26 July 2023

SNP rebel brands party at Holyrood ‘toxic’

26 July 2023

Frequent SNP rebel Fergus Ewing has described the party as “toxic” and claimed some in Government or leadership roles have not spoken to him in more than a year.

Mr Ewing has become a critic of the leadership of the party in recent months, accentuated by his outbursts from the backbenches against policies including highly protected marine areas (HPMAs), the failure to dual the A9 and the deposit return scheme.

The former minister has also criticised the SNP decision to unite with the Scottish Greens, bringing the party’s co-leaders into Government as junior ministers.

Speaking to the Holyrood Sources podcast, the former minister said he had not heard from some in the party’s upper echelons.

I respect others that disagree with me, but I'm certainly not going to be deterred simply because there's a bit of a toxic atmosphere amongst the SNP group in Holyrood

“The atmosphere in Holyrood is not particularly happy now within the SNP group, I’m afraid to say,” Mr Ewing said.

“So much so that frankly there’s many people in the cabinet and the leadership that haven’t uttered a word to me or vice versa for well over a year.

“It’s very sad, and I do think they would have done better to have listened to people like me when I set out very detailed, logical, rational objections to some of the policies they have been pursuing.”

He added: “Does that bother me a great deal? Frankly, I don’t give a damn, I’m not there for a social club, I’m not there to have a happy time in the bar.

“I’m there to do a job for Scotland, I’m in a privileged position of being a representative of a major, hugely important part of Scotland and if people don’t like me or if they don’t like my ideas, well that’s just tough.

“I’ve reached the stage now where I can see very clearly that I know what needs to be done, I respect others that disagree with me, but I’m certainly not going to be deterred simply because there’s a bit of a toxic atmosphere amongst the SNP group in Holyrood.”

The SNP stalwart went on to say he did not believe Yes could win a referendum in the next few years, owing to “extremist” policies, such as gender self-identification, HPMAs and the deposit return scheme.

On Humza Yousaf’s leadership, Mr Ewing said: “Humza is a new leader, he was elected with a narrow mandate, and he’s entitled, therefore, to have a shot, to have a chance.

“But my feeling is that that chance is slipping away from his grasp unless he makes good on the fundamentals, and one of them is our unimplemented promise to the A9 and the A96.”

The Inverness and Nairn MSP has been outspoken in recent months about the need for the road, which has claimed the lives of dozens of drivers in the past few decades, to be dualled, going so far as to say the First Minister should “consider his position” if he cannot deliver the road and threatening to revoke his support for the Government should it fail to make progress in the next year.

The “most serious thing” the First Minister should do, Mr Ewing added, was to “detach himself from this dalliance with the Greens”.

He went on to claim that painting the Conservatives as “reprehensible” during Nicola Sturgeon’s time in Government was “not only wrong, but it’s a pretty duff political strategy”, urging the SNP to be a “broad kirk”.

A party spokesperson said: “The SNP is by far the biggest group at Holyrood, so there may be differences of view from time to time. We will continue to work hard to earn the trust of people throughout Scotland.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: “The climate emergency is the biggest environmental crisis that this generation and all future generations will ever face. You only need to look to the wildfires and heatwaves engulfing Europe to see the devastating impact.

“With Scottish Greens in the Government, we will not apologise for the climate action we are taking, whether it is boosting recycling, banning new incineration or investing in our iconic wildlife and nature.

“Social justice and environmental justice go together.

“That is why we are working for people, with a £25-a-week Scottish Child Payment that is lifting families out of poverty, free bus travel for everyone under 22 and the biggest expansion of the living wage since devolution.

“We are very proud of the Bute House Agreement, which was supported by the vast majority of members from both the Scottish Greens and the SNP.”

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