SNP MPs have reacted to Lisa Cameron’s defection to the Conservatives, saying: “This is exactly why the local party wanted her out.”

It comes as the SNP released a statement calling on the new Unionist MP to step down to allow a by-election.

Cameron – the MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow since 2015 - defected to the Tories on Thursday morning, just hours before she faced deselection in the internal race to represent the SNP in the seat at the next General Election.

In September, The National reported how Culture Minister Christina McKelvie had joined calls from Collette Stevenson, the current MSP for East Kilbride, and her predecessor Linda Fabiani, for local members to oust Cameron as their candidate.

Instead, SNP members were urged to support Grant Costello in his bid to represent the East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow seat at Westminster.

The National: Pete Wishart

On Thursday, after news of Cameron’s defection broke, senior SNP MP Pete Wishart (above) said: “This is exactly why the local party wanted her out and why she was about to be well beaten in a selection contest by Grant Costello.”

In a statement, the SNP said Cameron’s constituents would be “appalled” to find they are now represented by a Conservative, a party which the area has never elected.

An SNP spokesperson said: “The people of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow will be appalled they are now represented a Conservative and Unionist MP.

“Lisa Cameron should now do the right thing and step down to allow a by-election.

“Her constituents elected an SNP MP - not a Tory, and they deserve to have the democratic opportunity to elect a hard-working SNP MP who will put the interests of Scotland first.

“On a personal basis, we wish her well.”

There were also rumours circulating in the SNP group that Cameron may have been offered a seat in the House of Lords for defecting.

One SNP MP told the Scotsman the defection was "malicious, but not a surprise, she wasn't going to be selected and has always been a Tory".

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Cameron had been threatening to resign and force a by-election when it looked likely that she would not be chosen to stand for the SNP in the seat again.

 The East Kilbride SNP group also released a statement, saying Cameron's defection came after she "lost faith with members".

The SNP group said: "Lisa Cameron's attacks in the press against her own colleagues and local members of the SNP demonstrated her true character. 

"The fact her decision to join the Tories just hours before the selection results will come as no surprise. It is clear she lost faith with members and had very little support.

"We feel sorry for the members and supporters who placed their faith and support in her.

"For many, it will be a slap in the face that she joined the Tories. 

"East Kilbride and Strathaven deserve an SNP candidate who will stand up for the local community, championing independence as the solution to getting rid of the Tories once and for all, whilst calling out the cruel and unjustifiable policies they have inflicted upon us over the past thirteen years.

"We look forward to the upcoming General Election campaign, which cannot come soon enough." 

SNP MSP for East Kilbride Collette Stevenson released a statement on Thursday afternoon, writing on Twitter/X that she will "champion independence and campaign for it at every turn". 

"While Lisa Cameron feels at home with the Tories, East Kilbride will be appalled they are now represented by a Conservative and Unionist MP," she said. 

"They elected an SNP MP - not a Tory."

Speaking to the Daily Mail about her resignation, Cameron also suggested she now opposed independence.

She said: "Families like mine experienced significant division regarding the issue of independence.

"This has taken its toll and I have come to the conclusion that it is more helpful to focus my energies upon constructive policies that benefit everyone across the four nations of the UK, and to move towards healing these divisions for the collective good.”

Also reacting to the news, Conservatives welcomed Cameron to their ranks, while Labour figures alleged it showed that people who vote SNP, get Tories.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (above) said: “I am delighted that Lisa Cameron has decided to join the Conservatives. She is a brave and committed constituency MP.

“Lisa is right that we should aim to do politics better, with more empathy and less division and a dedication to always doing what we think is right."

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar commented: "In 2019 they said vote SNP to get rid of the Tories.

"Now that Labour is set to get rid of the Tories, they join them! It’s why we need change in Scotland and across the UK!"

Announcing her defection, Cameron claimed she did "not feel able to continue in what I have experienced as a toxic and bullying SNP Westminster group".

The new Tory MP claimed she had been shunned by other SNP MPs at Westminster after challenging the support given to former chief whip Patrick Grady. 

Grady was suspended from the House of Commons and apologised in Parliament after being found to have acted inappropriately towards a party staffer.