‘Crack the whip’ at rebel MSP Fergus Ewing, ex-SNP spin doctor Murray Foote urges party leaders
The SNP spin doctor who quit in a membership numbers row has called on the party to discipline backbench rebel Fergus Ewing.
The former minister is a vocal critic of Scottish Government plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) and last week ripped up a copy of a consultation document on the matter.
Murray Foote - who stepped down as SNP media chief in March after false denials of a membership drop were shared with the Scottish press - has accused the veteran MSP of playing "pantomime villain" with the stunt and said: "Time needs to be called on the behaviour of politicians who mistakenly believe they are bigger than the party."
Ewing, who has compared the troubled Deposit Return Scheme to the poll tax and called the SNP's Green government partners "wine bar revolutionaries", served as rural economy secretary for five years before leaving government in a Nicola Sturgeon reshuffle.
Writing for the paper he used to edit, the Daily Record, Foote said of Ewing: "A cynic might consider he is still in the throes of a 24-month huff since he left the government."
Calling on the SNP hierarchy to "find a mechanism to restore that fabled party unity", he said: "If a select few elected members at Holyrood and Westminster refuse to police themselves, then the leadership will have no option but to impose discipline.
"What is the point of keeping a whip if it is never cracked?"
Ewing commented: "I have fought for fishermen and oil and gas workers for 50 years and will continue to do so.
"I make no apology for standing up for hard-working Scottish people and for the people that have elected me on six successive occasions who want me to speak out on matter such as the A9 dualling.
"As the great poet Edwin Morgan said about what people want from their elected MSP representatives, 'they don't want a nest of fearties'."