THE leading mountaineer and author Cameron McNeish has left the SNP after nearly a decade of membership.

In an interview to mark his departure from the party, he criticised a lack of progress on independence, attacks on Alba and cited the party's record on land reform, the environment and their treatment of Joanna Cherry.

The Edinburgh South West MP was sacked in February from her frontbench role as the SNP’s justice and home affairs spokeswoman after a series of disagreements with the party leader, including on transgender issues and women's rights.

Cherry opposed Scottish Government plans for legislation on gender recognition reform and also also been critical of the party's strategy on independence and indyref2.

McNeish told The Sunday Times: “It’s been coming for a while. The party has done absolutely zilch on land reform and the environment since Nicola Sturgeon came to power, and I have had a deep frustration over issues like raptor persecution, grouse moors all over Scotland, and what muirburning is doing to the environment.” 

He described progress on land reform as “glacier slow” and argued that the previous environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham’s efforts in that area had been frustrated.

The hiker, who has appeared on TV with the Outlander star Sam Heughan, said: “There is no real interest in the SNP on these issues.”

McNeish argued that Cherry’s treatment had been “chilling”, adding: “While I don’t understand all the complexities over gender recognition, she should be applauded for her stance defending women’s rights.”

He also criticised some in the SNP who “appear to spend their time trying to rubbish other pro-indy parties”. 

He has not joined another party although he gave his second vote to Alex Salmond’s Alba Party at the Scottish elections in May.

Cherry said her treatment by the SNP “for daring to stand up for myself and other women” had been “very bruising”. She paid tribute to McNeish for his support and that of “others in public life who see what’s going on”.

The SNP made a manifesto commitment before the Holyrood election to hold indyref2 in the current parliament. After the party won a record fourth term in government the First Minister said that people had voted for a new referendum.

During the election campaign Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to hold the new vote before the end of 2023 so long as the coronavirus crisis had passed.

But she also made clear that her first 100 days in office would be focused on priorities apart from the constitution, including key actions to tackle the pandemic, support the NHS, invest in jobs and young people, support families and tackle the climate crisis.

Launching the plan on a visit to Aberdeenshire West, at the end of April the First Minister said: “This 100 day plan demonstrates the SNP is the only party that is serious about government and serious about helping people in Scotland through these difficult times."

Last week she gave her support to a SNP video which provides the Yes movement with digital resources to help with campaigning.

The SNP encouraged people to share the video guide on social media to help build “a better, independent Scotland".

An SNP spokesman said: "We would like to thank Cameron McNeish for his contribution to the party and we are sorry to see him resign and hope he reconsiders in the future."