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Mhairi Black to stand down as an MP at general election

Mhairi Black is currently the SNP's deputy Westminster leader | Credit: Alamy

Mhairi Black to stand down as an MP at general election

Mhairi Black, the SNP's deputy leader at Westminster, has said she will stand down at the next general election.

Black, 28, described Westminster as a “toxic environment” that had taken a toll on her “body and mind”.

The Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP made her comments in an interview with The News Agents podcast.

Speaking to former BBC journalist Emily Maitlis, she described the environment as “toxic” and said the way that the parliament functions is the “opposite of everything I find comfortable”.

She is the sixth member of the SNP to announce their intention to step down at the next election.

Questioned over her use of the word “toxic”, Black affirmed her use of language saying that it is “a poisonous place”. Giving her reasoning, she said: “Whether that’s because of what folk can get away with or the number of personal motivations, and folk having alterative motives for things. 

“It is just not a nice place to be in.” 

Black was clear that she trusts her colleagues, but that it is hard to know “if people from other parties are talking to you because there is a genuine relationship or whether they are looking for opportunities”. She also cited the “unsociable hours” at Westminster. 

Reflecting on almost a decade as MP, Black said having spent a third of her life at Westminster gives her the “ick”.  

Asked by Maitlis whether being elected at 20 years-old and missing out on part of her youth was part of the reasoning behind her decision, Black said she had no regret spending that period of her life “fighting for what I believe in”. 

Black said: “I actually think the fact that I am younger is partly why I see everything that is wrong so starkly.” 

In statement posted to social media, Black said: "I have always maintained how outdated, sexist and toxic a place Westminster is.

"I have also made clear that I have no desire to have a long career in elected politics, and as we approach the next General Election, I will have been elected for almost a decade. I have dedicated a third of my life so far to Westminster - a truly unhealthy working environment.

Watching people in my constituency being continually harmed by a UK Government they never voted for - despite my best efforts to fight against its cruel policies - is beyond demoralising. While representing this brilliant constituency is a true honour, this aspect is painful and would take its toll on anyone that cares, as it has me.

"Since 2015, the lives of my loved ones have been turned upside down and inside out. Between media attention, social media abuse, threats, constant travel, and the murders of two MPs, my loved ones have been in a constant state of anxiety for my health and safety. They have always encouraged me to follow my gut and to do what makes me happy.

"It is for these reasons I decided some time ago that the 2019 election will be my last term. As my parents grow older and I embark on married life, I have reassessed my personal priorities. I sincerely hope folk will understand my wish to spend more time with my loved ones in a safer environment as I pass the baton to the next candidate.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “It is difficult to overstate the impact that Mhairi Black has had on Scottish and UK politics since her election in 2015 as the youngest MP ever, and more recently as deputy leader of the SNP at Westminster.

“She has been a trailblazer - a passionate supporter of independence, equality, social justice, and simply of trying to make life better for her constituents and the wider Scottish public. She has also served as a role model for young people, especially women, with an interest or a desire to get involved in politics.

“I know that Mhairi has been critical of the toxic, hostile environment of Westminster, which serves as an important wake-up call to those who are determined to safeguard our democracy. The case for modernising our political system is stark. We must make sure it works for everyone, so we don’t deter people from standing for election or speaking out for what they believe in.

“Despite choosing not to stand again as an MP, I know Mhairi will continue to make an immense contribution to the cause of independence, and I look forward to working with her in advancing our cause.”

Commenting on Black's departure, former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Both gutted by and entirely understanding of this. Her reasons resonate. But what a loss of a unique talent, not just to the SNP but to politics generally. I only hope it’s temporary. The world needs more Mhairi Blacks in politics, not fewer. I hope we will see her in the Scottish Parliament in future.” 

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP, said: “Mhairi Black’s decision to step down is yet another damning verdict from a senior SNP MP on the failing leadership of both Humza Yousaf and Stephen Flynn.

“As much as the Depute Leader tries to blame Westminster, in typical SNP fashion, the public won’t be fooled. Mhairi Black knows chaos is engulfing her party, which is why they are fighting like Nats in a sack.

“It speaks volumes about how bitter those feuds have become that Mhairi Black has thrown in the towel, just a few months after agreeing to become deputy leader, and decided not to fight another election despite not yet turning 30.

“It is the Scottish public who are paying the price for the SNP’s infighting and civil war with the party completely distracted from focusing on Scotland’s real priorities such as the cost-of-living crisis and fixing our NHS.”

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