An SNP MP has described a former Conservative councillor’s decision to back Scottish independence as a “massive embarrassment” for Ruth Davidson and her Party.
Ex-Tory cllr Ashley Graczyk announced she is set to the take the unlikely step of joining the SNP, in a move that will bolster the party’s depleted ranks on the city council.
She also condemned the Conservative Party policies and said the “increasingly safe and sensible choice” is for Scotland to leave the UK but remain in the “heart of Europe”.
SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, Joanna Cherry described cllr Graczyk’s move as a “massive embarrassment” for Ruth Davidson and the Tories.
Ms Cherry said: “[The move] is yet another signal that more and more people are ready reject a Brexit UK in favour of an independent Scotland.
“As more and more examples of Tory cruelty emerge – whether it is on welfare, disabilities, migration or anything else – more people will reconsider the benefits of independence, as Councillor Graczyk has done.”
She went on: “Ashley Graczyk is right to raise these concerns. The Tory record of welfare cuts is causing staggering hardship for communities across Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland – they need to wake up to the damage their policies are causing.”
Ms Cherry continued: “This kind of choice is no surprise given how chaotic a future under continued Westminster rule will be – and as we get ever closer to a disastrous No Deal Brexit, more and more people will be asking themselves the same questions as Ashley Graczyk.”
The Evening News understands a verbal agreement had been made for the Sighthill/Gorgie councillor to join the party just months after leaving the Tories in protest at their “treatment of the disabled”.
The move may feel like a measure of revenge to the SNP leadership who have lost their position as the largest party on the city council to the Conservatives after three of its members quit. The SNP remains in power due to its coalition with Labour, but bragging rights and the ability to push its policies through in the face of opposition are at stake.
City council leader Adam McVey said Cllr Graczyk had not joined the SNP but would not comment on whether discussions had taken place.
Cllr Graczyk, who is deaf, said she would continue to serve her constituents as an independent councillor but did not respond to questions about talks with the SNP.
She said: “I could not get over the UK government’s treatment of disabled people. Over the last year I have been increasingly convinced the UK government does not and cannot deliver policies in keeping with Scotland’s values. The political journey I have been on has led me to the conclusion that Scotland needs independence to allow us to build the kind of society we aspire to. “I will continue to serve my constituents as an independent councillor, fighting for their best interest, and I look forward to working with the council’s administration and others across the city to take forward our progressive vision for Edinburgh.” The move will infuriate Conservative voters in Sighthill/Gorgie who elected her at last year’s local elections.
Cllr McVey said: “Ashley has contributed a lot to the city in the last year. I appreciate the journey she has been on from voting No to supporting Yes is one mirrored by many people across Edinburgh witnessing the impacts of the UK government’s policies. “I’m looking forward to working closely together on key priorities to take the city forward in the coming months.” Cllr Graczyk was said to be “on the brink” of defecting to Labour before she quit the Tories, but returned to the Conservative fold after an intervention by Lord McInnes, the party’s Scottish director.
One SNP insider was dismissive about the decision of the local party leadership to welcome Cllr Graczyk into the fold. “They’re obviously desperate. It was only a few months ago that she was swanning around with a Union Jack mug and wearing a Union Jack headscarf,” said the source. “They would obviously take Theresa May if she came knocking.”
Cllr Jason Rust, chairman of the Edinburgh Conservatives group, said: “If local politicians flit around, it’s not something that sits well with people locally and a move to the SNP would be a complete betrayal of those who voted for her to support Ruth Davidson in rejecting a second independence referendum. “It’s time for the SNP to come clean about discussions.”
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