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by Andrew Learmonth
30 March 2021
Neale Hanvey says he is 'disappointed' by SNP attacks on Alba defectors

Neale Hanvey says he is 'disappointed' by SNP attacks on Alba defectors

An Alba MP has hit out at his former colleagues in the SNP for criticising his decision to defect. 

Neale Hanvey told Holyrood magazine he was "deeply disappointed" by the response to his leaving. He said it was “illustrative” of some of the factors that caused him to jump ship.

The Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP became the second SNP parliamentarian to join Alex Salmond’s list-only independence party, following on from Kenny MacAskill.

After MacAskill, the MP for East Lothian, defected, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “He has been an increasing embarrassment to many in the SNP and his departure is somewhat of a relief.”

Asked about the reaction from former colleagues to their decision, Hanvey said: “It's very disappointing but it's also quite illustrative of perhaps some of the driving factors that exist for those of us making such a decision.

"So not really surprised but definitely disappointed, and I would ask them to reflect on the language that they use towards other members of the Yes movement. 

“We are a broad church, we are supposed to be respectful. We are trying to develop a country that is respectful and accommodating and liberal in its social attitudes and I don't think some of the language that's being used has been helpful, in fact it's very disappointing that they feel emboldened to do that. 

“But what I find more insulting is Boris Johnson's denial of democracy; Scotland, that's my concern. My ex-colleagues can say what they like about me, I'm not in politics to please everyone, I'm here to do what I believe is the right thing.”

Blackford sacked Hanvey as the SNP's frontbench spokesperson on vaccines in February after he refused to apologise for supporting a campaign against Kirsty Blackman.

He posted “speak clear and stay strong” on a crowdfunder page which was raising cash to bring a defamation case against Blackman.

Launching the party last Friday, Salmond said that at the last election about a million list votes for the SNP were "wasted" under the additional member system used in Scottish Parliament elections. 

He said that if Alba – who plan on standing four candidates on each of the eight Holyrood regional lists in May - picked up those second votes in May, it could put 90 independence supporters in Holyrood, creating a "supermajority”.

However, over the weekend, polling expert, Professor Sir John Curtice, said the party risked failing to secure enough votes to win any MSPs of their own, but at the same time taking enough to deny the SNP a majority at Holyrood.

Hanvey said he didn’t see it “quite so pessimistically”. 

“I'm quite an optimistic person. I have to believe in the objectives that we've set ourselves, it's really important that I keep my focus on positive outcomes and convincing people that this is the right thing to do,” he said.

The MP also said there were still some of his former colleagues considering joining Alba: “I know that there are some who are not unsympathetic to what we're trying to do, whether they take the decision to join us or not is a personal decision.” 

He added: “I wouldn't seek to try and influence them through any kind of media. I don't think that's the right way to behave. I know how difficult a decision it was for me and all of the impacts that I had to consider before I made that decision and everybody's choices will be different, and, particularly when it comes to family and home life, will involve a different set of parameters to work through.”

Despite the animosity between the parties, Hanvey said he believed that if a “supermajority” is returned that Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond could work well together after the election. 

He said: “I don't know either of them particularly well. I have a great deal of respect for the things that they've achieved for Scotland. 

“I would reflect back on my previous career in the health service. I've managed large complex teams. 

“I've been responsible for leading some of the finest medical staff, surgeons in the world.

"Powerful people can come into conflict but at the end of the day, it's the common purpose that unites people. 

“You don't have to like each other to do a good job, and I would hope with that mature approach to our politics we will be able to make progress.”

His comments came after Nicola Sturgeon claimed Alex Salmond was only standing for Holyrood because he “loves the limelight and can’t bear not to be on stage”.

Sturgeon told the Daily Record: “I think he will be telling himself he is somehow advancing the independence cause but I think he is standing because he loves the limelight and can’t bear not to be on the stage.”

The First Minister also rejected all talk of an alliance, saying Salmond would first have to apologise to the women who made complaints against him.

She said: “Alex wants to move on because it suits him now to say that he wants to move on. 

“But there are a number of women out there who believe he behaved inappropriately towards them and he has shown, even now, no sense of reflection or contrition, or even an acknowledgement of that.

“And, therefore, he may want to move on but there are people who, I think, will find it harder to do that.”

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - Constituency profile: Glasgow Southside

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