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Charles Bannerman: Dissent from ‘SNP aristocrat’ Fergus Ewing is for all the right reasons

By Charles Bannerman

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MSP Fergus Ewing has been scathing about the situation over the A9 dualling programme.
MSP Fergus Ewing has been scathing about the situation over the A9 dualling programme.

LAST week in this column, I gave politicians as a species the full broadside.

However, while adhering strongly to that, I must afford honourable exemption to Inverness MSP Fergus Ewing for his stance against his own party’s breathtaking incompetence, egregious betrayal and trademark passing of the buck on the vital dualling of the A9.

Enough has already been said about the SNP’s latest betrayal of and indifference towards the Highlands, so I can bypass the specifics and examine other facets, notably Mr Ewing’s courageous and valued stance on behalf of Highland people. That’s been further reinforced by his comments in this newspaper, deploring his own party’s failure to fulfil a pledge which it disingenuously deployed to gain votes for the last dozen years.

Let’s be clear. This isn’t a comprehensive whitewash of Mr Ewing’s political career which hasn’t been without its failures, but this time he’s done what elected representatives are paid and morally obliged to do – defend the interests of constituents.

Related: Charles Bannerman: 'Affairs of nations are far too precious to entrust to politics and politicians'

By doing so, he’s also vigorously opposing and even roundly criticising his own party, an organisation almost paranoid about dissenters, who have now begun to multiply.

As one of them, Mr Ewing is contributing not to one but to three great cracks now opening up on the SNP’s once rigorously enforced public face. Apart from his A9 stance, he’s one of the nine SNP MSPs who voted against their gender legislation and has further dismissed their much ridiculed Deposit Return Scheme as the worst idea he’s seen during his decades in politics and “a tragedy in the making”.

That’s serious dissent involving prime political hot potatoes and could further undermine party credibility, already under multiple severe threat from the Supreme Court judgment through to that other betrayal of the north – ferries.

I thought that “balderdash” was a wonderfully colourful term for him to deploy about transport minister Jenny Gilruth’s excuses for this A9 failure. I mean to say Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine?! Has she no imagination at all?

Even more appalling has been the abject capitulation of Mr Ewing’s Westminster counterpart, our SNP MP Drew Hendry whose unbelievable toe-curling sycophancy led him actually to thank Ms Gilruth for her disingenuous nonsense about something that’s been painfully obvious for years.

Charles Bannerman.
Charles Bannerman.

This vote-grabbing pledge was, after all, reneged upon after completion of just two of its 11 stages. As Fergus Ewing said: “Once trust goes – elections are lost. And deservedly so.” Come the next UK election, voters will surely remember how Drew Hendry utterly let them down here.

As far as dissenters go, Fergus Ewing is a quite a big fish in the SNP pond. Son of Winnie (Madame Ecosse in the European Parliament and victor of the seminal 1967 Hamilton by-election) he’s sort of SNP aristocracy. A founder member of the Scottish Parliament, he’s been in politics for over four decades. Come the next election he’ll be approaching 70 and no longer holds ministerial office, so may therefore feel he has little to lose by thumbing his nose at the party hierarchy.

But it’s in terms of feeling supported that we must principally view this very welcome intervention on such a crucial local issue, at least by one of those elected to defend our interests.

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