Former SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron said she had been forced to “move her children out of the family home” after receiving “abuse and threats” following her decision to cross the floor to the Scottish Conservatives.
The representative for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow blamed a “toxic culture” and “lack of concern for [her] welfare” for her decision to leave the party, adding she had “lost faith” in the SNP’s ability to govern an independent country.
Dr Cameron said she had “moved from Yes to No” in the debate over leaving the United Kingdom, stating there had been “seeds of doubt” in her head for some time.
But while she branded her departure “an absolute relief,” she said the online reaction had forced her to take measures to protect her family – including engaging with Police Scotland on arrangements for her constituency office.
“It’s my daughter’s birthday today,” she said outside the House of Commons in London.
“I didn’t feel that she could come with me and I wanted her to be away from the fray so to speak.
“Online, I’ve had so much abuse, threats from what are known as ‘cybernats’ up in Scotland. I’ve had to move my kids out of the house last week and close my constituency office. I’ve had to engage with Police Scotland and parliamentary security to look at the security risks.
“I think it shows how toxic the debate has become in nationalism generally. I feel hopeful that with the right security measures, we can continue to serve people at the constituency office.”
In an interview with the Scottish Daily Mail, Dr Cameron said she regretted not leaving sooner than last Thursday – when she was just hours away from hearing the outcome of a selection contest in her seat against SNP staffer Grant Costello.
She said her relationship with colleagues resulted in a year of counselling sessions and the need for antidepressants.
Since moving to the Conservatives, Dr Cameron said she had been made “welcome” by her new colleagues, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“Everyone has been very positive towards me, for the first time I feel very much accepted. The Prime Minister reaching out made me feel valued and heard, so I’m hoping there’s a positive future now in terms of work I can do in the lead up to the next general election,” she said.
“The transition I think, I had begun to have issues in terms of trust and trust for my own mental welfare and therefore how the SNP could deal with welfare across Scotland as a whole so I think in my head there had been seeds of doubt for some time.
“The transition has been facilitated by the passion shown by the Prime Minister and by the opportunity to contribute to policy going forward.”
Dr Cameron added she felt there was “no need” for a by-election in the constituency, despite the area never having a Tory MP since it was introduced in 2005.
Its predecessors had been represented continuously by the Labour party since the late 1950s until the 2015 SNP landslide when Dr Cameron was elected.
But she said she would not set a precedent for a vote after switching parties.
“Over time, the issues of trust in the party and competence in terms of delivery of policies had been issues that played heavily on my mind,” she said.
“And if I don’t trust them to look after my welfare, how can I trust them to look after the welfare of Scotland?
“So I have moved from Yes to No in that sense. And I think, given the by-election result last week, many other people have moved in that direction.
“[A by-election] has never happened previously in this parliament. I’m the only female who has made that journey, all the men are still here, I don’t see why I should be the one to undergo a by-election.
“My understanding is that this was discussed in the Scottish Parliament earlier this year and the SNP didn’t want a by-election for a change of party, so I don’t think it should be one rule for them and one for everyone else.”
An SNP spokesperson said: “The people of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow will be appalled they are now represented a Conservative and Unionist MP.
“Lisa Cameron should now do the right thing and step down to allow a by-election.
“Her constituents elected an SNP MP not a Tory, and they deserve to have the democratic opportunity to elect a hard working SNP MP who will put the interests of Scotland first. On a personal basis, we wish her well.”
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