Scotland politics

Tommy Sheppard withdraws from SNP Westminster leader race

Tommy Sheppard Image copyright PA
Image caption Tommy Sheppard said he would fully support the successful candidate

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard has pulled out of the race to be the party's new Westminster leader.

The Edinburgh East MP had originally put himself forward to succeed Angus Robertson who lost his seat in last week's general election.

However, Mr Sheppard has now announced he will not be standing as he does not have "majority support".

His decision leaves three people in the running for the job - Ian Blackford, Joanna Cherry and Drew Hendry.

The party said it would announce the new group leader on Wednesday evening.

Mr Blackford represents Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Ms Cherry is the MP for Edinburgh South West and Mr Hendry was elected for the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency.

Image copyright SNP/PA
Image caption The remaining three candidates for the job are Ian Blackford, Joanna Cherry and Drew Hendry

Mr Blackford represents Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Ms Cherry is the MP for Edinburgh South West and Mr Hendry was elected for the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency.

In a statement, Mr Sheppard, who was elected to the House of Commons in 2015, said while there is "widespread support" for many of his ideas, he does not have "majority support for becoming leader" from his colleagues at Westminster.

He said the SNP must work to win back previous supporters who voted Labour in the election as a result of the "Corbyn surge".

With a second election possible in the coming months after the Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority, Mr Sheppard said: "We need to win these voters back and we might not have long to do it.

"In my view this means our priority should be to focus on our left flank and take the battle to Labour in Scotland.

"It is clear to me that whilst there seems widespread support for many of the ideas I am arguing, I do not have majority support for becoming leader.

"The message is more important than the messenger and so I have decided not to contest the election for group leader."

Mr Sheppard added: "It goes without saying that I will fully support whoever is successful in the contest."

The contest comes after Mr Robertson lost the Moray seat he had held since 2001 to Douglas Ross of the Scottish Conservatives.

The SNP won 35 seats in last week's election, down 21 from 2015, with the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all making gains across Scotland.

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