SUSPENDING rebel SNP MSP Fergus Ewing from the party group at Holyrood was proportionate, a senior member of the Scottish Government has insisted.

Net Zero Secretary Màiri McAllan backed the proposed seven-day suspension of the former rural affairs secretary, who has been a fierce critic of Humza Yousaf’s Government in recent months.

The suspension – which Ewing has two weeks to appeal against – was approved after he voted with the opposition at Holyrood in a vote of no confidence against Scottish Green co-leader and Government minister Lorna Slater.

Ewing has also spoken out against the Scottish Government on issues such as the new licensing regime for short-term rental properties, the failure to dual the A9 and plans, now shelved, to ban fishing in a  tenth of Scottish waters

Speaking about his stance, the veteran MSP said afterwards: “I choose to defend my constituents’ interests and let the cards fall where they may.”

His comments came after a meeting of SNP MSPs at Holyrood on Wednesday night resulted in a vote of 48 to nine in favour of Ewing’s suspension.

The National:

SNP MP Joanna Cherry (above) however claimed his rebellion was “the product of years of inadequate debate in our party about policy making”.

In a statement posted on social media, Cherry – who has criticised the Scottish Government’s policy on gender recognition reform – said: “I may not agree with Fergus Ewing on everything but he is a man of integrity.

READ MORE: SNP MSP Fergus Ewing rips up HPMA plan in Holyrood chamber

“I’m glad there were rebels on this vote. His rebellion is the product of years of inadequate debate in our party about policymaking. That needs to change. Don’t shoot the messenger.”

SNP free thinkers?

But speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Thursday, McAllan (below) said there is still room for free thinkers within the SNP.

The National: Mairi McAllan

Asked if she had voted in favour of his suspension, McAllan said: “In full transparency, yes I did.

“It is something I certainly would expect to be the outcome if I had done what Fergus did.

“It is part of a normal party mechanism in a democratic system.”

Asked whether politicians can express their opinions within the SNP, she added: “Of course, I like to think of myself as a free thinker.

“In particular the First Minister has been quite clear he wants people to come to him and to speak to him internally if they have any concerns they wish to raise, he has an open door in that regard.

“But Fergus is a longstanding MSP, he has been a minister, he understands the procedures here and what the outcome is of voting the way he did.”

McAllan also made clear she did not agree with Cherry’s comments, adding that suspending Ewing was “a proportionate response to a serious breach of party standing orders which was voted on by majority, overwhelming majority, by the group in Holyrood”.