UK

Fergus Ewing slams ‘authoritarian’ SNP after suspension is upheld

The Inverness and Nairn MSP had appealed against a week-long suspension, imposed after he voted against a Scottish Government minister.

Veteran politician Fergus Ewing has hit out at the ‘authoritarian’ SNP has he said the party had upheld his suspension
Fergus Ewing Veteran politician Fergus Ewing has hit out at the ‘authoritarian’ SNP has he said the party had upheld his suspension (Jane Barlow/PA)

Veteran MSP and former Scottish Government minister Fergus Ewing has branded the SNP an “authoritarian party” that demands “obedience to the leadership” as he revealed a suspension imposed upon him has been upheld by party bosses.

SNP MSPs at Holyrood had agreed to suspend the Inverness and Nairn MSP from their group for a week back in September 2023 after he voted against a Scottish Government minister in a crucial vote of confidence.

Mr Ewing, the son of late SNP trailblazer Winnie Ewing and a former rural economy secretary in the Scottish Government, had appealed against that decision.

But in a statement released by his office on Tuesday evening he said it had been upheld by the party who he then turned his fire on.

Claiming his vote against the circular economy minister and Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater had been a “vote of conscience”, Mr Ewing hit out, saying: “The SNP has now become an authoritarian party requiring strict obedience to the leadership at the expense of personal freedom for any individual member.”

He insisted that the public “do not want MSPs to be mere ciphers or rubber stamps of leadership dictation”, with Mr Ewing claiming: “If my constituents wanted a doormat, they would have gone to B&Q.”

His comments came after the veteran politician, who has been an MSP since the first Holyrood elections in 1999, spoke out against the Scottish Government on policies such as the now halted deposit return scheme (DRS), and the introduction of new regulations for short-term property lets.

Mr Ewing voted against circular economy minister Lorna Slater in a no confidence vote at Holyrood.
Mr Ewing voted against circular economy minister Lorna Slater in a no confidence vote at Holyrood. Mr Ewing voted against circular economy minister Lorna Slater in a no confidence vote at Holyrood. (Jane Barlow/PA)

It was after DRS was put on hold that a vote on no confidence in Ms Slater was called, with Mr Ewing saying he had “stood up for my constituents to protect them against a disastrous policy (the Deposit Return Scheme) and voted with my conscience against that policy, which was eventually discarded”.

But he insisted: “The SNP leadership no longer tolerates a conscience vote.”

The party’s leadership brought in new rules in 2021, preventing SNP MSPs from using a conscience vote or constituency grounds to go against the Scottish Government, Mr Ewing claimed, adding the party had never before exerted such control over its members at Holyrood.

Refusing to say if he would re-join the party, he repeated his call for SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf to put the power sharing agreement with Greens at Holyrood to a fresh vote.

This Bute House Agreement gives the SNP a majority in the Scottish Parliament, but Mr Ewing, who has previously branded the Greens as being “wine bar pseudo-intellectuals”, insisted it was a “disastrous deal”.

SNP leader Humza Yousaf has been challenged to put the ‘disastrous deal’ with the Scottish Greens to a fresh ballot of they party’s membership.
SNP leader Humza Yousaf has been challenged to put the ‘disastrous deal’ with the Scottish Greens to a fresh ballot of they party’s membership. SNP leader Humza Yousaf has been challenged to put the ‘disastrous deal’ with the Scottish Greens to a fresh ballot of they party’s membership. (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He told how he had “served” the SNP for 50 years as it was “the main vehicle for independence”, but added: “Over the past two years, we have borne the high electoral cost of a disastrous deal with the Greens.

“It is dragging us down.

“I suspect that, were it put to a vote, the party members may call a halt to it before even more electoral harm is caused.

“I therefore again call upon Humza to put this to the vote.

“After all, that’s democracy, not authoritarianism.”

The Inverness and Nairn MSP meanwhile pledged he would “continue to defend” his constituents, but refused to say if he would re-join the SNP.

He stated: “For my future, I vow to continue to defend the interests of my constituents, and as far as the SNP is concerned… let the cards fall as they may.

“If the SNP cannot cope with that, so be it.”

The SNP has been contacted for comment.