JOANNA Cherry was last night being discussed as a successor to Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and First Minister following the Supreme Court ruling against Boris Johnson.

The SNP MP, a QC who is the party’s home affairs and justice spokeswoman, spearheaded the legal fight against the Prime Minister’s proroguing Parliament.

Her historic victory follows the success she achieved with other Scottish politicians including party colleague Alyn Smith and the GreensAndy Wightman – in a previous landmark case which saw the European Court of Justice rule that the UK could cancel Article 50 unilaterally.

As a result of her legal interventions Cherry has become a household name throughout the UK and a popular figure in the SNP’s grassroots.

Rebel MP Angus MacNeil, who was behind a thwarted bid to get the SNP to come up with a Plan B route to independence in the event the UK Government continued to oppose a second referendum, was among Cherry’s supporters.

“Joanna is clearly the next SNP leader in waiting. We know there’s no vacancy but whenever there is Joanna will be in the strongest of strong positions,” he told The National.

“She is dogged. She is the best, the sharpest and she’s not somebody who is afraid to swim against the tide and that’s what the SNP membership are looking for.”

He went on: “She is someone who is open to explore all orthodoxies, to explore all avenues and will make things happen and has no preconceived notions of how things should be. She is fleet of foot in her thinking, ready to change plans if there’s a need to change plans.

“She will drive on her agenda and she is always aware of the dimensions of Scottish independence in everything she does.”

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Asked if he believed Cherry might be the First Minister to deliver Scottish independence, he said: “I believe there is no better opportunity than now and Nicola Sturgeon has got the best hand of cards that any SNP leader has ever had to make Scotland independent.

“So I would fully expect Nicola Sturgeon to take hold of the opportunity she has got at the moment and to drive the advantage home. If for whatever reason she doesn’t then I’m sure Joanna Cherry would.”

Another longstanding senior insider added: “Joanna has emerged as the most impressive new figure that the post-2014 national movement has produced.

“She has made history, but her actions have also brought the progressive nature of Scottish nationalism to the attention of people in the rest of the UK in the most high profile way ever.

“That factor shouldn’t be underestimated – it’s an investment in the future for the next independence referendum, when left and liberal voices in England could well be in a very different place from 2014.”

However, the source was more reluctant to discuss Cherry as a future First Minister, saying: “It’s too early to speculate, but it’s likely that Joanna has a bigger role to play in the SNP in future, and she will certainly play a significant part in winning indyref2, whenever it comes.”

Earlier this year Cherry faced allegations she had bullied a staff member. She said the claims were part of a “smear campaign” against her and was later exonerated after an independent investigation.

During the media storm, senior SNP figures backed her saying the MP was being attacked for speaking out about misogyny as well as her stance on proposed self-identification legislation for transgender people – with one source saying the campaign against her was “like The Crucible”.

She came under fire from the youth wing of the SNP and was criticised for being one of 15 leading SNP politicians who signed a letter asking the Scottish Government not to “rush” into changing the Gender Recognition Act, raising concerns about the potential implications for women of allowing people to self-identify their sex. The episode has meant she continues to have internal critics. One said: “Joanna is great in her field. There is no doubt about that. I want to be a Joanna Cherry fan, but sometimes she is her own worst enemy.”