Politics latest: Blackford's exit 'big loss, but no surprise' for SNP; 'We are not arsonists' - minister defends her Brexit bill (2023)

Key points
  • SNP's Blackford stepping down at next election
  • Ex-Westminster leader was 'fierce opponent' for PMs, says successor
  • Joe Pike: Blackford's exit is big loss for SNP - but no surprise
  • 'We are not arsonists' - minister defends Brexit bill
  • What is the Retained EU Law Bill?
  • Lockdown breaking MP suspended from parliament after Commons vote
  • Margaret Ferrier's former party demands by-election
  • COVID inquiry chair makes first comments since Johnson WhatsApp row
  • Government 'willing to agree another way forward'
  • What is the Johnson COVID WhatsApp row about?
  • Live reporting by Faith Ridler


Recall petition details confirmed for Ferrier's constituents

A local council has confirmed details around the recall petition for MP Margaret Ferrier, who was today suspended from the Commons for 30 days.

A penalty of this magnitude results in the petition, and if 10% or more of her constituents sign it, a by-election for her seat of Rutherglen and Hamilton West will be triggered.

South Lanarkshire Council has confirmed the petition will open on 20 June and close on 30 July.

The authority said there would likely be seven locations across the area where people will be able to sign it, and more details will be published in the coming days.

Petitions officer Cleland Sneddon said: "Those wishing to sign the petition will be allocated a petition place similar to the allocation to a polling place."


Blackford's exit is big loss for SNP - but no surprise

This is a big loss for the SNP.

Ian Blackford is one of the party's best-known, most experienced faces - but it’s perhaps not a surprise for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Mr Blackford is 62. By standing again, he’d need to commit to being in parliament until he was 68.

Secondly, he's already reached the top. He's was the leader of their Westminster group for five-and-a-half of the eight years he has been in the Commons.

Thirdly, he was deposed from that position by his own MSPs last December.

And finally, he lives far, far from Westminster. He represents Ross, Skye and Lochaber and lives on the Isle of Skye - getting home after a week in parliament involves a flight to Inverness and then a three-and-a-half-hour drive by car to the island, where he has a small farm.

Mr Blackford has been a significant figure - having joined the party in the late seventies, he has been a member for almost 50 years, although briefly was a member of Scottish Labour.

He fell out with former SNP leader Alex Salmond in the late 1990s, although more recently he has been very close to Nicola Sturgeon.

But there has been a generational change in the party, with Ms Sturgeon standing aside.

His constituency is being broken up in the boundary changes taking place before the next election.

SNP sources have told me there’s little chance the Lib Dems will win there. But it will be one to look our for when it comes to next year’s general election.


Scottish transport minister quits due to poor mental health

In other news north of the border, Scotland's transport minister has resigned from the Scottish government due to poor mental health.

Kevin Stewart tendered his resignation to First Minister Humza Yousafon Tuesday.

The MSP for AberdeenCentral admitted having bouts of poor mental health since last October, which returned over the last week.

In his letter, Mr Stewart, 55, said he was quitting from the post with a "heavy heart", but added that being part of the Scottishgovernment had been the "greatest honour" of his life.

He explained: "Since last October I have had bouts of poor mental health, with a low ebb in early December of last year.

"Over the last week or so I have once again been feeling unwell and I feel that I can no longer put in the hours required to serve both my constituents and hold ministerial office, whilst also trying to maintain good mental health.

"I do hope that you understand."

Read more from our Scotland reporter Jenness Mitchell below:


Blackford was 'fierce opponent' to PMs, says Flynn

Ian Blackford's successor as Westminster leader has paid tribute to him after the news he will step down as an MP at the next election.

Stephen Flynn MP thanked his colleague for "the massive role he has played in making the SNP the formidable force it is in Scottish and UK politics".

He called Blackford a "stalwart" in the party, who had "played a key role in putting forward the case for Scotland's future as an independent country", as well as being "pivotal" in the SNP's electoral success.

"During his time as SNP Westminster leader, Ian stood across the House of Commons from four Tory prime ministers and was a fierce opponent for every one of them - taking them on over Brexit, austerity cuts, Westminster attacks on devolution, and their undemocratic attempts to deny Scotland's right to choose our own future," added Mr Flynn.

"I know Ian will be sorely missed by his constituents and colleagues when he stands down as an MP, but I am confident that he will have a key role in continuing the campaign for Scotland to become an independent country."


In full: Blackford's statement on standing down

As we have just reported, former SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, has announced he is going to stand down as an MP at the next election.

Here is his statement in full:

"With the SNP selection process for the next Westminster election taking place over the coming weeks, I have thought long and hard about whether to offer myself as a candidate again.

"It has been an enormous privilege to serve as the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber since 2015. I am grateful to the SNP membership for selecting me - and I remain privileged and humbled that people across my home constituency have put their trust in me at three elections.

"Serving as the local MP for this vast and cherished Highland and Island area has always been my priority. I was also honoured to lead the SNP Westminster group for more than five years between 2017 and 2022.

"There were many highlights during that period, including leading the group into the 2019 election and increasing our representation from 35 to 48 seats.

"That campaign was fought on the twin issues of defending Scotland’s right to choose our own future and standing against the impending threat of Brexit. Those issues remain more relevant than ever, as families across Scotland suffer the impact of Brexit and damaging Westminster policies on the cost of living and our economy.

"During my time as Westminster leader I was grateful for the support, not just fromcolleagues in Westminster, but our friends in the Scottish government as we came together as team SNP to oppose Brexit, support the first minister and her team in getting through COVID, as well as standing up for our communities as we continue to battle through the cost of living crisis.

"Having stood down as SNP Westminster leader, I have gone through a period of reflection as to how I can best assist the party and the cause of independence - a cause I have campaigned for since joining the SNP as a teenager in the 1970s.

"Over the last few months, with others, I have been working on producing a paper on mapping Scotland’s Industrial Future. This report will be available over the coming weeks and I am determined that our work can and should lead to a policy response that will see Scotland’s potential being realised through a sustainable enhancement in economic growth, driving investment and better paid jobs in Scotland, raising living standards and, as a result, delivering the wellbeing economy that our new first minister has prioritised.

"I look forward to finishing this work and continuing as the first minister’s business ambassador, on behalf of the SNP.

"I would like to thank all of those who have supported me in my role as an MP. In particular, the staff in my leader’s role and my constituency staff have done an outstanding job and it has been a pleasure to work with each and every one of them.

"Any success we have had has been down to them, we truly have been a team. I have welcomed their wise counsel, support and friendship.

"My last word of thanks must go to my wife Ann, who has had to contend with my long absences on parliamentary activities. She has been my strength and support for all of this time, and I will remain eternally grateful to her. Our wider family have always been supportive and for this I am thankful.

"My desire to see Scotland become an independent country, and for our country and its people to achieve its full potential, remains as strong as when I first entered politics decades ago.

"Although I will not be standing for the Westminster parliament at the next election, I look forward to playing my part in the continuing campaign for Scottish Independence and supporting our first minister and the SNP as we go forward to the next election and beyond.

"Finally, to the voters of Ross, Skye and Lochaber, I once again thank each and every one of you for the opportunity to represent your interests and serve this most special of places – the place I am fortunate to call my home."


SNP’s Blackford to step down at next election

The SNP’s former leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, has announced he will stand down as an MP at the next election, Sky News has learned.

Mr Blackford, who has represented Ross, Sky and Lochaber since 2015, led the party in the Commons for five years, with Brexit and COVID dominating his career.

He stood down from that post last December amid reports of a coup from party members, and was replaced by the current leader Stephen Flynn.

But now he has decided to leave Westminster altogether, telling Sky News in a broadcast exclusive that he would be working on a paper on Scotland’s industrial future instead and continuing as his party's business ambassador.

In a lengthy statement, the MP said he had “gone through a period of reflection” since his tenure as leader came to an end on "how I can best assist the party and the cause of independence - a cause I have campaigned for since joining the SNP as a teenager in the 1970s".

Mr Blackford added: “My desire to see Scotland become an independent country, and for our country and its people to achieve its full potential, remains as strong as when I first entered politics decades ago.

"Although I will not be standing for the Westminster parliament at the next election, I look forward to playing my part in the continuing campaign for Scottish independence and supporting our first minister and the SNP as we go forward to the next election and beyond."


Watch again: Tory and Labour peers debate Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Dubs, a Labour peer, and his Conservative counterpart, Lord Robathan, appeared on Sky News today to discuss Rishi Sunak's legislation aimed at tackling small boat crossings - and it got rather heated.

The controversial Illegal Migration Bill is still making its way through the House of Lords, which it will need to clear in order to become law.

You can hear more of what they had to say below:


'Many people living with HIV excluded from accessing fertility treatment' - MP

People living with HIV should not face "discriminatory restrictions" on their access to fertility treatment, the chairman of the Commons' health and social care committee has said.

Conservative MP Steve Brine said "many" people with HIV were excluded from accessing fertility treatment and called on the government to remove restrictions.

A health minister said a group of experts was looking at the issue, and committed to act "swiftly" on their recommendations, which she said were expected later this month.

Mr Brine, MP for Winchester, was speaking at a session of questions to health ministers in the Commons.

A former health minister himself, he said: "Women living with HIV, of course, have the right to healthcare on the same terms as anyone else.

"Except, right now, they do not when it comes to starting a family."

Health minister Maria Caulfied said: "He absolutely raises an important point. And last year we asked the advisory committee on the safety of blood and tissues to reconsider this.

"They set up a working group in June last year to look at this very specific issue, and we expect their recommendations this month.

"And we will take them very seriously and swiftly once we have their advice."


Yousaf urged to 'hold his nerve' on UK's first deposit return scheme

Environmental campaigners are calling on Scotland's first minister to "hold his nerve" and press ahead with the UK's first deposit return scheme.

Humza Yousaf has insisted the plans for the scheme in Scotland are in "grave danger" after the UK government ruled the environmental initiative could only go ahead without glass bottles included in it.

Mr Yousaf and members of his cabinet are to consider whether to press ahead with the scheme when they meet on Tuesday.

Campaigners insist ditching the initiative - which would see a 20p deposit charged on drinks in cans and bottles, with the money returned when empty containers are brought back for recycling - would only benefit big businesses.

Westminster has insisted it would only grant a limited exemption to the Scottish scheme from the UK Internal Market Act - with this needed as the scheme north of the border comes in ahead of similar plans for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr Yousaf said without a full exemption - which would allow DRS to include glass bottles as well as plastic bottles and cans - the UK government was "in danger of sinking this scheme in its entirety".

He has called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to allow the scheme to go ahead with glass bottles in it.


ICYMI: Starmer vows to avoid 'mistakes' of coal mine closures in green energy shift

Sir Keir Starmer has said he would not repeat the mistakes which "decimated" coal mining communities in the 1980s with his plan to phase out new oil and gas drilling.

The Labour leader pledged to work with unions to "seize the opportunities" of green energy to prevent mass job losses.

During a Q&A at the GMB Congress, it was put to him that his plan to end new oil and gas extraction was "a threat to Scottish jobs and UK energy security".

But the Labour leader said: "I want to be absolutely clear: oil and gas are going to be part of the mix for decades to come, into the 2050s."

You can read more from Sky News below:


Who replaced Theresa May? ›

She left office on 24 July and was succeeded by Boris Johnson, her former Foreign Secretary. May is viewed unfavourably in historical rankings and public opinion of British prime ministers.

How long was Theresa May prime minister of Britain? ›

Theresa Mary, Lady May (/təˈriːzə/; née Brasier; born 1 October 1956) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 2016 to 2019.

Who is shortest serving prime minister? ›

Shortest term

Liz Truss holds the record for the shortest unequivocal term of office, at 49 days. She was appointed by Elizabeth II at Balmoral Castle on 6 September 2022, and officially resigned as prime minister to Charles III at Buckingham Palace on 25 October 2022.

What was the downfall of Theresa May? ›

The problem for May wasn't just that British politics has been deadlocked for the best part of three years, but that she repeatedly engineered ways to erode her own authority. By the time she accepted her number was up, she had lost the confidence of MPs, members of her own party and even her own Cabinet.

What is Theresa May's husband called? ›

Sir Philip John May (born 18 September 1957) is an English investment manager.

Who is the longest serving prime minister so far? ›

List of prime ministers by length of term
No.NameLength of term
Longest continuous term
1Jawaharlal Nehru16 years, 286 days
2Indira Gandhi11 years, 59 days
3Manmohan Singh10 years, 4 days
12 more rows

Who is the longest serving head of state? ›

The longest reign of any Non-Disputed Monarch was those of Abd al-Muttalib who was the Lord of Quraysh in present-day Saudi Arabia but he was only a Lord and of a Low Rank. Raja Sawai Basavalinga I Rajendra Udaiyer who ruled over as the Raja of Sundem (Portuguese India) for 80 Years between 1763 and 15 May 1843.

Who is the oldest prime minister? ›

He was honoured with the highest civilian award of Pakistan, the Nishan-e-Pakistan on 19 May 1990. He is the oldest person to hold the office of prime minister, at the age of 81, in the history of Indian politics.

Who is the youngest world leader? ›

Since 1900, the youngest serving state leader has been 192-day-old Fuad II, King of Egypt (left), while the oldest has been 96-year-old Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms (right).

Who is the best British prime minister? ›

Winston Churchill is generally considered one of the greatest prime ministers for his leadership during the Second World War. Clement Attlee, who served as Labour Leader for over 20 years, is almost always very highly rated among prime ministers.

Has Liz Truss resigned? ›

Liz Truss has resigned as prime minister and will step down after a week-long emergency contest to find her successor, she has announced outside Downing Street.

What happened to Liz Truss? ›

LONDON — The rapid political collapse of Liz Truss ended as she announced her resignation on Thursday, a little more than six weeks after she became Britain's leader. Her agenda had floundered, her own party had turned on her and commentators widely speculated on whether she could outlast a head of lettuce.

Why did Liz Truss resign? ›

In the days leading up to her resignation, Truss conceded that she had made mistakes in going “too far and too fast” with her economic reforms. But perhaps the biggest mistake Truss made was in assuming that growth was Britons' main priority.

Who was prime minister when Theresa May resigned? ›

Lastly, Theresa May herself resigned on 24 July 2019, with Boris Johnson being appointed Prime Minister by Queen Elizabeth II shortly after.

Who was the last Labour prime minister? ›

Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair KG (born 6 May 1953) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007.

Why was Margaret Thatcher known as the Iron Lady? ›

As prime minister, she implemented economic policies that became known as Thatcherism. A Soviet journalist dubbed her the "Iron Lady", a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style.

Who was the former female prime minister of England? ›

Theresa May served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 2016 and 2019.

Did Theresa May support Brexit? ›

Like Cameron, May had campaigned to remain, but in office she became a champion of Brexit. “Brexit means Brexit” became her mantra — a meaningless one, said her detractors, as it emerged that undoing 45 years of ties with the bloc would be a fraught and complex process.

Has any prime minister ever resigned? ›

1955 – Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (5 April), resigned due to poor health but remained in the House of Commons.

How many prime ministers have resigned? ›

How long were they Prime Minister? Twelve UK Prime Ministers have resigned since the start of the 20th century – including Boris Johnson. Neville Chamberlain (Conservative) famously resigned after the outbreak of the Second World War. He was PM for three years, from 1937 to 1940.


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