Flynn victory raises power stakes with Sturgeon
Stephen Flynn, the MP for Aberdeen South, was elected to lead the SNP in Westminster tonight in what is seen as a potential challenge to party leader Nicola Sturgeon.
Mr Flynn, who will have Mhairi Black as his deputy, is expected to demand Ms Sturgeon gives the 44 Westminster MPs more say over the party’s policies and strategy.
He is said to be frustrated by the party’s opposition to more oil and gas exploration and was instrumental in forcing Ian Blackford to step down in behind-the-scenes manoeuvres that angered the First Minister who tried to stop the election.
His victory could further weaken Ms Sturgeon who was wounded after the Supreme Court ruled that she could not call another independence referendum without Westminster’s approval.
Some in the party say she has led the the movement down a political cul-de-sac. Many are unhappy at her plan to use the next general election as a “de facto” independence referendum.
In a vote in the Commons tonight, Mr Flynn defeated Alison Thewliss, a close ally of Ms Sturgeon, with Stuart McDonald as her deputy. Failure to get her favoured candidate elected was seen as another blow to the party leader.
Mr Flynn, 34, has only been an MP since the 2019 general election, having previously led the SNP group on Aberdeen City Council. He will be thrust into his first battle with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at PMQs on Wednesday.
Mr Flynn’s appointment comes just two weeks after he denied rumours that he would contest the leadership, following speculation in news articles he was “mounting a coup” against Mr Blackford.
He seized his opportunity influence party policy after Mr Blackford announced last week that he would not seek re-election at today’s AGM after five years in the role. He will take on a new role trying to win the support of the business community to independence. Ms Black, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire, succeeds Kirsten Oswald.
Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said: “The election of Mr Flynn as SNP group leader may be a two finger salute to Nicola Sturgeon but it is also the act of a desperate group.
“Nicola Sturgeon tried to stop this but not only failed in that, she then subsequently didn’t get her candidate elected.”
Mr Flynn made his top priority “Scotland’s interests and our democratic right to decide our future in an independence referendum”.
On his election, he said: “Families across Scotland are paying a devastating price under Westminster control, with Brexit, austerity cuts and the Tory cost of living crisis hammering household budgets.
“SNP MPs will work harder than ever to hold the Tory government to account – and make the case that independence is the essential route to safety, fairness and prosperity for Scotland.
“I would like to thank Alison Thewliss and Stuart McDonald who are both hugely talented MPs and will continue to play a key role in our movement.
“I would also like to pay tribute to Ian Blackford MP and Kirsten Oswald MP, who have been a fantastic leadership team and will be welcome sources of advice as we move forward together.”
Mhairi Black MP added: “Westminster is failing Scotland. With the Tories and Labour Party both w