Ian Blackford
Official portrait of Rt Hon Ian Blackford MP crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2020
Leader of the Scottish National Party
in the House of Commons
Assumed office
14 June 2017
DeputyKirsty Blackman
Kirsten Oswald
LeaderNicola Sturgeon
Preceded byAngus Robertson
Member of Parliament
for Ross, Skye and Lochaber
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded byCharles Kennedy
Majority9,443 (23.7%)
Personal details
Born (1961-05-14) 14 May 1961 (age 61)
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Political partyScottish National Party
Spouse(s)
Ann Yeoman
(m. 2002)
Websitewww.ianblackford.scot

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 in 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.

Early life

Blackford was born in Edinburgh and educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh.[1][2][3]

Early career

Banking and business

Blackford worked as an analyst with NatWest Securities,[4] before moving to a managerial role. The company was bought by BT Alex. Brown, and Blackford was a managing director.[5] After further integration into Deutsche Bank AG in 1999, Blackford ran Deutsche Bank's equity operations in Scotland and the Netherlands.[6] Following 20 years in the financial industry, he left to do independent consultancy work, forming an investor relations company called First Seer in 2002.[7]

In 2005, Blackford joined the Dutch food and biochemicals company CSM as an investor relations manager.[8] He was appointed non-executive chairman of the Edinburgh-based telecommunications firm Commsworld in 2006,[9] having joined the board as a non-executive director in 2005.[7][10] He is a trustee at the Golden Charter Trust.[11] In 2013, he helped explain the business case for not closing a primary school in Milngavie when East Dunbartonshire Council had proposed closure.[12] Blackford was the chairman of Commsworld plc, a telecoms company, until 2019.[13] The sale of the business to Lloyds Development Capital at this time is reported to have made Blackford a seven-figure sum.[14]

Glendale Trust

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.[15] Under his chairmanship, support was secured for establishing a heritage centre in 2010.[16] He had also been a member of the FlySkye group, campaigning to bring commercial air services back to Skye.[17][18]

Political career

Early political career

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[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] However, the limits for expenditure which he set were not adhered to.[22] 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.[23][24] 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'."[24]

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."[24]

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.[25] 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.[26][27] Blackford has also suggested that a zero rate of capital gains tax could help Scotland to attract investment.[28]

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.[29] He was the author of a report which had explored options for the banking sector in Scotland, had the country voted to become independent.[30]

Election

In January 2015, it was announced that Blackford would be the SNP candidate for Ross, Skye and Lochaber at the 2015 general election.[31] 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.[32] Liberal Democrats accused Blackford of dog whistling about Kennedy's struggles with alcoholism.[33] Leaflets were distributed telling voters "Why bottle it? Make a Change!",[34] however, the SNP denied responsibility for their distribution and condemned them.[35] Former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell labelled the campaign, "far and away the most despicable I encountered in all my years in UK politics."[35] 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.[36] He received 20,119 votes and 48.1% of the vote, defeating Kennedy by 5,124 votes.[37]

Blackford was re-elected in 2017 with a smaller share of the vote but an increased majority.[38]

Other interests

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 the house belonging to the "simple crofter" was valued at somewhere in the region of half a million pounds.[39]

In addition to his work as a MP, Blackford has also worked part-time for funeral planners Golden Charter Trust Limited.[40] Between April 2020 and March 2021 he was paid £38,967 by the company;[40] from December 2015 to April 2020, he was paid £3,000 per month by Golden Charter Trust.[41] In September 2020 Blackford announced that his association with the company would end in a “timely manner” in March 2021.[42] 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.[43][44]

He employs his stepson as a Senior Caseworker.[40][45] 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."[45]

SNP Westminster leader

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.[46] On 19 July he was appointed a member of the Privy Council.[47] 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".[citation needed]

Blackford announced his revised frontbench team on 7 January 2020, following the 2019 General Election.[citation needed]

PMQs

Since becoming leader of the SNP at Westminster Blackford has had a weekly slot at Prime Minister's Questions which he has used to quiz first Theresa May and then Boris Johnson on the issues of the day.

His contributions in the Commons are often greeted with theatrical groans from Conservative MPs - many of whom leave as soon as he gets to his feet.[48][49]

Perhaps his most notable intervention came on 13 June 2018 when he 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 [was] 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.[50][51][52]

Mishandling of Harassment Complaint

In April 2021, an SNP staff member complained about Blackford's handling of a sexual harassment allegation regarding SNP MP Patrick Grady.[53] The man alleged that after reporting the incident, Blackford invited him to an "ambush" meeting at which Grady was present, and where he claims he felt obliged to accept an apology from Grady. Blackford denies the meeting occurred as described.[54][55] The SNP stated it would be investigated.

In June 2022, a video emerged of Blackford encouraging SNP MPs to provide Grady with "full support"[56] after being suspended from the House of Commons for two-days[57] for his unwanted sexual advance to a junior SNP colleague in 2016.[58] This comment was met with backlash from across the political spectrum and Blackford faced calls to resign.[59]

Ejection from Partygate debate

On 31 January 2022, Blackford was ordered to withdraw from the House of Commons for the remainder of the sitting day, by the Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, under Standing Order 43 (grossly disorderly conduct), after he repeatedly stated that Boris Johnson had misled the House in a debate on Partygate, and refused to qualify his remarks to state that the misleading was "inadvertent".[60][61]

Personal life

Blackford is married to Ann Yeoman.[3] He is a supporter of Hibernian F.C.[62]

References

  1. ^ "Ian Blackford". Scottish National Party. 4 September 2018.
  2. ^ "Results of by-elections to the 52nd United Kingdom Parliament". election.demon.co.uk. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b Blackford, Rt Hon. Ian, (born 1961), PC 2017; MP (SNP) Ross, Skye and Lochaber, since 2015. WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u283913. ISBN 978-0-19-954088-4. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  4. ^ Bagli, Charles V. (24 June 1997). "Reed Elsevier Is Purchasing Disney Unit for $447 Million". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  5. ^ Bain, Simon (19 September 1998). "Defectors launch rival firm". The Herald. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  6. ^ "Bankers dismiss independence fears". The Courier. 13 September 2014. Archived from the original on 22 January 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Executive Profile: Ian Blackford". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  8. ^ Human, Tim (10 January 2012). "iPad winner puts tablet to work". IR Magazine. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  9. ^ "Commsworld heads towards expansion after turnover rise". The Scotsman. 6 February 2006. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Telecoms company's success is more than just talk". The Scotsman. 23 August 2005. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  11. ^ "About us". Golden Charter Trust. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Bearsden traders warn that schools closure could be catastrophic". Milngavie & Bearsden Herald. Johnston Press. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  13. ^ "LDC funding deal triggers board reshuffle at Edinburgh-headquartered Commsworld". The Scotsman. 17 September 2019.
  14. ^ "SNP Westminster leader 'owes £1m windfall to Boris Johnson'". The Herald Scotland. Glasgow. 17 December 2019.
  15. ^ "Glendale Trust may take over Meanish Pier on Skye". BBC News. BBC. 15 May 2012.
  16. ^ "Trust aims to tell tale of crofters' victory in new heritage centre". The Scotsman. 10 January 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  17. ^ "Flights to and from Skye could start in 2014 group says". BBC News. 6 June 2013.
  18. ^ MacKenzie, Keith (17 April 2015). "Skye air service campaigners to meet CAA". West Highland Free Press. Archived from the original on 17 April 2015.
  19. ^ "Special Report: Paisley by election. Low-key campaign in Paisley after Labour MP's suicide". BBC News. 4 November 1997.
  20. ^ Ritchie, Murray (24 September 1999). "Tax and spend image attacked by treasurer". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  21. ^ Bell, Alex; Kemp, Arnold (18 June 2000). "Rivalry rocks the SNP". The Observer. London. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
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  23. ^ Ritchie, Murray (13 June 2000). "Bitter feud puts SNP in turmoil Treasurer threatens to sue party leader for defamation unless Salmond apologises for remarks". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  24. ^ a b c Rhodes, Mandy (4 October 2019). "Exclusive interview: Ian Blackford on the journey from young rebel to SNP Westminster leader". Holyrood Website.
  25. ^ Fraser, Douglas (1 July 2012). "Taking flight to Skye". BBC News.
  26. ^ "Ian Blackford: Could prompt government action have saved HBOS?". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 1 October 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
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  28. ^ Allardyce, Jason (5 May 2013). "Abolish CGT, says former SNP treasurer". The Sunday Times. London. Archived from the original on 17 April 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  29. ^ Peterkin, Tom (21 September 2014). "Former treasurer suggests SNP 'go for Home Rule'". Scotland on Sunday. Edinburgh. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
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  34. ^ @SundayTimesSco (4 April 2021). "EXCL. New details have emerged of the appalling abuse faced by Charles Kennedy in his final election campaign. Incl…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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  49. ^ Webster, Laura (10 May 2022). "Tory caught on microphone sneering 'thank God for that' as SNP MP's speech ends". The National. Glasgow. ISSN 2057-231X. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
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  54. ^ Hutcheon, Paul (18 April 2021). "SNP staffer complains about Ian Blackford over handling of harassment claims". Daily Record. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
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Party political offices Preceded byKenny MacAskill Treasurer of the Scottish National Party 1999–2000 Succeeded byJim Mather Preceded byAngus Robertson Leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons 2017–present Incumbent Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byCharles Kennedy Member of Parliamentfor Ross, Skye and Lochaber 2015–present Incumbent