Humza Yousaf: MSPs won’t be expelled for criticising me
Humza Yousaf has denied claims made by backbench MSP Fergus Ewing that the culture with the SNP is “toxic”.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday afternoon, the SNP leader and first minister said the situation Ewing described was “not my experience”, though he added there was often “robust debate”.
Asked whether there were plans to remove the veteran MSP from the party, Yousaf said: “People aren’t going to be expelled or punished for criticising me as leader or criticising the party direction on certain positions.”
Ewing, a former government minister, recently told the Holyrood Sources podcast the atmosphere was “not particularly happy” with the SNP group at Holyrood.
He added: “I respect others who may disagree with me, but I'm certainly not going to be deterred simply because there's a bit of a toxic atmosphere amongst the SNP group in Holyrood.”
He has recently been critical of various areas of policy, including the deposit return scheme and delays to dualling the A9.
Yousaf insisted the A9 dualling project was still to go ahead, with a fresh timetable to be brought back after summer recess.
He added: “Angus Brendan MacNeil and Fergus Ewing have both been vocal critics of our deal with the Greens. They’ve been explicit about that, and while I disagree with them, I respect their position.
“What I am interested in doing is making sure we live up to not just our manifesto commitments, but also those commitments made as part of the Bute House Agreement.
“That agreement with the Greens doesn’t detract from our commitment at all to dual the A9 Perth to Inverness. We’re making progress with that, invested over £400m already on dualling. I understand the frustrations given the delay in the timetable and we will come back after the summer recess to give an update on that timetable.”
Angus MacNeil was an SNP MP until earlier this month, when he was temporarily suspended from the party following an agreement with the chief whip.
He has since refused to rejoin the group and now sits as an Independent, citing dissatisfaction with the party’s stance on independence.