FERGUS Ewing has said he will not be “hounded out” of the party he loves following his suspension from the SNP MSP group for voting against the Scottish Government.

Veteran parliamentarian Ewing told the Sunday Mail he had no plans to resign, or retire at the next Holyrood election, and intended to stay in the party and “push for change” as he hit out at the “nonsensical and manifestly absurd” direction of the SNP.

On Wednesday evening a majority of SNP MSPs voted to suspend Ewing from their group for seven days after he voted with the opposition at Holyrood in a vote of no confidence against Lorna Slater, Scottish Greens co-leader and junior Government minister.

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We told how Net Zero Secretary Màiri McAllan defended the suspension as proportionate. 

The Sunday Mail reported that Ewing, MSP for Inverness and Nairn, had said he planned to appeal against the suspension. He has two weeks to do so.

Ewing told the newspaper: “I’ve served the SNP and the cause of independence for half a century and I’m not going to be hounded out of the party I love. I’ve consulted with my lawyer and we have a good argument. I was voting with my conscience for my constituents.

“We are going through a period at the moment where we’ve chosen the wrong path. We’ve associated ourselves with extremists.

The National:

“For most of the last 50 years we were a party that put Scotland first, that was our DNA. But since we have become associated with the Green Party, instead of putting people first we seem to be inflicting pain on them for no gain.”

Ewing said this involved pursuing laws and regulations that were “plainly dud and defective” such as the deposit return scheme, the fishing ban, the short-term let regulations and the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, all issues the MSPs has been vocally opposed to in recent months. 

He said that “inflicting pain on voters for no gain is a nonsensical and manifestly absurd political strategy”.

Ewing has previously spoken out against the Scottish Government on issues such as the new licensing regime for short-term rental properties which came into force on Sunday October 1, as well as the stalled deposit return scheme.

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He voted with the Tories, Labour and LibDems in a bid to delay the licensing scheme by a year last month, a move that ultimately failed. 

The former rural economy secretary, who said he had no plans to retire, told the newspaper that his mother, SNP stalwart the late Winnie Ewing, would have been “horrified” at what was happening to the party and did not think she would recognise it now.

He said he did not think First Minister Humza Yousaf should resign, saying he believed his heart was in the right place and that “any leader can change course”.

“It’s not compulsory, if you’re the captain of a ship, to aim deliberately to hit the iceberg – you can change course and the sooner you do, the better it is for everybody," Ewing (below) added. 

The National: MSP Fergus Ewing

He described the SNP as going through a “troubled adolescence”, adding “you know what happens after that is, you grow up”.

Ewing also refuted speculation that he would retire at the end of the current parliamentary term, ahead of the 2026 Holyrood election.

He said: “I’m only 66. As Leonard Cohen once said, at heart I’m just a young guy with a crazy dream. There’s life in me yet. When 2026 comes along I’ll be younger than my mother was when she stood for the Scottish Parliament.

“I’ve got no plans to retire. A decision will be made but so long as my health is ok and my brain is semi-operational then that is all I require."

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Ewing told the Record he believes the SNP have done a "lot of good things", such as free university tuition fees, free prescriptions, and concessionary travel for those aged over 60. 

“Most of these policies happened between 2007 and 2011 when we had 47 MSPs and not 64 but we could get them done because we were popular then and other parties didn’t want to bring us down," he claimed. 

A spokesperson for the SNP Holyrood Group said: “At a meeting on Wednesday evening, a proposal was carried to suspend Fergus Ewing from the SNP Holyrood Group for a period of one week.”

The Scottish Greens have been contacted for comment.