THE former leader of the SNP at Westminster has called for his party to unite as “political parties that aren’t united tend to face electoral challenges”.

Ian Blackford's comments came days after SNP president Mike Russell told The Herald newspaper that Scottish independence cannot be secured in the immediate future amid the ongoing police investigation into party finances.

Blackford told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland on Monday that Russell was signalling that the party is facing “a very challenging period”.

He told the morning show: “I would appeal to everyone in the party to come together now the election contest for the leader and the first minister is over.”

The politician, who backed Yousaf to replace Nicola Sturgeon as leader, added: “I actually think when I look over the course of the first few days of the leadership of Humza, he’s made a number of very positive announcements.”

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He said the party needed to “make sure that we rise to the challenges that we have” and that it was ready to face its first electoral contest of the general election next year.

He added: “I’m optimistic but we need to make sure that we show that we’re worthy of the support of the people of Scotland.”

Blackford also told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland that Douglas Ross' comments at the weekend demonstrated the cross-party campaign for No is still strong. 

Douglas Ross said at the weekend Conservative voters could vote Labour at the next general election in seats where Sir Keir Starmer’s party had a better chance of winning against the SNP, before backtracking on the suggestion.

The SNP's Deputy Leader Keith Brown previously said this amounted to an “endorsement” for Scottish Labour from the Tories.

Ian Blackford told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: “I think what really Douglas has done is he’s demonstrated that Better Together is still alive and well and it’s a real fight for Scotland’s future.

“We want to make sure that we remove the risk of Conservative governments forever, and the only way of doing that is by making sure that people do back the SNP in the next election, that we’ve got that roadmap for independence, and we remove the risk of that coalition of Tory and Labour seeking to hold Scotland back.”