IAN Blackford has ruled himself out of the SNP deputy leadership race – insisting it is “too much to ask” alongside his other commitments.

The party’s Westminster leader had been tipped as the favourite following the resignation of Angus Robertson, who also led the SNP in the Commons.

But SNP insiders previously said there was a backlash among some MPs at the assumption Mr Blackford would take over.

Mr Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said he had made up his mind a week ago but wanted to “reflect” on his decision.

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He told the Press and Journal newspaper: “First and foremost for me it is an absolute privilege to be the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber. I think there is something special that comes from being a Highland MP.

“I am the Westminster leader and that is not something I anticipated. I am very much enjoying leading the group and I think there is an immense task over the coming period getting through the morass of Brexit.

“I take quite seriously the responsibilities I’ve got as leader in Westminster and supporting the government in Holyrood.

“If I was depute leader as well, something would have to give. I think it is maybe simply too much to ask.”

He said he remained “100 per cent” committed to leading the SNP’s group of MPs in Westminster.

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Mr Blackford’s decision to rule himself out leaves eight possible contenders for the deputy position, with left-winger Tommy Sheppard MP now considered the favourite.

SNP frontbenchers Dr Philippa Whitford and Joanna Cherry have also been named as potential candidates, but it is understood both could stand aside if Mr Sheppard runs.

Elsewhere, Livingston MP Hannah Bardell has said she is considering standing, as has long-serving MP Pete Wishart. Deputy Westminster leader Kirsty Blackman is also expected to run.

In Holyrood, James Dornan MSP is so far the only politician to confirm he will seek nominations, but party insiders have also raised the prospect of Glasgow Provan MSP Ivan McKee putting his name forward.