The SNP’s former Leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, has announced his support for Humza Yousaf in the race to become the party’s next leader.

The endorsement adds to a growing number of key figures in the SNP who are supporting Humza.

Commenting, Ian Blackford said: “We need a figure who will unite both the SNP and the Yes movement.

“As a nation, we require a First Minister who will ensure that we deliver in Government and lead us forward to  guarantee Scotland’s voice is heard in an independence referendum.

“Humza is that leader.”

READ MORE: All the details as EIGHT in-person SNP leadership hustings are confirmed

This endorsement comes as Mhairi Black, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South and current depute leader of the Westminster group, said Yousaf was the only candidate that would take the “fight directly to Westminster” over its decision to veto gender legislation that was passed by Holyrood.

Black and Blackford join the 30 SNP MSPs and MPs out of 106 to support Yousaf. Kate Forbes currently sits on nine out of 106 – after four pulled their support for her upon hearing controversial comments on equal marriage. Ash Regan has one public endorsement form Joanna Cherry MP.

The National:

Blackford stressed that Yousaf has “demonstrated his ability to lead in political office across a host of roles within the Scottish Government”.

He added: “Importantly for me, we need to get our economy moving in the face of this Tory Cost of Living Crisis and create the sustainability, economic growth and better paid jobs that will help Scotland thrive.

“I’m looking forward to working with Humza to make sure that we deliver for Scotland and send a message that this is a country where people want to do business.

“In this election, it has to be Humza.”

Stephen Flynn MP, the current leader at Westminster, has not endorsed any of the three candidates but did tweet in response to comments by candidate Kate Forbes on equal marriage “love is love”.

Blackford’s vital endorsement comes ahead of the nine hustings events that have been confirmed for the SNP’s leadership election, with eight set to take place in-person across Scotland.

The first is set to take place on March 1 in Cumbernauld.