Home   News   Article

Defiant Inverness and Nairn SNP MSP Fergus Ewing says 'I will not be gagged in any way, I will carry on'

By Scott Maclennan

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Fergus Ewing MSP. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Fergus Ewing MSP. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Defiant Fergus Ewing has told The Inverness Courier that “I will not be gagged in any way, I will carry on.”

He was speaking after the SNP Holyrood group voted to suspend him for rebelling against the party line to back Greens minister Lorna Slater.

That the Inverness and Nairn MSP would not bow to the whips was apparent minutes after he was suspended on Wednesday night when he announced that the SNP used to put Scotland first but “this is no longer the case”.

Mr Ewing described the meeting as “pretty uncomfortable, tense and at times I felt pretty unpleasant actually” – but he was not without support as nine voted against suspension, four abstained but 48 backed his punishment.

But following the statement he released, it may be SNP bosses who are feeling “unpleasant” and regret not taking Kate Forbes’ advice to be “extraordinarily careful”.

Mr Ewing tore into the democratic foundation of the party over its broken promises and said the biggest mistake in the SNP’s history was choosing Humza Yousaf over Ms Forbes.

Salmond would have 'kept faith' with the Highlands

He spoke about how he was “proud” to back infrastructure projects across Scotland because: “I had absolute confidence that the commitments made to the A9 and the A96 would also be met and that the Highlands would have our day in the infrastructure sun. That administration would indeed have kept faith with the Highlands.”

He then asked what, as an MSP, he is supposed to do when promises are broken: “Am I to pretend that these promises were never made or to gull my constituents into thinking they have been treated fairly when they clearly have not?

“Or am I rather to speak out fearlessly and apply the same pressure which has already junked the bottle return scheme and the damaging fishing proposals to the madcap boiler ban and honouring pledges on our vital roads.

“I choose to defend my constituents and let the cards fall as they will.”

In an extensive interview with The Inverness Courier, Mr Ewing made it clear that his objection to Ms Slater was based on the Deposit Return Scheme being one of the worst policies since devolution – he has sat in the parliament since it was reconvened by his mother Winnie Ewing in 1999.

“It cost Scotland £86 million at least, the public purse lost about £8 million from the Scottish Investment Bank and it was universally opposed by businesses – believe it or not I had 41 meetings with businesses over two years,” he said.

The 'personal fate of Fergus Ewing' doesn't matter

So far, Mr Ewing has made no decision about his future but would take the next two weeks to think it over – the same amount of time he has to lodge an appeal against the suspension.

He said: “One of the things that doesn’t matter at all is the personal fate of Fergus Ewing but what does matter, and matters deeply, if we are to have a Parliament that is worthy of its name then the members of that Parliament cannot simply be creatures of the party whip.

“I am going to take some time to reflect on what I do next over the next 14 days but be assured of two things: I intend to continue to do my best for the people of Inverness and Nairn, irrespective of what party they support; and I will not be gagged in any way, I will carry on. I don’t really have any regrets. Had I voted to keep the minister in place, I would not have been able to live with myself.

“I will continue to be the best MSP that I can possibly be and, in fact, I am about to go to First Minister’s Questions to ask about the A96.

“What is uppermost in my mind is how I can exert maximum pressure on the party of government to provide the same standard and safety of roads that the central belt population take for granted.”

And he did so, just an hour later he stood up undaunted in Holyrood to secure either a ministerial update or a written update on the progress made or otherwise on the A96 dualling project.

Persuading people to believe in independence now 'impossible'

Mr Ewing considers what he did as being less about rebelling and more about keeping the party on track.

“I had a very simple approach, particularly towards the end of Nicola Sturgeon’s regime, when I started to feel that we were going in the wrong direction but the real turning point came with the Bute House agreement with the Greens.

“I am afraid the experience has been absolutely dreadful for the SNP unless we disengage with that. Nicola Sturgeon used to say people want parties to work together but the Greens are a very extreme party.

“One of the very real sadnesses is that when the SNP chose Humza Yousaf, and this is not personal, over Kate Forbes we made the biggest mistake in our party’s history. Were she to become the First Minister that may well be the lever that persuades people that an independent Scotland is the better option and the only long-term successful option for Scotland.

“I am afraid that task of persuasion appears to me to be impossible.”

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More