The SNP’s former Westminster leader said Humza Yousaf can turn things around ahead of the general election as he urged his party to drop comparisons between Labour and the Conservatives.
Ian Blackford, who led the party in the Commons from 2017 until 2022, said the SNP had been in a “problematic” period following a police probe into finances which lead to the arrest and release of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
But the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP praised First Minister Humza Yousaf’s leadership and said the SNP leader has the ability to turn around the party’s fortunes.
It comes as the latest YouGov poll suggests the party could lose almost half its seats at the general election.
Mr Blackford told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper the polls show the SNP are “some way away from convincing people” of their message.
But he said: “I actually believe, with Humza, doing what he is capable of doing, and focusing on the values we have and who we are as a party, we can pull things back ahead of the next election.”
He said Mr Yousaf is a “First Minister of substance”.
But Mr Blackford, who is standing down at the next election, urged his party to break away from comparing Labour to the current Conservative Government.
He told Scotland on Sunday the two parties are “absolutely not” the same, adding: “I think we have to honestly say to the people in Scotland: ‘Of course a Labour government is better for Scotland than a Tory government.
“’But if you want to hold the feet of a Labour government to the fire and make sure that Scotland’s interests are protected, then you need to vote SNP to do that’.”
Mr Blackford added: “Nobody has forgotten the damage the Tories have caused, the damage of Brexit, the austerity that has meant our public services are struggling in terms of delivering in the way that we want, the attack on the poor.
“Of course there’s a difference between the Labour government and the Tory government.
“I would say respectfully to colleagues: ‘Of course we have a duty to pick out the shortcomings of what Labour might do. But at the same time we’ve also got to give a positive message about the difference we can do both in the Scottish Government and to deliver independence’.”
Mr Blackford also said he considered standing for the Scottish Parliament.
He said: “I don’t know what’s around the corner for me. I have been passionate about this cause since I was a teenager, I am not going to disappear into the sunset.
“I haven’t ruled out that I may emerge in some way, shape or form in the Scottish Government in the future.”