Angus MacNeil quits SNP Commons group until they ‘focus on independence’

Helensburgh MP Brendan O’Hara at heart of bust-up which leads to yet more turmoil in the SNP

Angus MacNeil MP who has quit the SNP group until October following a row with Helensburgh MP Brendan O’Hara, the party chief whip at Westminster.

By Democrat reporters

Controversial SNP MP Angus MacNeil has sensationally QUIT the party’s Westminster group and launched a scathing attack on it.

He was already suspended for a week for a huge public bust-up with chief whip, the Helensburgh, Cardross and Rosneath Peninsula MP  Brendan O’Hara, last week.

MacNeil has confirmed that he will now sit as an independent MP at Westminster until October at the earliest because he believes the SNP are not focusing on independence.

The Barra man has self-styled himself as the Scexit MP and will remain detached until after the party’s October conference.

He said: ““To be clear, this is not about the conduct of the chief whip which you know I disagree with, but that is of little consequence, but it has triggered time formally away from the group which has allowed me to concentrate on what really matters, the pursuit of Scottish independence.”

It is a further crushing blow to the nationalists who have been torn apart by an exodus of politicians who are refusing to stand again at the next general election. The likes of Mhairi Black, who stood in at PMQs today for party leader Stephen Flynn, Stewart Hosie and Ian Blackford have all announced an end to their Westminster careers.

Western Isles MP Mr MacNeil even hinted that he would stand as an independent MP in his constituency if he deems that the SNP are not showing urgency in breaking up the UK.

He wrote in a letter shared on social media: “While the SNP has many good people and the best of the three leaders at PMQs is Stephen Flynn MP, I have decided for now, not to re-join the SNP MP group, retake the whip as they call it in Westminster.

“To be clear, this is not about the conduct of the chief whip which you know I disagree with, but that is of little consequence, but it has triggered time formally away from the group which has allowed me to concentrate on what really matters, the pursuit of Scottish independence.

“I will only seek the SNP whip again if it is clear that the SNP are pursuing independence. At the moment, the SNP has become a brand name missing the key ingredient. The urgency for independence is absent. “ MacNeil said he would “certainly” contest the next General Election, adding that he hoped he would do so as an SNP candidate but would stand on a Scexit first platform if there was not “clarity on independence after the October conference”.

In the letter he also blasted Nicola Sturgeon’s attempts to break up the UK through going to the Supreme Court. The Scottish Government suffered a crushing defeat against the UK Government and were told they are not allowed to have an independence referendum without the permission of Westminster.

It led to her launching her “de facto” referendum strategy which also failed to gain traction before she resigned. The current plan, heralded by Humza Yousaf, is to claim a general election win as a mandate for another vote which is the exact same as the SNP’s manifesto almost every election.

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison and BBC Scotland presenter Laura Maciver.

Mr McNeil has proposed dissolving Holyrood early and using that as an independence referendum, seeking negotiations to break up the UK if the SNP win a majority of seats but this got a lukewarm reception from other nationalist figures. He wrote in his resignation letter: “The Scottish Government went to the Supreme Court a year ago utterly clueless about how to pursue independence, left the Supreme Court utterly clueless about how to pursue independence.

“The SNP still have no clear understanding that it has to use elections to negotiate Scottish independence from Westminster by getting the backing of the majority of the electorate. The SNP members must have a say at conference on the policy direction, which it hasn’t until now.”

Scottish Conservative Chairman Craig Hoy MSP, pictured right,  described the letter as a “devastating verdict” about the current SNP which has now lost the “iron discipline” which was a hallmark of Ms Sturgeon’s reign.

He added: “Even on their dream of breaking up the United Kingdom, an SNP MP cannot resist taking aim at the party’s leadership. As his colleagues quit their seats, this is a thinly-veiled threat to stand against his party in the Western Isles.

“The infighting among the SNP is becoming increasingly bitter. The party’s MPs are fighting like Nats in a sack and are ignoring Scotland’s real priorities such as the cost-of-living crisis, fixing our NHS and strengthening our economy.”

Meanwhile, SNP ex-chief of staff Geoff Aberdein said the First Minister hasn’t managed to ‘establish an identity yet’… and Humza Yousaf’s deputy clearly didn’t like being asked about it on Radio Scotland.

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison was accused misleading voters after a desperate attempt to defend Humza Yousaf’s record during his first 100 days in office.

Critics described the First Minister’s record as a “disaster” after he was forced to drop a series of flagship policies and the SNP was engulfed in “open warfare”. He has also been described as “weak” for failing to suspend Nicola Sturgeon after she was arrested and questioned by police as part of a fraud inquiry.

Appearing on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland on Friday, Ms Robison admitted it had been a “very difficult few months for the party” before going on to set out a “list of achievements”. She added: “I think there is a lot to mark those 100 days, but of course, a lot more to do.”

Host Laura Maciver then asked: “Geoff Aberdein, a former SNP staffer was on the programme earlier, he posed the question, in regard to Humza Yousaf, as we are marking his 100 days, what is he for? How would you answer that?’

Clearly flummoxed by the question, Ms Robison reverted to the SNP’s mantra of insisting that independence would deliver a “fairer Scotland”.

She was also asked: “Deputy Leader at Westminster Mhairi Black has announced she won’t be standing again, Angus MacNeil has been suspended following a row with the party’s chief whip. Is the SNP group at Westminster a happy one?”

However, Ms Robison said: “I’m responsible for many things in government, what goes on within the Westminster group of the SNP is not one of them.”

Earlier, Mr Aberdein – who was the SNP’s head of press and Alex Salmond’s chief of staff – told the programme: “Let’s not kid ourselves, this has been a very, very challenging start, he’s inherited some very difficult policies, we all know about the ongoing police investigation affecting Peter Murrell.

“One of the things I’d like to see going forward from Humza is a bit more conviction, all these policies that I mentioned, DRS, the deposit return scheme, the Highly Protected Marine Areas, the alcohol sponsorship, he’s actually reneged upon or reversed.

“I think he should be taking credit for those things, make a virtue of them and move forward, because we know what he’s against, we know what he’s trying to sort out, but what is he actually for? I don’t think he’s managed to establish an identity as First Minister yet.”

‘No wonder voters are fleeing from the SNP’

In response to the interview, Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “Shona Robison knows perfectly well that Humza Yousaf’s first hundred days have been a disaster, with the SNP having to abandon flagship policies and open warfare breaking out in their own ranks.

“The continuity First Minister has done nothing to sort out the appalling failures of the Sturgeon era. We’ve had even more delays and costs on the ferries fiasco and Scottish businesses have lost millions because of the botched Deposit Return Scheme.

“The expensive and badly designed National Care Service has been kicked into the long grass. Highly Protected Marine Areas that would decimate Scottish fishing have been postponed, but not scrapped. And nothing has been done about upgrading deadly roads, or delivering for rural Scotland.

“With that dismal record, it’s no wonder Humza Yousaf has lost the confidence of his own party, while voters are fleeing from the SNP, and he’s retreated to the comfort blanket of his separatist obsessions. Only the Scottish Conservatives are focused on the real issues that matter to the people of Scotland.”

One comment

  1. The SNPolitbureau is rotting from the inside outwards, they moan about how toxic Westminster is but perhaps they should look a bit closer to home.

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