Ian Blackford has urged members of the independence movement to "be patient" with the SNP following moves by senior members to form a new party.

The SNP's Westminster leader spoke to the Herald following the announcement that veteran party member and former MSP Dave Thompson was quitting to form a new pro-independence party to challenge list MSP seats at the Holyrood elections.

The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP said: "I regret what's happened and I regret Dave's position that he's in, but that's his choice.

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"I'd say two things...Obviously what the First Minister is doing at the moment, what the government is doing, is getting through this crisis and I think the public are responding to the leadership the SNP has shown.

"I'd say to everybody that the SNP got into government in 2007, and went to a majority in 2011, based on support both for the constituency members, and for the list members.

"It will be absolutely essential for the SNP that we do well in both votes in the election in 2021 and that is going to be our strategy." 

HeraldScotland: Dave Thompson MSP

Mr Thompson, a former SNP MP and member of 55 years, said today that he hoped the Alliance for Independence party would “max the Yes” and win up to 24 seats on the regional list in 2021.

SNP MP Kenny MacAskill last week said that the SNP standing on both the constituency and top-up lists “just doesn’t work”, and floated the idea of another party standing for the lists instead.

Cabinet secretary Mike Russell warned that discussions around splitting the SNP vote would be “music to the ears of the Unionists”.

Mr Blackford continued: " The one thing that the First minister has tried to do, that I want to do, is to make sure that we're consensual as much as we can be, to have a 'big tent' approach, to have a discussion about the vision and values of what kind of country that we want to live in.

READ MORE: Former SNP MSP Dave Thompson 'to quit party to form new party, Alliance for Independence' 

"And I would say to those that are in the independence movement to be patient with the SNP while we have that conversation with them and with others."

He added "It's really important that we have a very strong message of support from the people in Scotland for the SNP in the election next year, to make sure that there's maximum pressure and that we maximise the opportunity to have that independence referendum, and we need the people of Scotland to show the trust, their faith in the SNP for that to happen"

When asked if he thought a referendum in 2022 was possible should the SNP win a majority at next year's Holyrood elections, Mr Blackford said: "Let's take one step at a time. We've always said we want a referendum as quickly as possible.

"We want to be able to take the actions that we can only do if we have powers over the economy, powers over social security, but also creating that roadmap back into Europe as well. So the sooner that that's done, the better. If the SNP are re-elected and it will reinforce that mandate again, then there's no reason to have any more of a delay than is necessary in order to move on to a referendum."