NOTEBOOK: Mhairi Black to stand down at next general election 


I am beginning to like Mairi Black, although I am most certainly not fond of many of her colleagues in the SNP.

The SNP’s deputy leader in the House of Commons has said she will stand down at the next general election. This is smart thinking which shows she is ahead of the game.

The  MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South was promoted to the deputy’s role by the new SNP leader Stephen Flynn in December.

She has often spoken of her distaste for Westminster but has stood in three elections. She is the sixth SNP MP to announce they will not seek re-election against a backdrop of the party losing support to Labour.

Mairi Black is a bit rough around the edges. You can take the girl out of Paisley but you can’t take Paisley out of the girl, and Paisley has a rough side to it, as you would expect from a cotton mill town of its size and working class culture.

Today it’s been announced that Ms Black follows her former Commons boss Ian Blackford and ex party treasurer, Douglas Chapman in standing down. Peter Grant, Angela Crawley and Stewart Hosie have also indicated they will not seek re-election.

Explaining her decision, Mairi, a 28-year-old lesbian, took a parting shot at Westminster, calling it “toxic” and “poisonous”.  I’ve worked there and Mairi is spot on. It is.

She’s no longer the naive wee lassie who made headlines when she defeated Labour’s Douglas Alexander, the Church of Scotland minister’s son, in 2015 at the age of just 20, becoming the youngest MP in 200 years.

I admire the fact that Mairi has often courted controversy since that has attracted attention to her many causes. That’s what politics is about. She’s a stirrer, not a spinner. Also, when she speaks with ordinary folk they appear to know exactly what she is on about. She has the vital ingredient of common sense.

Her bool in the mooth critics at Westminster – and in Edinburgh – consider that a Scottish working class accent is something to be frowned upon. And they consider her “dreadfully out of place, darling” amongst the old Etonians and former pupils of Cheltenham Ladies College.

They list her offences such as the fact that she had to apologise after being filmed drinking alcohol on a ScotRail train once, in breach of the SNP’s own rules. So what?

And they have dubbed her disparagingly as “one of the laziest Scottish MPs in terms of parliamentary contributions” – perhaps, unlike many MPs,  she didn’t have all that much to stand up and lie about – and sparked anger in 2020 when she invited Drag queen FlowJob into a school to speak to pupils about LGBT matters.

Despite her gaffes, which were minuscule by comparison to Boris Johnston and his Tory cronies, her critics say Mairi is “a darling of the Scexit movement” which is the campaign for Scottish independence.

It surprised everyone – not least of all me – when, in December, she  was made the party’s deputy leader at Westminster after Stephen Flynn’s coup to remove Blackford.

Scottish National Party politician and Member of Parliament, Mhairi Black (L) and Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf gesture during the final day of the Scottish National Party (SNP) annual conference in Glasgow on October 10, 2017. The Scottish National Party on Monday urged the Spanish government to "respect the overwhelming 'si' vote" in the Catalan independence referendum in a resolution at its annual conference. / AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANAN (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Mhairi Black with SNP leader Humza Yousaf, who has now seen five of his MPs quit.

Speaking on Tuesday, she told one of the UK’s foremost journalists, The News Agents host Emily Maitlis, that she was “tired”. She added: “And the thing that makes me tired is Westminster. I think it is one of the most unhealthy workplaces that you could ever be in. It’s a toxic environment.

“Just the entire design of the place and how it functions is the opposite of everything that I find comfortable. It’s definitely a poisonous place. Whether that’s because of what folk can get away with in it or the number of people having ulterior motives for things. It’s just not a nice place to be in.”

Much like the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood then? Nicola Sturgeon was no angel.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP, claimed today that Mairi Black had “thrown in the towel” and called her announcement “another damning verdict from a senior SNP MP on the failing leadership of both Humza Yousaf and Stephen Flynn”.

I suppose that in many ways Mairi is right. Who can argue that Nicola Sturgeon has led the SNP down the  potholed path to oblivion, a place that is no stranger to them when you read their history. They are heading that way again for sure.

He added: ” 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.”

It’s quite astute then of Mairi Black to sling her parliamentary portfolio and walk away from Westminster with an unblemished escutcheon.

First Minister Humza Yousaf says Mairi Black was a “trailblazer” and “a role model for young people, especially women, with an interest or a desire to get involved in politics”.

He added: “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.”

Both parliaments and dozens of councils could do with more Mairi Blacks of similar age and political commitment to fill the seats of the nodding donkeys who occupy them at present.

News just in: Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “gutted” high-profile SNP MP Mhairi Black is standing down at the general election. The former First Minister said she hoped Black’s departure from politics would be “temporary” and expressed a wish for her to stand for Holyrood.

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