SNP politicians from different wings of the party have said the current internal strife can be resolved ahead of the Holyrood election but that major changes will be needed to restore calm.

A furious backlash erupted on Monday after the prominent MP Joanna Cherry was sacked from her front bench role as home affairs and justice spokeswoman.

Disloyalty to party leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was given later as a reason for her dismissal.

Cherry had won praise across many in Britain, Ireland and Europe for successfully taking Boris Johnson’s Government to court over his attempt to prorogue Parliament in a bid to stop MPs thwarting his Brexit plans.

However she had been odds with the SNP leadership for some time, holding different views on the strategy to gain independence, on the Alex Salmond saga and on the debate around transgender rights and the reform of the Gender Recognition Act (designed to make it easier for transgender people to change their legally recognised gender).

In an illustration of just how deep the divisions are, Cherry’s axing led to some members leaving the party, while others celebrated her departure from the key role.

Leading pollster Sir John Curtice said the row is the biggest rift to hit the SNP since the 1980s when Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill – leading members of the left-wing 79 Group – were expelled.

“I’m now convinced that the party will not recover its unity until all organised groups are banned,” leader Gordon Wilson said at the party’s 1982 conference in Ayr, prompting the rebels to get up and walk out of the hall.

He continued: “Those of us who put Scotland and the party above narrow personal or political obsession cannot and will not tolerate behaviour which is divisive and harmful.”

Wilson’s speech may resonate with Ian Blackford’s sacking of Cherry.

It certainly does to allies of the MP for Edinburgh South West, who five days after her dismissal, are still furious.

“I’ve had members email me to say they have resigned from the party over Joanna Cherry being sacked, members of the public who say they won’t be voting for the SNP in May because of it,” said the insider.

“This needs to be addressed.”

When put to the insider that politics can be a brutal business with ministers and front bench spokespeople regularly and publicly fired as part of the job, the source insisted Cherry’s dismissal was not a routine sacking.

“This is a bit different from ministers being sent out in the cold for incompetence or for the leader wanting to freshen up the team.

“We are talking about Britain’s most competent parliamentarian, who took on the Boris Johnson regime and defeated him in court.

“It’s the equivalent of a football manager sacking his star striker. It just doesn’t happen in the real world.

“In the real world if the manager sacks the star striker, the board sacks the manager – that’s the message to Ian Blackford.”

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With an election three months away, can calm be restored in the SNP? How? And if not, what could be the repercussions?

Looking back at the 1980s strife, the rebels appealed against expulsion but lost.

There then followed considerable negotiation between mainly Salmond and Wilson.

With the furore clearly damaging the party, the matter was discussed in private by the National Council. Salmond agreed to reign in the criticism of the leadership and Wilson in turn let the rebels back in.

Can such a resolution take place now?

For the Cherry ally, such dialogue should and can happen.

“I think it can be resolved if we see Nicola Sturgeon show leadership and adopt a big tent approach.

“Back in 2007 when Alex Salmond was leader he had people with left and right-wing views, people of faith [and] people of no faith in senior positions.

“Whereas in the current SNP, we have a smaller tent and people are left out in the cold. There has got to be a change in attitude from the leadership and remind people if you want to be called Scotland’s national party there has to be a place for everyone and not just people who agree with you,” the source said.

However, with tensions still simmering it is not a course of action that all in the party are ready to support – at the moment.

“Joanna has undermined party policy, has undermined the party leader and of course there has to be consequences to that,” said the critic.

“Being a frontbencher is a position of trust and we couldn’t have someone in that role behaving the way she was. She’s not out of the group, she’s not out of the party. There are plenty of ways back for her.

“I hope she takes this as the red card it is and thinks of ways of contributing positively.”

A second Cherry critic added: “To a large extent the ball is in Joanna’s court. The situation is ludicrous.

“Nicola has got astronomical approval ratings, we are ahead of the polls, if we play our cards right we are on course for a majority at the election, support for independence is there.

“There is frustration in the party.

“I wanted independence yesterday, but people in the party have got to take a step back and realise what a strong position we’re in.”

The insider referred to others who have lost ministerial roles earlier in their careers and then made comebacks, such as Constitution Affairs Secretary Michael Russell and Drugs Policy Minister Angela Constance.

The source clearly admires their stoic responses to the loss of their positions and how they later managed to return to government roles.

“They didn’t rage about it, they took it on the chin and eventually came back into government.”

Whether relations inside the different sides of the SNP improve in the coming weeks, only time will tell. And if not, what could be the outcome?

Curtice spelled it out bluntly the other day, saying the biggest risk to the SNP winning a fourth term in government in May – and therefore making progress on independence – was not from the Tories or the Labour Party, but from its internal woes.