SNP: ‘A lot of grumbles’ says John Boothman
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Nicola Sturgeon’s MPs are said to have grown “bored” under the guidance of Ian Blackford as members of the SNP feel “unappreciated” by their Westminster Leader. Reports have emerged of an internal plot to launch a coup against Mr Blackford with Scottish MP Stephen Flynn tipped to seize control of the Westminster group. The news comes as the Scottish Government is soon to receive a Supreme Court judgement that will decide if the First Minister has the mandate to launch a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Scottish political correspondent for The Times John Boothman reported: “There’s a lot of grumbling within the SNP’s Westminster group.
“Part of that is, I think, they feel a bit bored, they feel a bit unloved and unappreciated by the leadership and Scotland.
“Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t have much contact with the MPs and Scotland has moved down the political agenda.
“Most of all, I think they are all a bit worried about the growth of the Labour Party, even in Scotland.
“Labour are now contenders to win the next election and the next election will be a Westminster election so it will be their seats that are up for grabs.”
Mr Boothman reported the SNP Westminster Leader had come “under pressure” from some of his colleagues within the party.
Ian Blackford has held the position since 2017, but with frustrations in the parliamentary party reportedly close to breaking point, rumours are now stirring of a plot to oust the leader.
The Times correspondent added: “What’s interesting about it is the name in the frame, an MP called Stephen Flynn from the North East – 34 years old – was tipped by Ian Blackford as a rising star within the SNP.”
Mr Flynn is reported to have informed senior party officials of his intention to replace Mr Blackford.
Addressing speculation of a coup within the Westminster Party, Mr Flynn tweeted: “I can confirm I have no intention of standing.”
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Mr Boothman continued: “This possible contest that was signalled by Stephen Flynn, though later he denied this, is something that I think has been in the workings for a number of months.
“It’s not about ideology, there are no great ideological differences in the SNP group at Westminster about the way forward, but more about personalities.
“[They are] unhappy at some of the things and some of the style that Blackford has exemplified.”
He highlighted that some MPs were left dismayed by the manner in which Mr Blackford addressed the allegations of misconduct levelled against his Westminster colleague Patrick Grady.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards later concluded that Mr Grady had breached sexual misconduct policy, although he still sits as an independent MP in the Commons, having revoked his SNP membership.
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The reported coup has arisen at a pivotal time for the SNP as the party awaits a Supreme Court decision on their hopes to hold a second independence referendum without the backing of the Westminster Government.
Mr Boothman noted: “[It is] a bit weird really that all this should happen now. The SNP, you would think, are in quite a good position, or should be, with what has happened with the Tories at Westminster.
“Next week we will get that Supreme Court decision which, if it goes against them, they think they can build on the basis that Scotland is being denied democracy – and, here they are, fighting like ferrets in a sack.”
The Supreme Court will deliver its decision on November 23, having heard arguments in the case last month.
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