Humza Yousaf urges MP Lisa Cameron to resign after she defects from SNP to Tories
Humza Yousaf has sharply criticised the MP who quit the SNP to join the Conservatives, calling on her to resign her seat and saying she “probably never believed” in Scottish independence to begin with.
The First Minister said Lisa Cameron’s dramatic defection was the “least-surprising news I’ve had as leader of the SNP” and called on her to “do the honourable thing”.
Ms Cameron announced her decision on Thursday morning, hitting out at her “toxic and bullying” Westminster colleagues. She said she did not feel able to continue in the SNP, adding it had been “bad for my health”.
She also said she had come to the conclusion that it is more helpful to focus on “constructive policies that benefit everyone” in the UK.
The bombshell announcement came just days before the SNP is due to hold its annual conference in Aberdeen.
It also came on the day Ms Cameron was likely to lose a selection battle to be the party’s candidate in the west of Scotland seat of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed her defection, adding: “She is a brave and committed constituency MP.”
He said: "Lisa is right that we should aim to do politics better, with more empathy and less division and a dedication to always doing what we think is right.”
Mr Yousaf said: “It’s the least-surprising news I’ve had as leader of the SNP, I must confess. Lisa Cameron should do the honourable thing, she should resign her seat.”
The First Minister said he was confident the SNP could win any by-election and her decision was a “betrayal” of activists who had campaigned for her election.
He added: “To see somebody who claims to have supported Scottish independence cross the floor to the Conservative and Unionist Party betrays the fact that she probably never believed in the cause in the first place.”
The defection will add to Mr Yousaf’s problems ahead of the SNP conference, with his party recently suffering defeat in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election. He has also faced internal criticism over his independence strategy.
It is understood he is now open to amending this strategy to say winning a “majority” of seats in the general election would be taken as a mandate for independence, rather than the “most” seats.
Ms Cameron has previously said she was a victim of “group bullying” at Westminster and suffered panic attacks as a result.
She claimed she was shunned by other SNP MPs at Westminster after challenging the support given to former chief whip Patrick Grady – who was suspended from the House of Commons and apologised in Parliament after being found to have acted inappropriately towards a party staffer.
Last month, it emerged a Scottish Government minister had backed another party worker, Grant Costello, who was challenging Ms Cameron to be the next SNP candidate in her seat at the general election.
SNP MPs reacted with fury to her defection. One said it was "malicious, but not a surprise”. Another said: “She was never a team player, she played on her own team for the benefit of herself.”
Ms Cameron told the Scottish Daily Mail: "I do not feel able to continue in what I have experienced as a toxic and bullying SNP Westminster group, which resulted in my requiring counselling for a period of 12 months in Parliament and caused significant deterioration in my health and wellbeing as assessed by my GP including the need for antidepressants.
“I will never regret my actions in standing up for a victim of abuse at the hands of an SNP MP last year, but I have no faith remaining in a party whose leadership supported the perpetrator's interests over that of the victims and who have shown little to no interest in acknowledging or addressing the impact.
“It is also true that I have received no contact from party leadership in the past weeks, despite members of every other main political party contacting me to offer support and compassion during what has been an extremely difficult time.
“I am particularly grateful to the Prime Minister in valuing my continued contribution to Parliament as a health professional and in taking time to listen. It is the first time I have felt heard and shows positive, inclusive leadership in contrast to that which I have encountered in the SNP at Westminster over many years.”
She added: “Families like mine experienced significant division regarding the issue of Independence. This has taken its toll and I have come to the conclusion that it is more helpful to focus my energies upon constructive policies that benefit everyone across the four nations of the UK, and to move towards healing these divisions for the collective good.”
Ms Cameron continued: ‘Being in the SNP has been bad for my health. I will be taking time as advised to recuperate and will continue as always to focus upon serving my constituents. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me who wishes to see a politics where victim blaming, and abuse is never tolerated.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “I’m delighted to welcome Lisa Cameron to the Conservative Party. Like many ex-SNP supporters, she has realised that her former party is hopelessly divided under Humza Yousaf and incapable of focusing on the real priorities of the Scottish people.
“Lisa took a principled stand in supporting the victim in the Patrick Grady case, when her party took the side of the disgraced MP. For doing so, she has been shamefully and inexplicably mistreated by the SNP.”
Labour MP Ian Murray said: “This bizarre move shows that the SNP is falling apart before our eyes. The fact is that the SNP and the Tories are two sides of the same coin - putting the cause of division before the needs of the people.”
An SNP spokeswoman said: “The people of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow will be appalled they are now represented a Conservative and Unionist MP. Lisa Cameron should now do the right thing and step down to allow a by-election.
“Her constituents elected an SNP MP not a Tory, and they deserve to have the democratic opportunity to elect a hard working SNP MP who will put the interests of Scotland first. On a personal basis, we wish her well.”
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