THE SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has put the party on an “indyref footing” with a new-look frontbench team which he said would provide a “strong opposition” to Boris Johnson’s “extreme” Tory Government.

An indication of that stance came yesterday with frontbench spokespeople renamed as Shadow Ministers, a title usually applied to official opposition spokespeople and not those from the third party.

Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman, the Deputy Westminster Leader, will lead on the constitution in preparation for indyref2 and Mhairi Black joins the frontbench as Shadow Scottish Secretary.

The National:

Alison Thewliss becomes Shadow Chancellor, leading on the economy, as Alyn Smith – a MEP representing Scotland for 15 years in Europe – takes on the role of Shadow Foreign Secretary.

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Dr Philippa Whitford becomes the Shadow Brexit Secretary with the Shadow Culture, Media and Sport role going to former journalist and broadcaster John Nicolson.

Kirsten Oswald is the Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland and Wales, Stuart McDonald the Shadow Attorney General, Anne McLaughlin the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities and frontbench newcomer David Linden, the Shadow Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Joanna Cherry will continue her role as Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Justice Secretary.

Blackford told The National: “It is putting the SNP on an indyref footing – that’s exactly what we’re doing.

“Obviously we’ll do our job here but we have to be communicating between people in constituencies in Scotland and we’ll be communicating internationally as well.

“A lot of these people have responsibilities on committees in the House of Commons, we’ve obviously got responsibilities to interact with governments and diplomats in conjunction with our friends in the government in Edinburgh.

“It’s about making sure that we’re taking the message that Scotland’s future should be as an independent country and the way I’ve deployed the parliamentary group is going to be a considerable help in making sure that we’re efficiently trying to get that message across.”

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Blackford said the new team would be a strong and united opposition, that would stand up for Scotland “in the face of the growing threats of Brexit and an extreme Tory Government”.

The National: Ian Blackford

He added: “I’ve put people into four broad teams. I’ve got Scotland and the World so the coordinator is Stewart Hosie on trade and then Alyn Smith in the FCO, Stewart McDonald in defence, Philippa Whitford in Europe and Chris Law in DfID.

“Add to that Alison Thewliss from the economy team and Drew Hendry for business – that’s a strong, outward-looking team to fully engage with those in Scotland and abroad about the case for Scottish independence and the type of society Scotland should be.”

Blackford said he was delighted to welcome the fresh faces with talent and expertise to the frontbench.

“There’s a lot of talent there. There are two or three who have come back who are known entities. The fact that I’ve got John Nicolson to slot into Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Anne McLaughlin they are going to make a solid contribution, but there are new members as well who have got talent.

“I’ve given responsibility to a number of them, to Stephen Flynn (Treasury), Richard Thomson (business and industry). I’ve given responsibility to Amy Callaghan (pensions and inter-generational spokesperson) and Mhairi Black.

“Our newly-elected MPs will bring a wealth of talent and experience from their careers in our NHS, schools, business, journalism, and international affairs to defend Scotland’s interests and hold the Boris Johnson’s hard-right Government to account.”

Blackford said the SNP had won a landslide victory at the General Election on a mandate for indyref2, while people in Scotland overwhelmingly rejected the Tories. He added: “With the Tory Government intent on dragging Scotland out of the EU against our will and whatever the cost – the democratic right of the people of Scotland to choose our own future must be respected.

“SNP MPs will work hard to stand up for Scotland’s interests and ensure people in Scotland have a say over our future – instead of having it dictated to us by Westminster.”