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Ian Blackford ‘didn’t know about SNP motorhome’

The former SNP Westminster leader says he 'knew nothing' about a £100k motorhome seized from outside the Dunfermline home of former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell's mother.

Ian Blackford and former SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon
SNP MP Ian Blackford with former first minister Nicola Sturgeon. Image: PA

Ian Blackford has insisted he knew nothing about a motorhome seized by police probing SNP finances until he learned about it in the media.

The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP said he first heard about the motorhome – taken by police from outside Nicola Sturgeon’s mother-in-law’s home in Dunfermline – after reading media coverage.

Quizzed as part of the Times Radio’s “exit interviews” with MPs standing down at the next election, he discussed the ongoing probe into what happened to party funds meant for a second referendum.

SNP motorhome seized by police
A similar motorhome to the one seized by police. Image: Niesmann and Bischoff

Asked about the £100k campervan, he said: “I’ve seen everything that’s been reported, but the first I knew about the campervan was when it appeared in news stories a few week ago.

He refused to say if he was “confident” the party was being run properly under Ms Sturgeon and husband Peter Murrell – who served as chief executive of the party.

“There’s a police investigation so let’s get to the end of that. It’s fair to say that what Humza [Yousaf] has recognised was that there needed to be a review of corporate governance,” he said.

Alex Salmond ‘yesterday’s man’

Summing up SNP leaders he had worked under in one word, Mr Blackford described Alex Salmond as “Marmite”, while saying Ms Sturgeon was a “born leader”.

Mr Blackford said that Mr Salmond, who leads the Alba party, should “recognise his time is past”.

Asked if he liked Mr Salmond, he said: “I respect Alex’s achievements. I think it’s fair to say Alba haven’t really made any kind of electoral impact.”

But he insisted the same is not true of Nicola Sturgeon after she quit as First Minister, he said, comparing the MSP to former Conservative prime minister Theresa May.

“[Nicola Sturgeon] is a very dear friend and I’m very proud of what she has done as First Minister of Scotland. I think history will judge her well.”

‘Big job’ ahead for Nicola Sturgeon

On Ms Sturgeon’s future, he added: “Theresa May is a very effective member of parliament [and] works hard for her constituents. She has decided she wants to stay in Westminster. Everyone has to make their mind up about how they can best play a part.

“Nicola is a relatively young woman, and there’s no doubt that whether it’s in serving the cause of the SNP or Scottish independence, or something else, there’s still a big job in somewhere.

“What that is, let’s wait and see.”

Mr Blackford faced off with four Conservative prime minsters during question in the commons while he was group leader.

“I enjoyed Prime Minister’s Questions and being combative with whoever was there. They were all different.

SNP MP Ian Blackford engaged in discussion with Boris Johnson.
Ian Blackford regularly clashed with Boris Johnson. Image: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament

“I found Boris Johnson very frustrating because of the way he saw prime minster and how he behaved.”

He referred to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, who were poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury in March 2018 while Theresa May was prime minister.

“When that happened, myself and the leader of the Labour Party were brought in and you’d see the national security adviser and all the information would be shared with you.

“That privilege, if you want to call it that, stopped when Theresa May stopped being prime minister.

He said he and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer recieved no intelligence briefing about the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Theresa May delivers a speech outside Downing Street.
Ian Blackford said he stopped being given intelligence briefings when Theresa May left Downing Street. Image: PA

“We were excluded from the information necessary to be able to perform the job you need to do.

“I found that difficult to comes to terms with, because there are times you need to work together,” he added.

Mr Blackford joined the SNP in the 1970s, before quitting to join the Labour Party and returning to the nationalist fold again several years later.

He announced he would stand down at the next election in June after first being elected to represent Ross, Skye and Lochaber in 2015.

‘There’s something special about representing the Highlands and Islands’

Speaking about his time in Westminster, he said: “I’ve loved being a member of parliament for a Highlands and Islands seat. There’s something special about representing people from such a broad area.

“I wanted to be a member of parliament when I was a teenager, it was almost a life ambition.

“I only came into parliament in 2015, but I felt as we’re coming into the SNP selection contest that it was right I signalled my intent to stand down at the next election to give the opportunity for others to come forward.”

On his decision to step down as group leader, Mr Blackford said there was likely to have been a challenge to his leadership had he stayed on.

But he said he thought had he stood again, SNP MPs would have re-elected him.

“I recognise there were a number of MPs who quite frankly wanted my backside off the front bench.”

Once he leaves elected office, Blackford said he hoped there would be things in public life where he could use his talents.

“We’ll wait and see.”