Exclusive:Dr Lisa Cameron says SNP has stamped out freedom of thought and claims party dismissed mental health issues as 'tantrum'
Dr Lisa Cameron has claimed SNPMPs are unable to speak out to “improve things”, accusing the party of stamping out freedom of thought as she alleged members had dismissed her mental health issues as a “tantrum”.
The MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow defected to the Conservatives last week, saying she had to undergo counselling and be prescribed antidepressants to cope with the way she was treated.
Speaking exclusively to The Scotsman, Dr Cameron has now suggested she had to curtail her religious beliefs while she was an SNP MP.
Currently in counselling, Dr Cameron also spoke about the impact of threats following her defection, claiming former colleagues minimised her experiences.
She said: “I’m not sure what’s going to happen next. We’ve had a lot of emails threatening that people are going to come and find me, brick me in the street. Another said my life would be shortened.
“Because I have children, I feel very responsible for their safety as well, my staff’s safety. It’s really important to prioritise that. With the threats happening in terms of the SNP who were going onto broadcast etc saying I was having a tantrum, saying my mental health issues, they did not recognise that, it kind of added fuel to the fire, and encouraged the cybernat people to be hostile towards me.
“I just have to focus on my children who are not at home because of these issues. We need to get a risk management plan in place with police and parliamentary security. I am hoping they can come home this weekend. We cannot live as a family without being able to be in our home.”
Dr Cameron left the SNP ahead of a selection meeting to pick the next candidate for the East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow constituency on Thursday last week. She has represented the area since the 2015 general election when the SNP won a total of 56 seats out of 59 in Scotland.
Discussing her departure, the new Tory MP said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had reached out to support her and claimed joining Labour could have seen her deal with the same problems experienced within SNP ranks.
She compared her situation to former finance secretary Kate Forbes, who was heavily criticised for religious views voiced during her leadership challenge earlier this year, including admitting she would have voted against gay marriage “as a matter of conscience”.
"Obviously I’m a Christian and that had caused me some issues in the SNP, in terms of feeling that when there were conscience votes, it was frowned upon, similar to Kate Forbes,” Dr Cameron said.
“Also in relation to the Gender Recognition Bill, I had some concerns about the way that Rosie Duffield had a path in Labour, which had been a bit difficult. I didn’t want to go from one scenario where I felt being Christian, having concerns about women’s spaces and rights in relation to the Gender Recognition Bill were going to be problematic for me again.
“I felt I wasn’t [within the SNP] able to have a freedom of religious belief in terms of enacting it. I had to curtail things, because I knew it was going to prompt outrage. In 2019 I was told I wasn’t going to be a candidate because I had voted against abortion in a conscience vote.
“Look at what happened to Kate Forbes when she went for leader. I thought she did a good campaign, but was absolutely berated by so many SNP MPs and MSPs. She wasn’t suitable because of her beliefs. I think on conscience votes, you should be able to have freedom of religious belief.”
Dr Cameron said concerns over the competency of the Scottish Government forced her move, with particular concerns around the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill. The legislation was blocked by the UK Government using a section 35 order, with the verdict of a legal challenge against the move brought by the Scottish Government expected to be announced within the next month.
Dr Cameron said: “We started off like a big inclusive tent in 2014, and it got narrower and narrower down. It went from a big tent to a small caravan.
"Also the competence issue as well, in terms of the SNP, there’s a lot of things, the bottle return scheme, promising to upgrade the A9 road in the Highlands, then deciding not to do that, all these sorts of issues where I feel that there had been a change in policy direction.
“It was a mixture between feeling we’d gone from a Government that was very competent to one that was not listening to the people in Scotland, not meeting their needs anymore and going in the wrong direction.
“There was no vehicle to input into that because, some of the standing orders are you wouldn’t disagree with the leadership, you wouldn't criticise and I just felt there was no room to debate or improve things.
“Then my own value system in terms of being Christian and the GRR, and concerns about safe spaces for women in prisons. I worked in psychiatric hospitals and women-only wards. Looking at sports, my daughter does athletics, and thinking about fair competition for girls in sports.
"All those issues, and when people raised them, they were shot down in flames, like Kate Forbes in terms of her faith … no one would listen to anyone with different opinions.”
Dr Cameron claimed relations with her SNP colleagues took a turn following her support for the victim of disgraced MP Patrick Grady.
The Glasgow North MP was suspended for making a sexual advance to a teenage member of staff before having the whip restored in December last year.
Dr Cameron said: “I was the only person in the room saying we should be supporting the victim, and everyone was directed to welcome back Patrick. Following on from that, people were fairly hostile to me, weren’t speak to me, and wouldn’t even acknowledge me if I walked past them.”
Dr Cameron revealed Mr Grady was put in the office next to her following the end of his suspension – something she alleged may have been deliberate – and also accused colleagues of minimising her mental health struggles.
“They knew where they were putting him, they knew what had happened, so it was obviously something they were aware of,” she said. “It didn’t help me, I had panic attacks at the time.
“There’s a stigma around mental health but I feel it’s important to speak about it. The fact that people who don’t know me, who are not trained counsellors, who are not my GP, the fact they would double down and say they don’t recognise my mental health issues … it is part of the lack of insight and emotional intelligence the SNP have in terms of these issues.
“What they’ve said about my mental health, I find so soul destroying.".
Praising Mr Sunak for reaching out to support her, Dr Cameron claimed the SNP could not be trusted.
She said: “The experience I had in terms of my mental health, the lack of acknowledgement of people’s behaviour and the impact of that on me, I’m looking for accountability for that. I didn’t feel like I could trust them with my welfare, so why would I trust the SNP Scottish Government with the welfare of the Scottish people?
"My GP said to me, yes, you’ve got anti-depressants, and you’ve got your counselling, but unless you change your situation, you’re not going to feel any better.”
Discussing independence, Dr Cameron claimed she watched SNP conference, held in Aberdeen during the past week, with a sense of relief at no longer being involved. She said: "There's been so many different ideas for independence, I think there's been strategy A, B, C, D and more. It just seems so confused.
“I feel like it’s unfortunate, but people in Scotland are being marched in a circle endlessly in relation to the independence question, and I don’t think they are any further forward. If anything, they are further back than where they were in 2015.”
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