The SNP president has called on defected MP Lisa Cameron to end her “odd tantrum” after leaving for the Conservatives and hold a by-election in East Kilbride.
Mike Russell said “ego-driven” politics should be put to one side over Dr Cameron’s decision to “cross the floor” to the Tories, blaming a “toxic” culture in the SNP’s Westminster group.
She said she had required counselling after standing up for the young staffer harassed by MP Patrick Grady, claiming she was shunned by colleagues.
Russell denied Dr Cameron’s claims over the poisonous culture within the party, branding her defection “bizarre”.
But the Tories said his comments were “tone deaf and offensive,” accusing Russell of “trivialising” her reasons for leaving the party.
“The SNP never like to lose anybody, but it is extraordinary. I think most people don’t like ego-driven politics and this looks to me like that. I’m afraid Lisa was going to lose the nomination for the seat that she held, and she lashed out in something of a fury,” he told STV News.
“It lets down her constituents, her constituency and her supporters and it’ snot too late for her to realise that the right thing to do is to stand down so we can have a byelection which we will contest vigorously.
“People would say this is not what should be happening. I think Lisa has made a very strange decision. She has given interviews in two different directions today, so I think it is time for, frankly, a better MP.”
The East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow constituency has never previously been represented by a Tory MP since it came into force 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.
She was facing a selection battle in her East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow seat from SNP staffer Grant Costello, who was supported by both Scottish Government minister Christina McKelvie and current and former East Kilbride MSPs Collette Stevenson and Linda Fabiani.
The outcome of the selection was due to be announced on Thursday, hours after Dr Cameron revealed she would leave the party.
Russell said it was “clear” the constituency party had lost faith in her, adding voters should be allowed to go the polls to decide on their representative.
“I think most people thought it was inevitable that her own constituency party wanted to be shot of her and I think she knew that,” he said.
“Ego-driven politics of this nature is not attractive to people and certainly doesn’t help people solve the problems in their everyday lives.
“There are some places in which crossing floor is not possible. I think that Lisa’s decision and given the Tories have not represented East Kilbride for generations, if at all, I think the people have the right to choose another MP.”
Announcing her decision, Dr Cameron said the SNP’s founding cause of Scottish independence had led to “significant division” in families like hers.
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said a denial of a toxic Westminster culture within the SNP was “the height of arrogance”.
“Mike Russell’s comments were tone deaf and offensive,” he said.
“Referring to Lisa Cameron’s defection from the SNP to the Conservative Party as an ‘odd tantrum’ was patronising and trivialised the ordeal she’s been through. It was also ignorant and wrong of him to refute her claims regarding the impact on her health of being an SNP MP.
“For him to deny that there’s a toxic culture within the SNP was the height of arrogance – and indicates he’s either been in the party so long he’s become immune to it, or is now part of it.”
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country