STEWART McDonald MP has resigned from the SNP's frontbench team in Westminster.

He has served as the party's Westminster defence spokesperson for five and a half years.

It comes after Stephen Flynn was chosen as the party's Westminster leader – with Pete Wishart also resigning from the frontbench earlier on Thursday.

Revealing his resignation, McDonald said: “After five and a half years as the SNP’s spokesperson for defence I have taken the decision to step back from the frontbench team.

“Being the SNP’s defence spokesperson is one of the toughest roles in the party, but one I embraced with enthusiasm and have loved every minute of. I want to thank my friend, Ian Blackford, for the opportunity to take on the defence brief and for the active support he showed me throughout.

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“Defence and security policy were never particularly easy or urgent for my party. I have sought to change that by going beyond our normal comfort zone, modernising our thinking and normalising discussion about defence.

“This has been driven by solid teamwork, research, and policy development across the huge spectrum that the defence brief covers. I’m proud of the policy work I have done on Nato, a national security strategy, countering disinformation, the armed forces and much more.

“In doing so I have aimed to flesh out what a credible security posture for an independent Scotland should look like and hold the UK Government to account on where it must improve.

"None of this would have been possible without an exceptional team of policy, research and constituency staff. They work hard. They challenge me. They never complain. They always deliver. I owe each of them a great deal of thanks.

“As a party of government that aspires to independence, we must always be a confident and mainstream voice on defence and security. I was determined that we would be an active participant in the constantly evolving security debate in Europe, not least after Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine. These issues remain important to me and, although on the backbenches, I will still contribute to that debate.

“The party today is in a strong position. The latest polling is stunning – even more so when you consider that we are entering our 16th year in government.

“We are at our best when we collaborate as a united party and sell a modern vision of what Scotland can still achieve: a confident case that’s rooted in understanding the challenges of today, offers credible, innovative solutions and builds a coalition of voters behind our ideas.

“I’m sure the new leadership team at Westminster will keep this at the forefront of their mind and work in that spirit across the party.

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“Independence polling is extremely heartening. Our urgent task is to turn our strong position into a meaningful way forward. This requires sober, considered thought, and must engage fellow Scots who may not share our desired outcomes. There are no shortcuts. Getting it right will be a defining moment for our cause.

“There are many views about how we progress. In the finest traditions of the Scottish National Party. I look forward to actively engaging in what I know will be a robust, respectful and well-informed debate as we approach the special conference next year.

“I congratulate Stephen and Mhairi on their election. Both have my full and unequivocal support.”

McDonald was voted as the SNP's Parliamentarian of the Year at the party's St Andrew's Day dinner last month, just days after being named as the "Best Scot at Westminster" at The Herald’s Scottish Politician of the Year awards.