New SNP Westminster leader side-steps calls for firmer leftwing approach 


Ian Blackford: “won’t take any lessons” from Jeremy Corbyn on opposing austerity 

THE NEW LEADER of the SNP group at Westminster, Ian Blackford MP had said opposing a hard Brexit will “first and foremost” be his priority, rather than taking a firmer leftwing approach in response to the challenge from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. 

Asked on Reporting Scotland whether his group leadership would follow the advice of colleague Tommy Sheppard MP, who has recommended a leftwing strategy to win back voters, Blackford insisted that Brexit would remain a pressing priority alongside the general interests of “the people of the country”.

Asked whether the party should move to the left, Blackford replied: “I think what we have to do in this parliament is make sure we speak up for the people of the country and I think we have a very important job to do over the coming weeks and months because we have a government that certainly doesn’t have a mandate for a hard Brexit. 

“I think the people of Scotland want their interests to be protected and that’s first and foremost what we will be doing and really demanding that not just Scotland, but all the other devolved nations, are involved round the table in the discussion that will take place.”

He added: “Secondly I think we have stood on a mandate of anti-austerity and we won’t take any lessons from Jeremy Corbyn or anybody else on that.”

Blackford, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, was previously an investment banker. He also previously chaired the Glendale Trust on Skye, which promotes “the public benefit of rural regeneration in areas of social and economic deprivation” in Glendale.

Read more – Jeremy Corbyn pledges to win hearts of Scottish left-wing voters

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the General Election result, where the SNP won a majority of seats but fell from 56 to 35 MPs, was an opportunity to “reflect” on the party’s future. 

Sheppard, who is on the left of the SNP, called for “a radical review of how we do things” to ensure that the party wins the campaign for left-minded voters in Scotland. In a message to supporters he said: “There is no doubt that a Corbyn surge was responsible for many people who had voted SNP in 2015 deciding to lend their vote to Labour this time.”

Labour, which had almost been wiped out in Scotland two years ago to just a solitary MP, experienced a late ‘Corbyn surge’ in the weeks prior to polling day – enough to win seats in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, and the Lothians from the SNP. 

A further five SNP seats are now on tiny majorities of under one per cent of the vote ahead of Labour. 

In a boast that his leadership – challenging British politics on inequality, public services and foreign policy – was working, Corbyn told the seven Scottish MPs now at Westminster: “Labour’s back in Scotland, and we’re going to be back in even bigger number as soon as the next election comes. And it will not be long.”

A range of SNP figures, including Sheppard, Ronnie Cowan MP, Alex Neil MSP, former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars, SNP Youth Vice Convener and SNP Socialists Convener Rory Steel, Iain Black, co-founder of Smaug (SNP members against unconventional oil and gas), and Edinburgh West SNP activist Ian Grant all put their names to a six part policy proposal to “renew” the SNP’s domestic agenda. 

Picture courtesy of Màrtainn MacDhòmhnaill

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