SNP: Former Cabinet minister Fergus Ewing 'set to lose party whip' after voting against Scottish Government minister Lorna Slater
The MSP for Inverness and Nairn would sit as an independent on the backbenches under the expected move, after a life-long career with the SNP during which he served under both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon as a minister.
The Scotsman understands party whips warned some of the rebels that voting in favour of the no-confidence motion relating to Ms Slater would result in them losing the whip. Mr Ewing was the only SNP MSP to vote against the Government.
A senior SNP figure told The Scotsman: “He’s toast.”
It is not clear how long it will take for the SNP to make a formal decision, with internal party matters kept traditionally close to the party's chest.
One source said it was up to the party to now “get on with it" and the decision could still be left to a vote of the SNP MSP group, which meets in Holyrood every Tuesday.
Available options include a short, summer recess long suspension from the party, or potentially a longer suspension lasting several months.
The veteran, who was elected as an MSP in 1999 and has represented Inverness for the lifespan of the Scottish Parliament, has been a vocal critic of the deposit return scheme, led by Ms Slater, and the plans for highly protected marine areas.
He has been a repeated thorn in the side of the Government. He ripped up a Government consultation on the highly protected marine area proposals in the Holyrood chamber in dramatic fashion.
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Ewing said Ms Slater had lost the confidence of business and a change was required in her role running the deposit return scheme.
He said he had “voted today to seek a new minister appointed to take over this troubled matter to deal with the huge fallout of numerous compensation claims and reconsider afresh how best to achieve recycling objectives”.
Removing the whip from Mr Ewing would reduce the Government majority to 68, but would go some way to tackle the accusations that a lack of action against the rebels within the SNP had left First Minister Humza Yousaf “weak”.
Edward Mountain, a Scottish Conservative MSP, told The Scotsman earlier this month that a failure to remove the whip “demonstrates how weak Humza’s grip on his party is”.
It could also fuel speculation Mr Ewing could become the first Alba Party MSP and join Mr Salmond’s struggling party.
Such a decision would also represent a watershed moment for the party given Mr Ewing’s familial links to SNP legend, Winnie Ewing, who served as party president and as an MP, MEP and MSP.
An SNP spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have won this vote convincingly – one SNP MSP not abiding by the whip in this instance is an internal party matter, which will be considered by the chief whip in due course.”
Mr Ewing has been contacted for comment.
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