UK

SNP rebel urges party not to stand in expelled MP’s seat

SNP rebel Fergus Ewing has said fielding a candidate in Angus MacNeil’s Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) seat at the next election would split the pro-independence vote and allow Labour to win (Jane Barlow/PA)
SNP rebel Fergus Ewing has said fielding a candidate in Angus MacNeil’s Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) seat at the next election would split the pro-independence vote and allow Labour to win (Jane Barlow/PA) SNP rebel Fergus Ewing has said fielding a candidate in Angus MacNeil’s Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) seat at the next election would split the pro-independence vote and allow Labour to win (Jane Barlow/PA)

SNP rebel Fergus Ewing has urged his party not to stand in the seat of an MP it expelled earlier this year.

Angus MacNeil was initially suspended from the party after a row with the chief whip, but was expelled after he was critical of the SNP’s strategy to achieve Scottish independence.

Mr Ewing has become a thorn in the side of the party hierarchy on various issues in recent months, resulting in a week-long suspension from the Holyrood group against which he is currently appealing.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Inverness and Nairn MSP said fielding a candidate in Mr MacNeil’s Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) seat at the next election would split the pro-independence vote and allow Labour to win.

Angus MacNeil
Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil was expelled from the SNP earlier this year (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

He praised the current incumbent, who has sat as an independent since his expulsion and supported Alba Party MPs Neale Hanvey and Kenny MacAskill as part of a group called Scotland United for Independence.

“If the SNP put up a candidate against Angus, it will merely assist the prospect of a Labour victory in the constituency by splitting the independence vote,” Mr Ewing said.

“It makes great sense politically, therefore, for the SNP not to put up a candidate, but instead fully to support Angus in his campaign.

“Anything less will be likely to cause damage to the cause of independence – a cause which is of course far bigger than the party itself.”

Such a move, the former rural affairs secretary said, would “demonstrate, on the part of our First Minister (Humza Yousaf), a generosity of spirit, and magnanimity towards those who support independence but are not in the SNP: a ‘broad church’ approach –  all of which would reflect well upon him”.

Mr Ewing also cited the example of the party’s stance on John Goodlad – a candidate standing for the Orkney and Shetland Movement in the constituency in 1987 – when the SNP stood aside.

The move was supported by Mr Ewing’s mother, SNP stalwart Winnie Ewing, who died this year.

“I understand that the UK general election candidate selection process is under way, and therefore I urge Humza, (SNP president) Michael Russell and the whole SNP NEC to be ‘big enough’ to do what is right for Scotland and our cause.

“Back Angus – and don’t take the risk of helping Labour win by the back door.”

SNP members in the Western Isles, Mr Ewing said, should be balloted on the move.

The current Scottish Labour candidate for the seat is former Daily Record Westminster editor Torcuil Crichton.