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Scottish National Party now an "authoritarian party", says Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing after losing an appeal on week-long suspension

By Alasdair Fraser

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Fergus Ewing MSP. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Fergus Ewing MSP. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Fergus Ewing has branded the SNP an “authoritarian party” after losing an appeal against a week-long suspension.

Back in September, the Inverness and Nairn MSP was punished with the seven-day exclusion after backing a no-confidence motion in Scottish Greens minister Lorna Slater in June.

The former rural affairs secretary immediately appealed against the sanction and defended his actions saying he had been standing up for constituents.

The motion had been brought by the Conservatives after the furore surrounding Ms Slater's handling of the now paused deposit return scheme.

It is understood the failure of his appeal means that he will be suspended from the SNP for a week from midnight this evening.

As son of the late veteran Scottish nationalist MP and MEP Winnie Ewing, Mr Ewing has a lifelong association with the SNP, serving the party for around 50 years.

His father was an SNP local councillor, while his late wife Margaret Ewing was MSP for the neighbouring constituency of Moray until her death from breast cancer in March 2006.

Sister Annabelle Ewing was MP for Perth until the 2005 general election and is now MSP for Cowdenbeath.

Fergus and Winnie Ewing pictured together and Ms Ewing with supporters.
Fergus and Winnie Ewing pictured together and Ms Ewing with supporters.

Reacting to the decision to throw out his appeal, Mr Ewing said: “I stood up for my constituents to protect them against a disastrous policy and voted with my conscience against that policy, which was eventually discarded.

“But the SNP leadership no longer tolerates a conscience vote.

“In 2021, the SNP leadership implemented new rules saying that no SNP MSP could exercise a conscience or constituency vote unless there was prior approval from the whole group.

“This was never part of our rules in any of the five previous sessions of parliament.”

Mr. Ewing, MSP for Inverness constituencies in various forms for the last 25 years since 1999 when the Scottish Parliament was reconvened, continued: “A conscience vote cannot be subject to permission or dependent upon anyone’s prior consent. The group will always support the leadership - about one-third are on the ministerial payroll.

“So any conscience vote since 2021 requires prior permission of the whole group.

“Thus, the SNP has now become an authoritarian party requiring strict obedience to the leadership at the expense of personal freedom for any individual member.

“One can see the same authoritarianism in some policies.’

“My view is people in Scotland absolutely do not want MSPs who must always blindly follow the party line.

“A nest of fearties is what they do not want, the poet Edwin Morgan wrote. They do not want MSPs to be mere ciphers or rubber stamps of leadership dictation.

“If my constituents wanted a doormat, they would have gone to B&Q.”

Mr Ewing also relaunched an attack on Ms Slater saying she “disastrously mismanaged” the deposit return scheme.

Lorna Slater and the Deposit Return Scheme.
Lorna Slater and the Deposit Return Scheme.

He added: “The SNP standing orders have not been extended to cover votes of confidence in a Green Party Minister, as opposed to SNP Ministers.

“And why on earth should we in the SNP have to provide unqualified support for them when the Green Party in turn sets its own terms on their continued cooperation with us?

“Why do we show them such loyalty when it is so blatantly not reciprocated?”

On his own future in the party, he added: “For half a century, I have served the SNP as it is the main vehicle for independence.

“Until the last few years, the party broadly secured the trust of the people. 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, therefore, again call upon Humza to put this to the vote. After all, that’s democracy - not authoritarianism.

“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.”

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