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SNP set to vote on a successor for Blackford in Westminister

The SNP’s annual general assembly is set to decide who will succeed outgoing Westminster leader Ian Blackford

Both Alison Thewliss and Stephen Flynn declared their candidacies for the position that the Ross, Skye, and Lochaber MP will be leaving vacant.

Blackford served in the position for more than five years, but has decided to leave along with deputy Kirsten Oswald after accepting a new position focusing on the business case for Scottish independence.

After a contentious few months under his leadership, Flynn, the party’s spokesman for energy, was compelled to reject rumours that he was planning a “coup” against Blackford.

The Aberdeen South MP revealed his candidacy for the vote, which takes place on Tuesday, in a Twitter post on Sunday evening, pledging to be a “strong voice” for Scotland at Westminster.

Flynn, who has suffered from a serious condition called avascular necrosis since he was a teenager, is yet to announce a deputy but reports suggest he wants Mhairi Black to take on the role.

“Few working class folk ever make it to parliament, fewer still run to be political leaders.

“Even fewer do so having spent almost the entirety of their teenage and adult years battling a physical disability.

“Your experiences tend to shape you and I am no different.”

Thewliss meanwhile announced she was standing for the position with Stuart McDonald as her number two.

The Glasgow Central MP previously said she had “no intention” of running, but felt a “duty” to step up on the confirmation of Blackford’s departure.

“I’ve been working for independence for over half my life. Scotland is closer to achieving that now now than ever before,” she said after revealing her candidacy.

“The Westminster group needs a leader who can build on Ian’s achievements and demonstrate that independence, far from being abstract, is the alternative to Brexit, the cost of living crisis and Tory austerity.”

Blackford insisted he still “absolutely had respect” of his MPs, despite rumours of a mutiny within the Commons group.

He previously faced calls to resign for his handling of misconduct allegations against SNP MP Patrick Grady who was found to have made an “unwanted sexual advance” towards a party worker at a social gathering in 2016.

Grady’s victim told STV News that staff working for the SNP in Westminster “remain unsafe” with Blackford in charge.

At the time, the SNP said it was acting to support all its staff in line with its duty of care.

But Blackford said there was “strength of unity” among the Westminster group, adding the party was fully committed to pushing towards the “de facto” referendum at the next general election.

“I have been the leader of the SNP for the last five and a half years,” he told STV News last week.

“I put myself up for election every year. I have commanded their respect and I believe I absolutely have the respect of my colleagues in the Westminster group as I have done and will do so in the role I have now going to play supporting all of them and supporting the journey towards independence.”

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