Joanna Cherry sacked from SNP frontbench

The SNP has sacked Joanna Cherry as its Westminster spokesperson for home affairs and justice.

Joanna Cherry has been sackd from the SNP's Westminster frontbench

The Westminster group of SNP MPs held an emergency meeting on Monday morning, The Scotsman understands, and Ms Cherry, MP for Edinburgh South West since the 2015 general election, was removed from her frontbench role.

The move comes after a week of intense internal strife within the SNP, which saw many members quit over an ongoing row over a conflict between women’s rights and the extension of rights for trans people.

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Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster group leader, said the party had conducted a reshuffle of its frontbench team.

A press release sent out showing new appointments did not mention Ms Cherry or her shadow home affairs role, but this position has now been taken by Stuart McDonald MP, according to the SNP website.

However, in a tweet Ms Cherry said: “Despite hard work, results & a strong reputation I’ve been sacked today from @theSNP frontbench. My constituents & fellow party members who gave me a resounding mandate in recent NEC elections should rest assured that I will continue to work hard for them.

“Westminster is increasingly irrelevant to Scotland's constitutional future and @theSNP would do well to radically re-think our strategy.”

The QC has been an outspoken critic of the decision by the Scottish Government to reform the Gender Recognition Act, which would allow the self-declaration of a change of gender, rather than a medical diagnosis of dysphoria, and the potential impact on women’s services and spaces, including prisons.

The row within the SNP has become so heated that last week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the unexpected decision to film a video pleading with younger members not to quit the party – sparking anger from many women members who claim their complaints about misogyny have been ignored.

Ms Cherry is known for successfully challenging the UK Government in court over the prorogation of Parliament.

She has also been regarded as a possible future leader of the SNP, but an attempt to stand in this year's Holyrood elections were stymied when the SNP changed its processes, demanding MPs resign their seats before campaigning to become MSPs.

In a statement, Mr Blackford said the reshuffle would draw on “new talent”, including Patricia Gibson as shadow spokesperson for housing, communities and local government; Angela Crawley as shadow spokesperson for the Attorney General; Richard Thomson as shadow spokesperson for Northern Ireland and Stephen Flynn as shadow spokesperson for business, energy and industrial strategy – the latter two elected in the 2019 election. Tommy Sheppard is now shadow spokesperson for the constitution.

Mr Blackford said: “We have a wealth of talent and experience and this reshuffle of SNP MPs ensures we are in the best possible position to hold the UK Government to account during this global pandemic and the aftermath of Brexit, to support colleagues ahead of the Scottish elections, and to deliver independence.”

However, SNP East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill questioned the decision on Twitter, saying: “I know how highly rated Joanna Cherry is in UK justice circles as well the party grassroots in Scotland.

“She remains head and shoulders above most others and I for one stand by her. This is the leadership’s call, but many of us find this inexplicable and harmful.”

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