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13 October 2016

Angus Robertson elected SNP deputy leader: “We are very close to independence“

Nicola Sturgeon's no. 2 is the leader of the SNP in the House of Commons. 

By Julia Rampen

Angus Robertson has been elected depute leader of the Scottish National Party, after seeing off a challenge from the left-wing challenger Tommy Sheppard.

The depute election was held after the incumbent, Stewart Hosie, became embroiled in a sex scandal and resigned. 

Robertson, who won with 52.5 per cent of the vote, said he was “bowled over” by the result. 

He told the SNP conference in Glasgow: “We are the Scottish National Party – the clue is in their name. We represent the whole of the country and everybody who lives here, regardless of where they come from, and we should never forget that.”

Paying tribute to the grassroots members, he said; “We are very close to independence and we must start campaigning right now to persuade people who didn’t vote yes in 2013.”

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Despite his independence rhetoric, Robertson is seen as a gradualist in SNP circles, and his victory will bolster his leader, Nicola Sturgeon, in her attempt to keep the more fervent nationalists in check. 

The leadership race pitted Robertson, a veteran party member and the leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, against Sheppard, a left-wing outsider who has been an SNP member for less than two years. Also running was Alyn Smith, the MEP known for his impassioned speech to the European Parliament after Brexit, and Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny. 

Robertson, the MP for Moray, is known for his pithy questions at Prime Minister’s Questions and has, to some critics of Labour, effectively turned the SNP into the opposition to the Tory government. He has a cautious approach to the question of independence, and has called for the SNP to lay out the downsides as well as positives of that goal. 

By contrast, Sheppard was once a Labour councillor, and only joined the SNP after becoming an organiser for independence in the 2014 referendum. He became the SNP MP for Edinburgh East in the 2015 general election. He was runner up, with 25.5 per cent of the vote.