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BREAKING: Rebel MSP Fergus Ewing suspended for one week from the SNP

By Scott Maclennan

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Fergus Ewing MSP. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Fergus Ewing MSP. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing has been suspended from the SNP for one week.

A disciplinary hearing has just concluded after an initial postponement because Mr Ewing was unwell with Covid.

A vote by SNP MSPs at Holyrood determined that the veteran politician would be punished over several high-profile rebellions.

The Holyrood Group of SNP MSPs backed the suspension by 48 votes for and nine against with four abstentions.

Mr Ewing attended the hearing with John Campbell KC and was further supported by fellow Highland MSP Kate Forbes, his sister and fellow MSP Annabelle Ewing and Christine Grahame.

The punishment will come into force pending a 14-day period during which he can appeal the decision.

Neither First Minister Humza Yousaf nor Nicola Sturgeon were present for the meeting.

Constituents come first

Afterwards he issued a blistering statement: “It [The SNP] 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."

He added: “I choose to defend my constituents and let the cards fall as they will.”

Open rebellions

In a series of open rebellions, Mr Ewing hit out ferociously at his own party the policies it has developed with coalition partners the Greens.

So far he has threatened to withdraw supportfor First Minister Mr Yousaf’s government if there is not progress on the A9.

He is a fierce opponent of coalition partners the Greensand issued scathing criticism of for Lorna Slater's handling of the deposit return scheme or the DRSas the now defunct policycame to be known.

Highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) was another Greens policy he could not stomach and even tore up the policy paper in Holyrood.

As far back as December of last year Mr Ewing told this newspaper he would vote against the government over gender reform"irrespective of what action will be taken against me by my group”.

Tricky situation

But the issue of Mr Ewing is a thorny one for the SNPbecause he has literally won admiration and even a prize – MSP of the Year at Holyrood Garden Party and Political Awards – for his performance over the last 12 months.

He is also not just any MSP having literally been brought up in the party and is hugely respected for defending Highlanders against government policies seen as destructive.

MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Kate Forbes, has said that the party needs to be “extraordinarily careful” about suspending Mr Ewing, citing his popularity in the Highland region – particularly among people who live in distinctively rural industries.

It was rumoured he faced disciplinary action in June but his mother – a genuine SNP and independence movement legend – Winnie Ewing died.

'Not a great look'

When news of the impending disciplinary action was tabled, Mr Ewing refused to comment but a source close to the MSP said: “It’s over four months since Fergus voted against the Green minister Lorna Slater who so totally mishandled the disastrous deposit return scheme that was eventually ditched after costing £86 million to business and the taxpayer.

“You might ask why all other MSPs supported her? He was standing up for many people and businesses in the Highlands who may have lost their jobs and livelihoods had it not been stopped.

“Since then many of his own SNP MSP colleagues have said he should be severely disciplined. One said he was ‘toast’ and another that ‘he should be made to feel pain’. None gave their name

“Since the SNP process involves any decision to be made by said whole group of MSPs it looks as though they have already prejudged his case.

“If this happened in a court of law it would be dismissed

“Now that he’s been awarded MSP of the Year last week not least, no doubt, because he spoke out on the A9, deposit return scheme and other important issues, it’s not a great look that they seem desperate to axe him.”

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