Rebel backbencher Fergus Ewing slams the 'toxic culture' within the SNP at Holyrood

The Inverness and Nairn MSP says the SNP is prioritising tackling climate change at the expense of the Scottish people

Rebel SNP backbencher Fergus Ewing has blasted the “toxic” culture within the SNP at Holyrood, and has criticised his party for branding the Conservatives as “reprehensible human beings”.

The Inverness and Nairn MSP has spoken out against his party on a number of high-profile issues in the past year, including gender reforms, the deposit return scheme, delays to dualling the A9, and highly-protected marine areas.

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Most recently he was threatened with losing the party whip after he voted against the party in a vote of no confidence against Green minister Lorna Slater.

Fergus Ewing, SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn. Image: Trevor Martin/Press Association.Fergus Ewing, SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn. Image: Trevor Martin/Press Association.
Fergus Ewing, SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn. Image: Trevor Martin/Press Association.

Now he has slated the approach his party has taken in recent years, saying the SNP is prioritising tackling climate change over the people of Scotland.

Speaking on the Holyrood Sources podcast, Mr Ewing said the atmosphere in Holyrood is “not particularly happy” within the 64-strong SNP group.

He said: “There’s many people in the cabinet and the leadership that haven’t uttered a word to me or vice versa, for well over a year.

“It’s very sad, so the atmosphere is I’m afraid, not particularly happy.

“Does that bother me a great deal? Frankly I don’t give a damn.”

He added while he respects those within the party who disagree with him, he will not be deterred by the “toxic atmosphere”.

Mr Ewing added: “I’m there to do a job for Scotland.

“I’m in a privileged position of being a representative of a major, hugely important part of Scotland, and if people don’t like me or if they don’t like my ideas, well that’s just tough because I’ve reached a stage now where I can see very clearly what I think needs to be done.”

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On the podcast he went on to criticise former first minister Nicola Sturgeon for showing contempt towards the Conservatives.

He said: “We accommodated people across the political spectrum and it’s a good thing because Scotland is a broad kirk.

“I mean, you have people on the left, the middle and the right, and to sort of demonise some of them, as the party has done under Nicola Sturgeon’s reign [and suggest] that Tories are somehow reprehensible as human beings, is not only wrong, but it’s a pretty duff political strategy to lambast a significant minority of the electorate whose support you wish to gain, whose trust and confidence you’re trying to built up.

“So we need a broad kirk.”

He added for 48 of the 50 years he has campaigned for the SNP, the party “put Scotland first”.

Mr Ewing has not shied away from speaking out against the SNP’s power-sharing agreement with the Greens, which was signed back in 2021.

However he now says this has been at the expense of the Scottish people.

He told the podcast: “Over the last two years, the priorities seem to have shifted.

“No longer are we putting people first, but we’re pursuing climate change and biodiversity, even if they result in the poorest people being punished, like low emission zones where people that can’t afford new cars have to pay a financial penalty for what gain, I’m not entirely certain, if any,

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“We need to be a broad kirk and we need to put Scotland first, and if we cease to be a broad kirk, and if we cease to put people first, how can we expect to win over more than half, significantly more than half, to our cause of independence?

“We need to be a broad kirk to be able to do that.

“If we’re only appealing to the Greens, the socialists, then by definition we are preventing ourselves from winning the very referendum and support for independence that is crucial to achieve our ultimate objective of a normal, independent, free country.”

Following Mr Ewing’s comments, Scottish Labour has said First Minister Humza Yousaf must “come clean” over what they say is chaos within the SNP group at Holyrood.

Jackie Baillie MSP, the party’s deputy leader, said: “Humza Yousaf is supposed to be running our country - but he can’t even run a team of MSPs without chaos.

“Fergus Ewing has only confirmed what we already know - Humza Yousaf and his allies couldn’t run a bath.

“A fish rots from the head. We need Humza Yousaf to come clean over the chaos in his MSP group.”



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