ANGELA Constance has been elected unopposed to become the new convener of the SNP backbench group in Holyrood.

First elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2007, the Almond Valley MSP takes over in the role with immediate effect from Bruce Crawford, who is to stand down as MSP for Stirling ahead of next year’s election.

Constance will chair the weekly group meeting of SNP MSPs and act as the main point of contact between backbenchers and the First Minister and her Government.

In her role, Constance will be expected to assess the mood among SNP backbenchers over Scottish Government policies and legislation.

Backbenchers can play an influential role in shaping government policy. Last month concerns were raised by SNP MSPs at group meetings over the part-time or blended model for pupils to go back to school after the summer following concerns from parents.

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It is believed their input helped bring about the change in favour of a full-time return of pupils to schools in August. Constance will also liaise between Holyrood backbenchers, the SNP group at Westminster and party headquarters.

SNP MSP Stuart McMillan takes over from Sandra White as the group’s vice-convener, while Clare Adamson will remain as the group’s secretary. 

Constance told The National: “It is a great honour to be elected by my MSP colleagues as convener of the SNP Parliamentary Group at Holyrood. I look forward to working with all my parliamentary colleagues as we continue to serve our constituents, pursue the best interests of the nation and build the case for Independence.

“I want to pay tribute to the departing convener and vice-convener, Bruce Crawford MSP and Sandra White MSP, for their many years of dedicated service to the group and to welcome Stuart McMillan MSP to his new role as vice-convener and to Clare Adamson MSP who will continue as group secretary.”

Constance served as the cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities from May 2016 to June 2018 and as education secretary from 2014 to 2016.

She stood as a candidate for the deputy leadership of the SNP in the party’s 2014 contest but lost out to Stewart Hosie.

Constance is a member of the Holyrood committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee and the Finance and Constitution Committee.