DR PHILIPPA Whitford has moved out of her health brief as SNP MPs re-elected Ian Blackford as the party's Westminster leader.

Whitford, a consultant breast surgeon, is to take on an enhanced role as the party's Europe spokesperson in the UK Parliament.

The Belfast-born medic had previously held that role alongside the European brief, but will now hand the health portfolio on to Martyn Day, who had assisted her as public health spokesperson.

The move is set to give her greater capacity to reach out to parliamentary counterparts across the continent.

The news comes as it emerges that Blackford and Kirsten Oswald (below) have been re-elected as the leader and depute leader of the SNP's Westminster group.

The National: Kirsten Oswald, the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster

And it comes after it was confirmed that the SNP-led Scottish Government is to increase its European footprint with new Scotland House hubs in Denmark and Poland. The former will open in Copenhagen in early 2022, while the latter is set to open in Warsaw later in the current parliamentary term, which ends in 2026.

The SNP has continually reiterated its ambition for an independent Scotland to re-enter the European Union.

Whitford, who represents Central Ayrshire, said: "After more than six and a half years in the role, I am grateful to my experienced colleague, Martyn Day, for taking on the role as SNP spokesperson on health and social care at Westminster.

“This will allow me to focus on my brief as Europe spokesperson, which has been rather overshadowed during the last 18 months due to the pandemic.

“I am very much looking forward to contributing more to Scotland’s outreach within Europe."

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Whitford added: "As my SNP colleagues and I work towards a better future for Scotland – as an independent country within the EU – I will use my position to engage positively with citizens, politicians and countries across Europe.”

Joanna Cherry, who left the frontbench in the last reshuffle in February, has not rejoined that team, which has seen very few alterations this time.

Alison Thewliss retains the Treasury brief, while Owen Thomson MP replaces Patrick Grady as chief whip. This follows a complaint to the House of Commons watchdog, the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), by an SNP staffer who has accused the MP of sexual harassment.

Meanwhile, Brendan O'Hara replaces Stewart Hosie as shadow minister for the Cabinet Office. However, the Dundee East MP will continue to coordinate the group's constitution and human rights team.

Alyn Smith, Stewart McDonald and Drew Hendry keep their frontbench responsibilities for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, defence and international trade respectively, with Anum Qaisar (below) also picking up a trade role.

The National: Anum Qaisar-Javed

Stephen Flynn MP was reappointed as the party's lead on business, energy and industrial strategy, as was Gavin Newlands for transport and David Linden for work and pensions.

Carol Monaghan keeps her responsibility for education, armed forces and veterans, with Oswald still leading on women and equalities and Stuart McDonald retained as shadow home secretary.

Mhairi Black has been reappointed to the Scotland Office brief, with Anne McLaughlin still in place on immigration and justice. John Nicolson was reappointed to cover culture and media and Patricia Gibson kept on for housing and local government.

Deidre Brock is reappointed to cover the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with Richard Thomson continuing to cover Northern Ireland.

Chris Law is returned to international development and Angela Crawley resumes her role as shadow Attorney General. Pete Wishart continues as shadow leader of the House of Commons and Alan Brown keeps responsibility for energy and climate change.

Commenting, Blackford said: “I am delighted that myself and Kirsten have been re-elected as the SNP’s Westminster Leader and Westminster Depute Leader, respectively.

“We will continue to work hard - with the talented and experienced MPs we have in our SNP Westminster group - to hold the UK Government to account, protect Scotland during the pandemic, and when the time is right, deliver independence.

“I am pleased that Dr Philippa Whitford has accepted an enhanced role as Europe spokesperson and will play a crucial role as we engage with European colleagues and prepare for independence. I look forward to continuing to work with her as our Europe spokesperson as we cement Scotland’s place in Europe.

"We have an incredibly hard-working group of MPs and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them again for their commitment during these challenging times."