|Leader of the Scottish National Party|
in the House of Commons
|Assumed office |
14 June 2017
|Preceded by||Angus Robertson|
|Member of Parliament|
for Ross, Skye and Lochaber
|Assumed office |
7 May 2015
|Preceded by||Charles Kennedy|
|Born||14 May 1961|
|Political party||Scottish National Party|
Ian Blackford (born 14 May 1961) is a Scottish politician serving as Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the House of Commons since 2017. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ross, Skye and Lochaber since 2015.
Originally from Edinburgh, he previously worked as an investment banker and has been involved with various business ventures since. He was the national treasurer of the SNP from 1999 to 2000. Blackford has been the SNP Westminster Leader since Angus Robertson lost his seat at the 2017 snap general election.
Blackford was born in Edinburgh and educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh.
Blackford worked as an analyst with NatWest Securities, before moving to a managerial role. The company was bought by BT Alex. Brown, and Blackford became the managing director. After further integration into Deutsche Bank AG in 1999, Blackford ran Deutsche Bank's equity operations in Scotland and the Netherlands. Following 20 years in the financial industry, he left to do independent consultancy work, forming an investor relations company called First Seer in 2002.
In 2005, Blackford joined the Dutch food and biochemicals company CSM as an investor relations manager. He was appointed non-executive chairman of the Edinburgh-based telecommunications firm Commsworld in 2006, having joined the board as a non-executive director in 2005. He is a trustee at the Golden Charter Trust. In 2013, he helped explain the business case for not closing a primary school in Milngavie when East Dunbartonshire Council had proposed closure. Blackford is the chair of Commsworld plc, a telecoms company, and a millionaire. He is a supporter of Hibernian F.C.
He was previously the chairman of the Glendale Trust, an organisation responsible for a community-owned estate on Skye, which made an approach to Highland Council to bring a historic pier under community control. Under his chairmanship, support was secured for establishing a heritage centre in 2010. He had also been a member of the FlySkye group, campaigning to bring commercial air services back to Skye.
Blackford stood as the SNP candidate for the Ayr constituency at the 1997 general election, but lost to Sandra Osborne of the Labour Party.
Later during the same year, he stood as the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate in the Paisley 1997 by-election but again he was unsuccessful; the contest had the lowest turnout at a by-election in Scotland for thirty years.
Blackford had been treasurer of the SNP and during this time he began to be viewed as a critic of the party leader, Alex Salmond. Blackford was removed from the post in 2000 via a vote of no confidence, after he had tried to impose financial controls to tackle the party's overdraft. However, the limits for expenditure which he set were not adhered to. Blackford's reputedly hard line over financial matters had led to a breakdown of trust between him and the national executive and at one point he even threatened to sue party leader, Alex Salmond, for defamation. A profile in Holyrood magazine opined that, "Blackford’s mistake was firstly, in underestimating the popularity of Salmond and the size of his power base and secondly, in committing the cardinal sin of washing the party’s dirty washing in public and not keeping it ‘within the family’."
His opinion of Salmond mellowed after his election to Westminster and in 2018 he said: "I don’t hate Alex. He has been instrumental in getting us to where we are today... So we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Alex.”
Blackford has argued for better telecommunication infrastructure for rural areas, noting that video-conferencing is one way of overcoming travel time and in the absence of air links. Following the Financial crisis of 2007–2008 he has made calls for Scotland to have its own financial regulator, to protect society from irresponsible practices. Blackford has also suggested that a zero rate of capital gains tax could help Scotland to attract investment.
Following the electorate's decision to reject independence at the referendum on 18 September 2014, Blackford argued that Scotland should consider the constitutional change offered by the main unionist parties. He was the author of a report which had explored options for the banking sector in Scotland, had the country voted to become independent.
In January 2015, it was announced that Blackford would be the SNP candidate for Ross, Skye and Lochaber at the 2015 general election. The campaign attracted national attention because of its acrimony; Blackford objected to being called a “well-funded banker” and confronted incumbent MP Charles Kennedy in his office. Liberal Democrats accused the Blackford of dog whistling about Kennedy's struggles with alcoholism. Leaflets were distributed telling voters "Why bottle it? Make a Change!", however, the SNP denied responsibility for their distribution and condemned them. Former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell labelled the campaign, "far and away the most despicable I encountered in all my years in UK politics." However, Blackford said he was "proud" of the campaign and claimed there was “absolutely no issue” between himself and Kennedy before his death in June 2015. He received 20,119 votes and 48.1% of the vote, defeating Kennedy by 5,124 votes.
He was re-elected in 2017 with a smaller share of the vote but an increased majority.
Blackford, an investment banker, described himself as "just a simple crofter with 10 acres" in the 2018 Westminster Budget debate. He was mocked by other MPs, with Anna Soubry remarking that "apparently his small, simple croft is valued at somewhere in the region of half a million pounds".
In addition to his work as a MP, Blackford has also worked part-time for funeral planners Golden Charter Trust Limited. Between April 2020 and March 2021 he was paid £38,967 by the company. In September 2020 Blackford announced that his association with the company would end in a “timely manner” in March 2021. He previously earned an additional £1,000 a month serving as chairman of Commsworld - a telecoms business in which he owned circa £70,000 worth of shares.
He employs his stepson as a Senior Caseworker. After his stepson was awarded a £7,500 pay rise, the issue of MPs hiring their relatives was the subject of a leader comment in The Scotsman: "But the issue here is the inference of nepotism. While Ian Blackford may be within his rights to raise his relative’s wages, the practice of hiring relations has to come to an end because it does nothing to dissuade a distrusting public that MPs - post expenses scandal - only ever look out for themselves."
He was re-elected at the 2017 general election. On 14 June 2017, he was elected as leader of the SNP Westminster Group, succeeding Angus Robertson who had lost his seat. On 19 July he was appointed a member of the Privy Council. Additionally, he has served as a member of the secret Intelligence and Security Committee, which scrutinises the work of Britain's intelligence agencies. On 25 April 2019 it was reported that he had "stood down" from this role, to be "replaced by Stewart Hosie".
Blackford announced his revised frontbench team on 7 January 2020, following the 2019 General Election.
During the 13 June 2018 session of Prime Minister's Questions, Blackford was ejected from the House of Commons. Almost all sitting Scottish National Party MPs chose to walk out of the House of Commons. Blackford had raised a question to Prime Minister Theresa May regarding the issues of no Scottish MP being given time to debate the Scotland-related areas of the EU Withdrawal Bill the previous night (when an English MP filibustered to prevent Scottish MPs from speaking) and also wanting the chamber to immediately have a vote on the motion to sit in private. Blackford was irate in asking the question and was instructed numerous times by Speaker John Bercow to resume his seat so the Prime Minister could answer his question. Blackford refused to do this, claiming that "Scotland's voice not being heard". Eventually, Bercow used Standing Order 42 to eject Blackford from the chamber, which Blackford complied with, followed by almost every SNP MP. This was the first time that any such incident as this had ever occurred during Prime Minister's Questions as well as the House of Commons. The incident was broadcast on live television on the BBC and Sky News.
Blackford is married to Ann Yeoman.