Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
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.”

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

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. 

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery

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.