tenacity, friendship and loyalty in his time as group leader.”
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