SNP votes to suspend rebel MSP Fergus Ewing for seven days

The politician is being sanctioned after voting to oust a Scottish Government minister.

SNP votes to suspend rebel MSP Fergus Ewing for one week after Lorna Slater no-confidence vote Scottish Parliament

Veteran MSP Fergus Ewing will be suspended from the SNP’s Holyrood group for seven days.

Some 48 of his colleagues – not including First Minister Humza Yousaf who returned home due to illness before the vote – backed the punishment, which will see the MSP sit as an independent for the duration.

Nine of his colleagues voted against the sanction and four abstained.

The rebel politician was handed the sanction after he voted in favour of a no-confidence motion against circular economy minister Lorna Slater.

The Inverness and Nairn MSP joined the Tories in calling for the Green minister to go in a motion that ultimately failed.

He will be allowed a grace period of 14 days during which he can appeal the decision that required a two-thirds majority.

Ewing was represented at the internal disciplinary hearing on Wednesday evening by senior Scottish lawyer John Campbell KC.

He has frequently rebelled from the SNP whip over the past year and has been critical of the Bute House Agreement – the deal between his party and the Greens that saw Slater and Patrick Harvie join the Scottish Government.

He previously labelled the party “wine bar revolutionaries”.

He has also attacked his own party over the new short-term lets licensing scheme, the deposit return scheme, highly protected marine areas and gender reforms.

A spokesperson for the SNP said: “At a meeting this evening, a proposal was carried to suspend Fergus Ewing from the SNP Holyrood Group for a period of one week.”

Fergus Ewing has 14 days to appeal the suspension.Getty Images

‘I chose to defend my constituents’

Following the vote, Ewing defended his actions to rebel against the SNP, saying he did so because he was standing up for his constituents.

He suggested that the SNP no longer put Scotland first – and that’s why he chose to speak out.

Flanked by his sister and fellow SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing, former party leadership contender Kate Forbes and MSP Christine Grahame, as well as his lawyer, Ewing said: “I was literally born into the SNP. For me, and indeed many others, support of the party and advocacy of an independent Scotland has been a life’s work.

“My loyalty to the party has been great. Many is the time as a minister and as an MSP I have bitten my tongue for the greater good.

“I did this because I knew that whatever disagreements or policy shortcomings I thought the party had, it was fundamentally attempting to do the right thing by my constituents and for Scotland.

“It was never an ordinary political party because it was one which put Scotland first.

“In good conscience this is no longer the case and it has nothing to do with personalities or my antipathy towards the Green Party.

“It has to do with policies on the deposit return scheme, on fishing, on transport, tourism and small businesses, and on boiler replacement, which are deeply hostile to the interests of my constituency.

“The SNP I joined would never have asked me, or indeed any other elected politician, to choose between loyalty to the party and loyalty to constituents.

“Indeed in the old SNP it was always expected that country and constituency would come first.

“That is why the SNP, while often attacked, was always respected.

“As a minister in Alex Salmond’s government I voted for railways to the borders, the new crossing over the Forth, the completion of the motorway network of central Scotland in the M74, M80 and M8 projects and the magnificent Aberdeen bypass.

“I was proud to do so because I had absolute confidence that the commitments made to the A9 and the A96 would also be met and that the Highlands would have our day in the infrastructure sun. That administration would indeed have kept faith with the Highlands.

“So what am I to do now? Am I to pretend that these promises were never made or to gull my constituents into thinking they have been treated fairly when they clearly have not?

“Or am I rather to speak out fearlessly and apply the same pressure which has already junked the bottle return scheme and the damaging fishing proposals to the madcap boiler ban and honouring pledges on our vital roads.

“I choose to defend my constituents and Iet the cards fall as they will.”

The Scottish Conservative criticised the SNP’s decision to suspend Ewing.

Craig Hoy MSP said: “Humza Yousaf has once again shown his contempt for remote and rural Scotland by punishing an MSP who has dared to point out how his government has failed these areas.

“The SNP leader should be listening to Fergus Ewing on issues like oil and gas, dualling the A9 and devastating fishing restrictions, rather than being in thrall to the extremist Greens.

“It tells you everything you need to know about Humza Yousaf’s priorities that Lorna Slater remains in government despite her catastrophic mishandling of the deposit return scheme, while a member of his own party who rightly called for her to go has been ostracised.”

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