Exclusive:Angus MacNeil claims SNP treatment of Fergus Ewing makes ‘Judas look like an amateur’

The Western Isles MP was expelled from the party in August.

Angus MacNeil has claimed the decision to expel him from the SNP was made by a “kangaroo court”, but nothing compared to the suspension of Fergus Ewing.

The Western Isles MP questioned the decision to suspend the veteran MSP, saying the treatment of Mr Ewing made “Judas Iscariot look like a rank amateur”.

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Mr Ewing, a former rural affairs secretary, had publicly objected to a number of policies, including plans for highly protected marine areas (HPMAs), the deposit return scheme and the Scottish Government’s deal with the Scottish Greens.

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Mr MacNeil, lamented his treatment, and also questioned the SNP leaderships vision of how to deliver independence.

Asked about his own removal from the party by the SNP's conduct committee, he claimed the decision was made by a “kangaroo court”.

Declining to attend, he explained: “I think I might have been invited, but I didn’t bother, I’m not going to grace a kangaroo court, I’m not good with kangaroos hopping all over the place.

“I knew where it was going, because of the hierarchical nature of the party, once they’d set that up, there was only one way they were going with it.

“I’ve got to say, it was probably better than what they did to Fergus. What a genius idea to put 48 MSPs in the crosshairs of the memberships anger, because there’s a lot of sympathy for what Fergus has been doing.

“They may have decided that standing up for a Green MSP was more important than standing up for Fergus Ewing, who was literally born into the SNP.

“The brain is out to lunch for that stuff, this makes Judas Iscariot look like a rank amateur”.

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Mr MacNeil, who now sits as an independent, claimed Mr Ewing had done nothing wrong, and only pointed out obvious failures by voting with the opposition in favour of a motion of no confidence in Green co-leader and Government minister Lorna Slater.He said: “Fergus Ewing has been shoddily treated, suspended for a week, on the back of his beliefs and principles. The Green MSP has made an utter mess, and the dog on the street knows she’s made an utter mess of the deposit return scheme.

“SNP MSPs are now asked to go and vote, once that is set up, there is only one outcome.

“Think for yourselves people, get out of the bubble”.

Mr MacNeil claimed there was a defensive attitude in the SNP due to a “hostile media”, but claimed it was a trait that could now “go off in bad directions”.

Saying this now meant there was less room for “free thought” among its elected members, he claimed it now damaged the party a week before the crucial by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.He added: “What is it going to achieve, other than look like 48 MSPs are ganging up to bully Fergus Ewing. At least nine had the courage not to go with the herd, and to show some critical thought”.

One of the SNP’s longest-serving MPs, Mr MacNeil was initially suspended for a week over an alleged altercation with the then-chief whip Brendan O’Hara.

Mr MacNeil then refused to immediately rejoin the SNP group at Westminster as he was not happy with the urgency within the party around the push for independence, and said he would sit as an independent MP until at least October.

Forced out of the party after that, Mr MacNeil explained his decision to leave gave him time to think, and question the direction the party was taking.

He said: “I was suspended for a week and it puts you outside the camp, and gives you a different perspective, and I thought to myself, I’ve been battling a long time here, and it looks like independence is not seriously happening.

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"If you go into another election asking Westminster parties to complete your manifesto, don’t be surprised if they don’t complete your manifesto.

“I thought I’m staying out of this until October, as a warning shot of seriousness, because warnings shots of seriousness didn’t seem to work inside the party.”

Mr MacNeil also criticised the lack of clarity in the SNP’s strategy following a UK Supreme Court decision that Holyrood did not have the power to hold an independence referendum. Since then, it has been proposed that the next general election be treated as a “de facto” independence referendum in Scotland.

"Looking at the leadership’s proposal for conference, it’s very opaque on what they want to do. It should be quite clear post the Supreme Court, the next election has to be about asking the Scottish people if they want independence. It’s a bit strange for them to go de facto referendum and say, ‘well it’s the majority of seats’, because referendums are counted in votes.”

The party failed to prepare for the aftermath of the Supreme Court verdict, claimed Mr MacNeil, adding “there was no plan, it was utterly clueless”.

The University of Strathclyde graduate claimed he suggested to Nicola Sturgeon during a group meeting that they hold an early election with independence the focus, only for the idea to be dismissed by the former First Minister.

He added: “The Supreme Court verdict was blindly obvious, but she wasn’t prepared for it, which was utterly tragic really”.

Mr MacNeil suggested others shared his unhappiness in the party, but added some of them disagreed with him on using an election as a referendum, only to “switch views when Nicola supported it”. Asked about the future direction of the party and what he’d like to see Humza Yousaf do, Mr MacNeil, claimed he should have had a “big tent approach” immediately on becoming leader and “ditch the Greens”.He added: “He should have an idea about what he wants to do with independence. He could say ‘I’m going to put my career in a mere devolved parliament for the good of Scotland on the line’, and hold an early election”.



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