SNP rebels should ‘question’ whether they want to stay in party, says Somerville

Nine SNP MSPs rebelled against the whip to vote against gender reforms passed in December.

Shirley-Anne Somerville
Shirley-Anne Somerville

A senior SNP figure has said rebels should “question” if they want to stay in the party at the next election.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, who has been a perennial cabinet member during the SNP’s time in office and is now serving as Scotland’s Education Secretary, weighed into the row started by MP Alyn Smith, who said those unwilling to support party positions should “stand as an individual”.

The issue has been sparked by ructions within the party over gender reforms, with nine MSPs voting against changes floated by the Scottish Government in December.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, Ms Somerville said: “If you stand on a manifesto, we all stand on manifestos, we all stand as SNP representatives – that SNP symbol is beside our name, it’s the same as any political party, we’re all there representing a political party.

“So I think it’s up to individual members as we go through their stage as elected members that they may wish to take decisions that are against that manifesto – they can do that, political parties have that.

“They should then question about whether it is comfortable being in a party where you pick and choose the policies after you’ve been elected.”

When pressed on Mr Smith’s claims, she said: “At an election, I think that is a fair point.

“If you’re standing as an SNP candidate at an election on a manifesto, you should stand on that manifesto and you should follow that through.

“At the next election, you can then decide if you wish to be an SNP candidate.”

Asked if rebels such as MP Joanna Cherry or former minister Ash Regan – who quit her role as community safety minister after announcing she could not vote for the Scottish Government’s gender reforms – should resign at the next election, Ms Somerville said it was “entirely up to them”.

She added: “If they wish to stand as an SNP candidate and their branch and their constituency wish to have them, then they have to stand as SNP candidates on a manifesto with an expectation they would follow that through.”

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