Iain Macwhirter Iain Macwhirter

What does Mhairi Black’s departure mean for the SNP?

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Nicola Sturgeon says she is ‘gutted’ at the decision by the SNP Westminster group’s deputy leader, Mhairi Black, to stand down before the next general election. The MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South told the News Agents podcast that the House of Commons is a ‘toxic workplace’ that has taken a toll on her ‘body and mind’. She also says she is ‘just tired’ and wants to spend more time with her partner Katie, whom she married in 2022.

Black joins a raft of SNP MPs, including the former Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who have decided to abandon Westminster politics in recent months. Also in the departure lounge are MPs Peter Grant, Angela Crawley, Stewart Hosie and Douglas Chapman. The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP Margaret Ferrier also looks to be on the way out, though not by choice. Instead, she had the whip removed for breaking Covid rules during the pandemic and has been suspended by the House of Commons. So all in all, it’s beginning to look like a stampede for the exit. 

Despite her controversial views and her often divisive rhetoric, the SNP leadership regarded Black as a key player, one of the few SNP politicians to have a genuinely youthful following.

Sturgeon, who arguably began the SNP’s parliamentary exodus with her unexpected resignation as First Minister in February, says that she hopes Mhairi Black’s departure from politics is ‘only temporary’. Unkind souls suspect Black may be going before she is pushed out by voters at the next general election and some suspect she may resurface as a candidate for Holyrood in 2026. That is assuming she can withstand the toxicity of Holyrood politics which Sturgeon apparently could not. The former first minister said she was leaving partly because of the ‘brutality’ of Scottish political discourse. 

Labour are jubilant at the announcement of Black’s departure, which they believe is a portent of great gains in the Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat at the next election.

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Written by
Iain Macwhirter

Iain Macwhirter is a former BBC TV presenter and was political commentator for The Herald between 1999 and 2022. He is an author of Road to Referendum and Disunited Kingdom: How Westminster Won a Referendum but Lost Scotland.

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