UK

Abuse after SNP exit beyond wildest imagination, Cameron tells Scottish Tories

The MP left the SNP for the Tories in October, citing a ‘toxic’ culture.

Dr Cameron spoke at her first Tory conference on Saturday
Lisa Cameron speaking at Scottish Tory conference Dr Cameron spoke at her first Tory conference on Saturday (Michal Wachucik/PA)

An MP who defected from the SNP to the Tories has said the abuse she faced was “beyond my wildest imagination”.

Dr Lisa Cameron switched parties in October last year, describing the SNP’s Westminster group as “toxic”.

Following the defection, Dr Cameron said she received death threats, which led to her and her family temporarily moving out of their home.

Dr Cameron defected in October last year
Lisa Cameron hugging Douglas Ross Dr Cameron defected in October last year (Michal Wachucik/PA)

On Saturday, the MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow said the abuse “made my life a living hell”.

“I knew that leaving the SNP would mean that I would become a target for the very, very worst of nationalism,” she said as she introduced Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross.

“But the bile and the vile threats that I received were beyond even my wildest imagination.

“Rather than engaging in the substance of the issues, nationalist trolls resorted to bullying and I’m sure very many of you here today have experienced this too.”

Dr Cameron also took aim at her former party’s upper echelons, claiming they have “turned a blind eye” to abuse, or even “seemed complicit in it”.

“Those who do not conform to nationalist orthodoxy in Scotland or try to challenge those who are in power are dismissed, they’re degraded and they’re shouted down in public.

“Whilst in private, shadowy figures and anonymous accounts have used social media to harass and menace people, to bully them.”

She added: “So let me say to my former party, political arguments should never be made through intimidation.

“We all have a real responsibility I feel to stand up in Scotland and across the UK, particularly to  those nationalists who seek to undermine our democracy through bullying, no matter our political colours – we must stand united and we must challenge this.”

The MP – who is also serving as an aide to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack – praised her new party, telling members she had been “overwhelmed by support”.

“When I tried to speak about the difficulties I have faced with my former colleagues, I was ignored or silenced,” she told the Aberdeen conference.

“Yet in the Conservative Party, they have been treated with the respect and seriousness they deserve.”

Dr Cameron said she rebelled against her former party’s previous Westminster leadership over the handling of allegations of sexual harassment against MP Patrick Grady.

Mr Grady was suspended from the Commons and had the SNP whip temporarily removed after a report found he had been inappropriate to a member of staff.

Audio of a meeting of the SNP group, in which then Westminster leader Ian Blackford could be heard urging members to support Mr Grady, was then leaked.

Dr Cameron said she attempted to speak up for the victim and was shunned by the party.

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross described her speech at the conference as “powerful, brave and inspiring”.

“I’m so glad to welcome you to your first Scottish Conservative conference,” he added.

“Lisa’s journey to our party is a great example of how the Scottish Conservatives are winning people over from the SNP right across the country.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “There is absolutely no place in politics for intimidation or threats, and we continue to wish Lisa well on a personal basis.

“The people of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow elected an SNP MP, not a Tory – and we believe Lisa Cameron should have stepped down to allow a by-election and let her constituents have the democratic opportunity to elect a hard working SNP MP who would put their interests first.”