Rebel SNP MSPs threatened with de-selection, says former minister

Alex Neil served as a minister under Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, but has become a critic of the party in recent months.

Craig Paton
Tuesday 16 May 2023 12:37 BST
Alex Neil has become an outspoken critic of the SNP (John Linton/PA)
Alex Neil has become an outspoken critic of the SNP (John Linton/PA) (PA Archive)

A former Scottish minister has claimed SNP MSPs who spoke out against Government policy were threatened with de-selection.

Alex Neil, who served under both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Government, was critical of Ms Sturgeon’s leadership, claiming she showed a “total intolerance” to different points of view and accusing the party and Government hierarchy seeking to “snuff out dissenting voices”.

But Mr Neil refused to say who had been threatened with the loss of their seat for opposing Government policy – claiming one MSP had said they would take legal action against the party as a result of the threats.

In recent months, the former minister has become an outspoken critic of the SNP, in particular Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership, and was a supporter of Kate Forbes in the race to succeed her.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said: “There were a couple of longstanding MSPs, good MSPs, threatened with de-selection if they didn’t stop criticising Government policy.

“I’m not going to go into names because it is unfair on them for me to tell the press, but at the end of the day they managed to get through because they, in one case certainly, threatened the party with legal action if they didn’t.”

It is not clear what form the threats took, with SNP selection processes undertaken by local party associations as opposed to being decided centrally.

Mr Neil rebelled in a vote on the release of legal advice relating to Mr Salmond’s legal challenge over the handling of harassment complaints against him.

In response, he said, a member’s debate he was due to lead was cancelled.

“I had a member’s debate lined up on prison reform and, as a result of abstaining on that vote on the Government amendment, I got a letter from the then-minister for parliamentary business, Graeme Dey, saying I wouldn’t be getting the member’s debate after abstaining and not supporting the Government,” Mr Neil said.

“That is a very good example of where there was a total intolerance, even where fundamental principles were involved, to any kind of different point of view.”

He added: “In this case, I was to be denied a member’s debate that I had worked on for a year. Those are the lengths they went to, some of it very petty, and particularly, if you weren’t part of the Nicola clique, then you were singled out for special treatment and you didn’t get any favours whatsoever.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in