Sheep show more independence of thought than SNP, says Angus MacNeil

The former party MP said the SNP had become ‘very unthinking’

Sheep show more independence of thought than some SNP politicians, former party MP Angus Brendan MacNeil has said.

Mr MacNeil, who was expelled from the SNP in August after refusing to retake the party whip, said it had become “very unthinking”.

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He accused members of his former party of being “sheep” who follow the direction of the “shepherd on high”.

Angus MacNeil. Picture: UK ParliamentAngus MacNeil. Picture: UK Parliament
Angus MacNeil. Picture: UK Parliament

The Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) MP, who now sits as an independent, made the comments in an interview with Holyrood magazine.

He said: “Too many people in the SNP now take a line without thinking it through. The SNP has become very unthinking.

“Sometimes the sheep I shepherd here at home [on Barra] show more of an independence of thought than the SNP… If more of my sheep were as compliant as some SNP politicians, being a shepherd would be a lot easier.”

Mr MacNeil was initially suspended from the SNP in July followed a row with then chief whip Brendan O’Hara. He was one of the party’s longest-serving MPs, and was first elected in 2005. He said he became frustrated with the “lack of action on independence” under former first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Referring to Ms Sturgeon, he said: “I saw her becoming more and more intolerant of anyone else’s view or not being inclusive, then I saw this had a detrimental effect on our movement. There was no testing out of arguments with Nicola, which is why I think she was caught short on a number of things latterly.”

Mr MacNeil said public opinion is turning against the SNP and he feels he is “in a much better position, politically” not being in the party.

Many believe Mr MacNeil will lose his seat at the next general election. He has a majority of 2,438 and will face a tough challenge from Labour candidate Torcuil Crichton, a former journalist.

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The SNP has faced a number of high-profile rebellions and rows in recent months. Fergus Ewing, a former minister who is now an outspoken Holyrood backbencher, is currently appealing against a week-long suspension. The move came after he backed a Tory no-confidence motion in the Green minister Lorna Slater.

Mr Ewing has been a critic of some Scottish Government policies, as well as its failure to dual the A9 on time.

Meanwhile, Ash Regan, a former party leadership candidate, recently defected to Alex Salmond’s Alba Party. She said it had become “increasingly clear that the SNP has lost its focus on independence, the very foundation of its existence”.

She added: "I could not, in good conscience, continue to be part of a party that has drifted from its path and its commitment to achieving independence as a matter of urgency.”

Just a couple of weeks previously, the MP Lisa Cameron had defected from the SNP to the Conservatives. She cited a “toxic and bullying” culture in the SNP’s Westminster group. Ms Cameron had faced a selection battle in her constituency of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.



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