The SNP's former Westminster leader has offered a lukewarm defence of John Swinney, as he called Joanna Cherry "bitter".

Ian Blackford, who led the SNP in the Commons between 2017 and 2022, appeared to back Mr Swinney’s leadership, but added there “isn’t really anybody else” who could take on the job.

It comes after the SNP fell to just nine seats at Westminster, down from 48 in 2019.

The party was dealt a further blow on Saturday afternoon when the final UK constituency seat – Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire, was taken by the Liberal Democrats.

While the seat is new under boundary changes, it encompasses part of former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy’s Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat which was lost to Mr Blackford in 2015.

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In an interview with the Sunday Mail, Mr Blackford said the results showed the electorate had delivered a “very clear message”, adding: “They’re p****d off.”

He said: “You can’t sugar coat any of this. It’s up to John what the party does but the electorate have delivered a very clear message to us – primarily they’re p****d off.

“I don’t think anyone is pointing the finger at John and saying he has to go,” he said.

“He’s inherited this and he has to own it in terms of fixing it.

“It’s not long until 2026.

“You’ve got some time and it can be turned around but you need to demonstrate that you can be trusted.”

Asked by the publication if Mr Swinney would be able to turn the party’s fortunes around, he said: “Time will tell but there isn’t really anybody else, so he’s the man for it.”

Mr Blackford also addressed the fallout between former Edinburgh South MP Joanna Cherry and former leader Nicola Sturgeon after the former lost her seat following Thursday’s election.

(Image: Gordon Terris)

Ms Cherry blamed the SNP’s poor electoral result on “a lack of debate” under Ms Sturgeon’s leadership.

Ms Cherry was famously sacked from the party’s Westminster frontbenches under Mr Blackford’s leadership after she disagreed with his and Ms Sturgeon’s direction, particularly over gender reform laws.

In response to Ms Cherry’s comments on election night, Mr Blackford said: “She is just someone who is bitter, never mind losing her seat.

“I have to look at everything I did when I was Westminster leader and of course I did have a good relationship with Nicola.

“Should I have pushed more on certain things? I don’t know.”