SNP WESTMINSTER leadership hopeful Alison Thewliss has called for a “unified” team working across Westminster, Holyrood and the Yes movement to deliver Scottish independence.

Speaking to The National ahead of Tuesday’s internal election, the Glasgow Central MP put forward her vision for the role made vacant by Ian Blackford’s sudden resignation.

Blackford announced last week that he wouldn’t be putting himself forward for re-election at the Westminster group’s Annual General Meeting, saying “now is the right time for fresh leadership”.

However, The National understands that Blackford had been defending his position against Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn for several weeks – with the challenger winning support from around 30 of the 44 MPs in the group.

Flynn confirmed his intention to run on Sunday evening.

Thewliss was first elected to Westminster in 2015 and has spent the last two years challenging the UK Government on its support – or as she says, the “lack of” it – during the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis in her role as shadow chancellor.

The MP has also been a vocal campaigner against the Tories’ rape clause policy, as well as asylum and immigration issues.

Her work on this front came with high praise from party insiders. One senior party source said the MP "forensically picks apart Tory policy", particularly on the economy and the consequences of austerity.

"She becomes relentless whenever there’s something to be exposed or an injustice to be fought against," the insider added.

The call for a unified team

Making the decision to run for the role was surprising to Thewliss herself, who told The National it hadn’t been something she’d considered.

“There was no vacancy, Ian’s been doing a great job of holding the UK Government to account for the past five years,” she said. “With the very unexpected decision of him stepping down last week I was thinking and had some people chatting to me and decided that I had something to offer.”

If the MP succeeds in Tuesday’s vote, she is clear that she wants to bring her party together to continue building the case for independence and holding the Tories to account on the rising cost of living.


“I think there’s a lot that the other members of the group can also bring to offer on that,” she told The National. “My intention is to try to use all the talents of the group to its greatest potential.”

She went on: “I think it’s important we do that as a unified team, working together with our colleagues in Holyrood, with the Scottish Government, and across the Yes movement to make sure we’re doing the best that we can to push the case for independence.”

That message came after insiders suggested that installing Flynn as leader would lead to the end of "remote" decision-making from Edinburgh.

A party source said Thewliss has "no interest" in discussions about the need for the group to have more independence from Holyrood.

"The party is only ever at its best when it is united," they said. "She’s not approaching this through the lens of thinking ‘well that person’s in that camp, or that person is in that clique or that person’s of that view’."

Indyref2 'the most pressing issue'

The MP described securing an independence referendum as “the most pressing issue” for the team of SNP representatives in London.

The leadership job is up for grabs just a few weeks after the Supreme Court said Holyrood can’t hold a referendum without the UK Government’s permission, and there are questions on where the SNP, and wider movement, go from here.

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There are months to wait until the party’s special conference on the de-facto referendum plan, but in the mean time the most recent polls show increased support for independence.

“I think there’s only so long the UK Government can hold out with the pretty poor line they’ve been using recently – there’s a very clear mandate for it,” Thewliss argued. “I have to work to continue the work that Ian has done to hold the UK Government to account on that.”

The National: Ian Blackford, SNP Westminster Leader after speaking at the SNP conference at The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA) in Aberdeen , Scotland. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS SNP. Photo credit should read: Andrew

Work outside of Westminster is needed too, she added. “We need to go out on the doorsteps and make the positive message day in day out, and listen to what people in Scotland are saying. We all have a role to play in that.”

Thewliss argued that given the current economic situation, now is the time to push ahead with indyref2 despite calls from opposition parties to put domestic matters first.

The new leader, whoever that ends up being, will be elected the day after Gordon Brown launches his constitutional review – in which he'll call for reform of the UK over Scottish independence.

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"We see really starkly the choices at Westminster," Thewliss said. "The UK Government are heading back to another round of austerity, when people have suffered so heavily from the previous round of cuts.

"We also have both a Conservative Party and a Labour Party wedded to Brexit and to a restrictive immigration regime, both of those things are really holding Scotland back in terms of our economic development, in terms of what we can contribute to the world.

"We need real change that can achieve the powers we need as a nation to grow and to prosper."

As ever with SNP figures going for top Westminster jobs, there was an irony in Thewliss's election bid which she did not shy away from.

“Honestly," she said, "there’s not a day goes by that I want to be going down to London to do this job, I want to be out of the UK Parliament and make sure that we can have our own Parliament in Scotland with all the full range of powers it needs.”