Who is Mhairi Black? MP to step down at next election

Mhairi Black, an SNP member of Parliament, will retire at the next general election at the age of 28.

When Ms Black, the party’s deputy leader in Westminster, was chosen at the age of 20 in 2015, she became the youngest MP in generations.

The Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP claimed Westminster is “one of the most unhealthy workplaces that you could ever be in”, in an interview with The News Agents podcast.

She is the sixth SNP MP to make the announcement that they will not run in the anticipated 2024 election.

Previously, Black was told to be “quite careful” in Parliament after saying the Government had been “pished” during the pandemic.

The offending word, the Scottish version of “pissed”, slang for drunk, was in violation of Commons’ rules as to what Members of Parliament can say about each other.

The Scottish National Party MP also called the Tories “a dangerous government making bad decisions on top of a global pandemic” in a debate on Tuesday.

“But, mind you, we shouldn’t be surprised, given the fact that they seem to have been pished half the time at parties at No 10,” she said to laughs around her.

[I mean] they were inebriated, intoxicated, they were paralytic, at parties in No 10… is that all right?

Scottish MP Mhairi Black, in her retort to Dame Rosie Winterton

Dame Rosie Winterton interrupted Ms Black by saying: “I should just say to the honourable lady, she really must not use language like that.”

The deputy speaker was referring to her using so-called unparliamentary language, which breaks the precedent and rules of politeness in addressing fellow members.

Ms Black shot back: “[I mean] they were inebriated, intoxicated, they were paralytic, at parties in No 10… is that all right?”

“Be quite careful… Mhairi Black continue,” Dame Rosie said, to which Ms Black responded, “I don’t see what I said that wasn’t true, madam deputy speaker, but I take it, I take it…”

Who is Mhairi Black?

Mhairi Black represents Paisley and Renfrewshire South (PA Archive)
Mhairi Black represents Paisley and Renfrewshire South (PA Archive)

The “pished” debate was an amusing episode that was not out of character for the politician, who has been unafraid to speak up, especially on points around Scotland and her constituency Paisley and Renfrewshire South.

It was winning that seat in 2015 that first achieved her national fame as she defeated the incumbent who was Labour frontbencher Douglas Alexander and, in doing so, became the youngest MP aged just 20.

But she wasted little time in getting stuck into frontline Westminster politics, using her maiden speech to attack the Government’s record on food banks — which was viewed more than 10 million times online. She was also appointed to the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Westminster did not feel homely and Ms Black called it an “old boys’ club” in 2016, before wondering if she would stand in the following year’s election — expressing her frustration about what can actually be achieved. But stand she did, both in 2017 and in 2019, where she regained her seat but did lose her title as Britain’s youngest MP to then-23-year-old Nadia Whittome.

The SNP is best known for its signature policy of promoting Scottish Independence but Ms Black has made a name for herself as a promoter of socialist values, inspired by her hero Tony Benn, which has been seen in her opposition to Universal Credit measures.

Since December, she has been deputy leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons and would have been well-placed to stand for leadership when Nicola Sturgeon departed but did not put herself forward.

Ms Black describes herself as Bible-reading but not religious and has long been a backer of same-sex marriage. She married her partner, Katie, in 2022.

Why is Mhairi Black retiring from politics at the age of 28?

The Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP cited safety concerns, social media abuse, and unsociable hours as she explained her decision.

In a statement, Ms Black described Westminster as an “outdated, sexist, and toxic” working environment, in which little could be changed.

She reasoned, “Honestly, because I’m tired, is a big part of it. And the thing that makes me tired is Westminster.

She added: “It’s definitely a poisonous place. Whether that’s because of what folk can get away with in it, or the number of personal motivations, and folk having ulterior motives for things, it’s just not a nice place to be in.

“I have also made clear that I have no desire to have a long career in elected politics and, as we approach the next general election, I will have been elected for almost a decade,” she added.

The Scottish MP went on to say it was “beyond demoralising” to see constituents “harmed by a UK government they never voted for”.

The MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South added: “Since 2015, the lives of my loved ones have been turned upside down and inside out.

“Between media attention, social media abuse, threats, constant travel, and the murders of two MPs, my loved ones have been in a constant state of anxiety for my health and safety.”

Ms Black also said she wanted to spend more time with loved ones.

She said: “I will of course continue to represent my constituency to the best of my abilities, and I look forward to continuing to campaign for an independent Scotland and for the SNP at the general election, but I will do so as a campaigner rather than a candidate.”

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, described Ms Black’s retirement as the “loss of a unique talent”.

It is not known what career Ms Black will pursue next.