Katy Balls

SNP sacking exposes party infighting

SNP sacking exposes party infighting
(Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)
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The turmoil in the SNP has taken a new turn this lunchtime with the sacking of Joanna Cherry QC as shadow spokesperson on justice and home affairs in the House of Commons. The party's Westminster leader Ian Blackford embarked on a reshuffle this morning — using a press release to welcome four MPs to the front bench. However, he failed to find any space to mention the departure of Cherry. Instead the influential SNP politician broke the news herself on social media:

Cherry goes on to say that 'Westminster is increasingly irrelevant to Scotland's constitutional future' and urge the SNP to 'radically re-think our strategy'. 

So, what's going on? Cherry's sacking comes after weeks of tensions over the transgender debate within the party. The QC has been a vocal critic of the Scottish government’s plan to reform the Gender Recognition Act. This has become more heated in recent days: Cherry's decision to offer a 'gender critical' activist support online led to a backlash from members in the official LGBTQ+ wing of the party.

However, SNP sources suggest that this is about more than the transgender debate. It goes to Nicola Sturgeon's own position. The First Minister is facing renewed scrutiny over her handling of allegations made against her predecessor Alex Salmond. The party leader is facing two inquiries into her conduct around the investigations into her former mentor. 

Sturgeon allies worry that they could be used to undermine her position. Cherry is a close ally of Salmond. Tellingly, two other SNP MPs to have been left on the backbench are Kenny MacAskill and Angus MacNeil. Both politicians have in the past been attacked by Sturgeon allies for publicly speculating about her future. With Cherry not planning to go quietly, the SNP's internal war is just beginning.