Angus MacNeil suspended by SNP Westminster group after furious clash with chief whip

Stephen Flynn acted following reports of a bust-up on Monday evening.

SNP MP Angus MacNeil has had the whip suspended for a week after a furious row with his chief whip in a further blow to the party’s standing.

The Western Isles MP, who has been an outspoken critic of the leadership of both Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, was suspended by Westminster leader Stephen Flynn. Mr MacNeil will now sit as an independent until the end of the sanction.

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It follows a difficult few days for the SNP group, who on Tuesday learned the shock announcement from Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black that she would stand down at the next general election.

SNP MP Angus MacNeil has been suspended for a week by the Westminster group.SNP MP Angus MacNeil has been suspended for a week by the Westminster group.
SNP MP Angus MacNeil has been suspended for a week by the Westminster group.

Though the SNP are not commenting on the fracas, it is believed to have come after Mr MacNeil called chief whip Brendan O’Hara “a small wee man” on Monday night before throwing away letters that were given to him.

These are believed to related to Mr MacNeil’s attendance in Parliament, in what is described as a “very tense exchange”.

Mr Flynn has now acted, suspending Mr MacNeil from the group for a week. Crucially, this does not suspend him from the party.

Some reports claimed the suspension was over a phone call between the pair on Tuesday. However, The Scotsman was told it was specifically over the exchange on Monday, with a source describing Mr MacNeil as “out of order”.

Responding to his suspension, Mr MacNeil appeared to suggest he didn’t like it, but would have to go along with it.

He said: "Stephen has his views and I have mine, but as leader he has his own pressures to balance and I accept the decision he has taken.”

The very public row had found its way onto social media on Tuesday morning, with Mr MacNeil appearing to suggest the chief whip was a bully.

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He had tweeted: “Always stand up to bullies, – esp any abusing their positions – particularly those who scurry around shouting to anyone listening, "I'll get him, I'll get him, I WILL get him! - mark my words"

“These are people, who from school, we should get taught to face down”.

The SNP figure also shared a reply to his tweet, which said: “Yes. They are cowards. They can never operate without a similar wee clique of nasty cowards around them.

“They’re also never intelligent people, or they wouldn’t behave that way to cover it.”

Mr MacNeil, who has been in the Commons since 2005, is a vocal critic of SNP policy. He has lambasted the party’s independence strategy and has criticised the SNP’s recent policy on highly protected marine areas.

Scottish ministers have now been forced "back to the drawing board" on the controversial marine protection zones as the policy was scrapped on the last sitting day of Parliament.

Mr MacNeil has also irritated some colleagues when he publicly called for Ms Sturgeon to be suspended from the party.

Responding to the infighting, Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy labelled it an “ugly soap opera” that “impacts all of us”.

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He said: “The scandal-ridden SNP are clearly in a state of open warfare, with personal feuds spilling into public. Perhaps this is the ‘toxic’ culture Mhairi Black was lamenting when she became the sixth SNP MP to announce they were stepping down at the next election.

“It’s telling that Angus MacNeil has been suspended by the leadership for a fallout with the chief whip, yet Nicola Sturgeon retains the whip – contrary to party precedent – despite having been arrested.

“Humza Yousaf is so consumed with trying to contain the civil war in his own party that he’s unable to focus on the real priorities of the Scottish people. This explains his relentless focus on independence – the only thing feuding Nats agree on – rather than the cost-of-living crisis, ailing public services and growing Scotland’s economy.”

Scottish Lib Dems MP Christine Jardine said of Mr MacNeil’s suspension: "Another day, another drama, and another example of why the SNP is no longer fit to govern."

It came as Ms Black on Tuesday became the sixth SNP MP to confirm they would be stepping down at the next general election.

She described Westminster as being a "toxic" working environment, a comment backed privately by several in her party.

Announcing the decision on The News Agents podcast, clips of the interview were the first some SNP MPs had heard of Ms Black’s decision.

Explaining her reasoning, the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South said: “Honestly, because I’m tired, is a big part of it. And the thing that makes me tired is Westminster.

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“I think it is one of the most unhealthy workplaces that you could ever be in. It’s a toxic environment. Just the entire design of the place and how it functions is just the opposite of everything that I find comfortable.”

Ms Black follows former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who had already announced he would not be seeking re-election.

Party colleagues Peter Grant, Angela Crawley, Douglas Chapman and Stewart Hosie have also ruled out running again.

Ms Black’s departure is a bitter blow for the party, who on Tuesday saw its lead over Scottish Labour narrowed to just three points in a fresh poll.

Anas Sarwar’s party has managed a four-point swing since the last Survation poll, conducted two months ago.

The latest survey of voting intentions released on Tuesday puts the SNP on 37 per cent, Labour at 34 per cent, the Conservatives on 17 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 9 per cent.

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