Stephen Flynn has been named as the new leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, replacing Ian Blackford.
The MP for Aberdeen South defeated Alison Thewliss for the top job at the SNP’s AGM on Tuesday and will face Rishi Sunak at Prime Minister’s Questions less than 24 hours later.
Mr Flynn’s deputy will be Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP Mhairi Black – who takes over from Kirsten Oswald.
Following the announcement, Mr Flynn said in a statement: “Under my leadership, SNP MPs will be relentlessly focused on standing up for Scotland’s interests and our democratic right to decide our future in an independence referendum.
“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.”
Flynn triumphs in bloodless coup
In the end, it was a bloodless coup. Stephen Flynn defeated Alison Thewliss in the election for the SNP’s Westminster leader by 26 votes to 17 and – in public, at least – all was sweetness and light.
Speaking to Sky News alongside his new deputy Mhairi Black immediately after his election, Mr Flynn paid a warm tribute to his predecessor, Ian Blackford, just a few weeks after attempting to oust him for being Nicola Sturgeon’s yes man in Westminster.
A fortnight ago, Mr Blackford was claiming he’d seen off the Flynn coup. But after it became clear last week that he hadn’t and the “humble crofter” who’s really an ex-banker announced his resignation, it’s claimed Ms Sturgeon persuaded her ally Ms Thewliss to stand against Mr Flynn.
In the hours leading up the SNP group’s AGM, there were claims that the election was “nip and tuck” and that the First Minister – or “the FM”, as her loyal acolytes call her – had been “hitting the phones” urging MPs to back Ms Thewliss.
The first claim turned out to be wildly inaccurate and the second was hotly denied by senior SNP MPs, even though one leading Thewliss supporter mistakenly told Sky News when voting was already underway; “It’s close.”
Ms Black MP added: “Westminster is failing Scotland.
“With the Tories and Labour Party both wedded to Brexit, austerity cuts and democracy denial, it’s clearer than ever that independence is the only way to escape the damage of Westminster control and get Scotland back on the path to prosperity.”
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon congratulated the “formidable team” elected to lead her party at Westminster.
In a tweet minutes after the result was announced, the first minister wrote: “Congratulations to new @theSNP Westminster leader @StephenFlynnSNP and deputy leader @MhairiBlack – a truly formidable team.
“Looking forward to working with them both.”
Mr Flynn replaces Ian Blackford who held the role for over five years, but announced his exit last week.
Mr Blackford, who will remain an MP and take on a new role at the centre of the SNP’s independence campaign, said it was “the right time for fresh leadership at Westminster as we head towards a general election and the next steps in winning Scotland’s independence”.
However, SNP sources told Sky News the move was “a long time coming” amid reports of a coup against him – rumours rejected by Ms Sturgeon.
Questioned after his resignation, Mr Blackford avoided directly answering whether he had been pushed out.
Instead he said Ms Sturgeon had asked him to be her business ambassador and said the fight for Scottish independence is “moving into a new phase”.