FORMER SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has accused Alex Salmond of “trying to stir the pot” in the leadership contest after claiming candidate Humza Yousaf deliberately skipped a vote on gay marriage.

Salmond said he was contacted 10 days before the historic vote in 2014 on the legislation which legalised same-sex marriage in Scotland and told that Yousaf was organising a meeting which would conflict with the final vote.

When pressed by Sky News journalist Beth Rigby on the reason given for why Yousaf would skip the vote, Salmond said the assumption was that he was facing pressure from religious groups.

Blackford has now insisted the matter should be put to rest given Yousaf has reaffirmed his support for same sex marriage while Joe Fitzpatrick – minister for parliamentary business at the time – has said no request was made for him to skip the vote.

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He told Times Radio: “I think what you see is Alex Salmond, as a former member of the SNP, trying to stir the pot to some extent, isn't it?

“Joe Fitzpatrick who had responsibility for politics within the SNP as a business manager effectively, has made it clear that at no point was there a request for Humza to be slipped from voting, he voted in stage one of that and it went through Parliament, he's put out a statement reaffirming his support for gay marriage for equality for everybody throughout Scotland.

“And I think the matter should rest there Calum [Macdonald]. I think he's answered those questions."

Former SNP MSP Alex Neil – who has backed Kate Forbes to become the next leader of the SNP – has also claimed Yousaf purposefully arranged a meeting to clash with the stage 3 vote on equal marriage.

Yousaf has said he had an “unavoidable meeting” with the Pakistan Consul General at the time of the vote to discuss the case of a Scot with a history of mental illness being held on death row in the country.

He has also cited his vote in favour of the legislation at stage 1 as proof of his commitment to equal marriage.

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Blackford also spoke on the resignation of John Swinney from the Scottish Government while on Times Radio.

He said: “I'm very saddened to see John standing down. He has been a feature of Scottish politics for a long time. I have to say that I've benefited very much from his wise counsel over the course of the years.

"It's an important moment in the history of the SNP. And when you saw at the last election, Mike Russell stood down, Roseanna Cunningham, John and Nicola coming off the front bench, I stood down.

“So there's a number of us that have been around, actually a lot of us have been around since the late 70s, early 80s.

“I think one of the encouraging things I hope for whoever becomes leader that there are a number of us that are passionate about the party, passionate about Scottish independence, and will be there to assist as required.

“We're all, if you want, becoming elder states people in the SNP."