THE SNP’s new leader at Westminster says his party will only win the debate on the constitution when it can convince Scots voters their “economic future is better as an independent country”.

In one of his first interviews since taking over from Angus Robertson, the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP, Ian Blackford, said that the economic impact of Brexit would be what swings reluctant Scots round to the idea of independence.

“The timing will be determined by circumstances but if we are talking about a hard Brexit, [economics] will be a very considerable factor,” the former banker claimed.

He added: “I do passionately believe we can build an economy in Scotland that has an ability to deliver strong economic growth and be able to deliver fairness.”

Blackford also revealed plans to change how the SNP operates at Westminster, with economy teams to be combined with social justice teams, to make sure the party was delivering a united message.

In another move he has also asked Edinburgh MP Tommy Sheppard to lead for the party at Scottish questions.

In the previous parliament Robertson would ask the questions of the Scotland Office and the Prime Minister. But Blackford will concentrate on tackling Theresa May while Sheppard, who stood for the group leadership but then withdrew, will focus on getting answers from David Mundell.

Kirsty Blackman, the Westminster deputy will also be the main liaison between the SNP group at Westminster and the Scottish Government in Edinburgh.

“It’s as much a change of style as anything else,” Blackford said. He also told the paper he would not shy away from forcing another election if he believed it was in Scotland’s interests.

Scottish Labour said that Blackford’s interview was proof the dream of independence was “truly in tatters”.

Their economy spokesman Jackie Baillie said: “Nicola Sturgeon said separation should transcend the economy – now her leader in Westminster is saying people will only back it if they think it’ll make them richer.

“The awkward truth for the SNP is that independence would cause turbo-charged austerity and leave people in Scotland poorer.”

The SNP established a “growth commission” last year, headed by former MSP Andrew Wilson, to help shape the party’s future economic policy.

In an interview with the BBC Wilson said making North Sea revenues central to the economic arguments for independence ahead of the 2014 referendum had been a mistake. He said any future campaign would need to realistic.