IAN Blackford has revealed his plans after he stands down as an MP at the next election in an exclusive interview with The National’s podcast.

The former SNP Westminster group leader announced that he would not be contesting the next General Election on Tuesday, after months of speculation about whether or not he would continue to serve in the House of Commons.

The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP told the Holyrood Weekly podcast that he “agonised” over the decision, but would be focusing on his role as business ambassador for the SNP.

Blackford said he would be “assisting” First Minister Humza Yousaf and Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray in making the industry case for independence.

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He also revealed that a roadmap for Scotland’s green industrial future will be published in the next few weeks.

Blackford, 62, commissioned the report titled Mapping Scotland's Industrial Strategy from independent experts Sir Martin Donnelly and Professor Dominic Houlder in February.

The SNP MP admitted he felt “relieved” to have announced his departure from the House of Commons, where he has served since 2015, and pointed out he had been in the party since the 1970s.

“It's been a long road, and I'm as passionate as I've ever been that Scotland needs to become an independent country,” Blackford told the podcast.

“I'm desperate that we're able to move the story on, that we're able to deliver this, and I guess, what I really have to think about is, how can I use the time I’ve got to best help serve that?

“To be candid, having been the Westminster leader for five and a half years up to last December, I had to think about how effective would I now be?

“If I come back to Westminster after the next election as an MP and I was really asking myself the question, what can I do? What would I do? How can I really help that?”

Blackford was appointed business ambassador by former first minister Nicola Sturgeon in December after resigning from the role of SNP Westminster group leader, with Stephen Flynn taking over the position after a swift internal election.

The National: Ian Blackford and Stephen Flynn

First Minister Yousaf has asked Blackford to carry on the ambassador role, he said.

“If anything, he wants me to strengthen and deepen that role,” Blackford said.

“I have to think about how I can devote the time to that.”

Blackford said that in the “short term” he wanted to focus on the roadmap for Scotland’s green industrial future with Donnelly and Houlder.

He added: “We spent the last few months gathering evidence, talking to a lot of people, having really engaged in meetings, and you know, what's struck me, all the people that we've met, and let's put it for these purposes, I hope no one misconstrues this …

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“Let's put the constitutional question to the side. Everybody wants Scotland to be successful. Everyone wants Scotland to achieve its potential.

“So it's how we do that, and I'm looking forward to the time over the next few weeks where we publish the report.”

On what life will look like outside of the halls of Westminster, Blackford suggested that he will be working closely with the Scottish Government and First Minister.

He said: “So my future is probably more assisting with the job of the government, assisting Humza Yousaf, the First Minister, somebody I know very well, and I'm very fond of, and the [Wellbeing] Economy Minister Neil Gray as well.

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“I think my talents, whatever they are, are best served by assisting the government in that role.

“I think it's probably right, in that context, I take the decision that when the Westminster election comes, it's better to move on and let somebody else put their name forward and stand and carry that banner for the SNP in Westminster for the new constituency.”

Blackford also told the podcast that the lengthy commute from his constituency to London was a factor in his decision to stand down.

“In all honesty, look, I’ve agonised over this. I really have,” he said.

“I didn't even know, if I'm really honest, I didn't even know yesterday, whether I was doing the right thing.”

The Holyrood Weekly podcast will be available on The National’s website, Spotify, and the Omny streaming platform each Friday.