27 July 2023

Yousaf will not expel Ewing from SNP over criticism of party policy

27 July 2023

Humza Yousaf has said he will not expel a former minister from the SNP over terse criticism of the party’s policies.

Fergus Ewing has become a frequent opponent of Scottish Government policy in recent months, including over plans to limit human activity in at least 10% of Scottish waters, the introduction of a deposit return scheme and the long-awaited dualling of the A9.

Speaking on the Holyrood Sources podcast this week, Mr Ewing said there is a “toxic” atmosphere within the SNP group at Holyrood, claiming some in senior positions within the party and in Government have not spoken to him in “well over a year”.

Asked by journalists on Thursday if the recent criticism could lead to Mr Ewing’s expulsion, the First Minister said the former minister’s position in the party is safe.

“People aren’t going to be expelled or punished for criticising me, or criticising the party’s direction on several positions,” he said.

“We will always look to adhere to the standing orders that apply to me just as much as they apply to Fergus or Angus Brendan MacNeil.”

Later asked if there is a “toxic” environment within the party, the First Minister said “not in my experience”.

He added: “There’s pretty robust debate, it’s fair to say.”

Mr Yousaf reflected on the first group meeting at Holyrood after his election as leader earlier this year, where he said former rival Kate Forbes spoke about the need for the party to come together and support the leadership.

“There’s always going to be disagreements in a party of 75,000 (members), a party that has as many elected members as we do,” he added.

He did, however, concede there is group of MSPs who disagree with the party’s “direction of travel”, particularly around their agreement with the Scottish Greens which resulted in the Green co-leaders being given junior ministerial positions.

“There is a section of our group, it’s relatively small, there are some people in our group – Fergus Ewing chiefly who has spoken publicly about this – who disagree with the direction of travel,” he said.

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