IAN Blackford is to stand down as an MP down at the next general election.

The former SNP Westminster leader said he had "gone through a period of reflection" ever since effectively being ousted late last year.  

In a lengthy statement, Mr Blackford said it had been "an enormous privilege to serve as the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber since 2015."

"I am grateful to the SNP membership for selecting me - and I remain privileged and humbled that people across my home constituency have put their trust in me at three elections," he added. 

Though he holds a majority of more than 9,000, the Highland seat is a key target for the Liberal Democrats, who have been campaigning for some time now.

Mr Blackford won the seat from Charles Kennedy in 2015, in a contest marred by accusations of dirty tricks and bullying. 

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The end of his time as leader was dogged by unhappiness over his botched handling of the Patrick Grady affair.

And in recent months he and his successor publicly fell out over the party's lack of auditors. 

Mr Flynn was elected leader of the SNP’s 45-strong MP group on December 6, but he says he was not told about the resignation of the auditor, Johnston Carmichael, until February 10.

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In his statement, Mr Blackford continued: "Having stood down as SNP Westminster leader, I have gone through a period of reflection as to how I can best assist the party and the cause of independence - a cause I have campaigned for since joining the SNP as a teenager in the 1970s.

“Over the last few months, with others, I have been working on producing a paper on mapping Scotland’s Industrial Future.

"This report will be available over the coming weeks and I am determined that our work can and should lead to a policy response that will see Scotland’s potential being realised through a sustainable enhancement in economic growth, driving investment and better paid jobs in Scotland, raising living standards and, as a result, delivering the wellbeing economy that our new First Minister has prioritised.

"I look forward to finishing this work and continuing as the First Minister’s business ambassador, on behalf of the SNP."

Mr Blackford added: “My desire to see Scotland become an independent country, and for our country and its people to achieve its full potential, remains as strong as when I first entered politics decades ago.

"Although I will not be standing for the Westminster Parliament at the next election, I look forward to playing my part in the continuing campaign for Scottish Independence and supporting our First Minister and the SNP as we go forward to the next election and beyond."

READ MORE: SNP Westminster group at war as Blackford and Flynn clash

Responding, Mr Flynn thanks his predecessor for the role he played "in making the SNP the formidable force it is in Scottish and UK politics."

He added: "During his time as SNP Westminster leader, Ian stood across the House of Commons from four Tory Prime Ministers and was a fierce opponent for every one of them - taking them on over Brexit, austerity cuts, Westminster attacks on devolution, and their undemocratic attempts to deny Scotland's right to choose our own future.

"I know Ian will be sorely missed by his constituents and colleagues when he stands down as an MP but I am confident that he will have a key role in continuing the campaign for Scotland to become an independent country."