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Reshuffle controversy

Cherry sacked from SNP Westminster front bench

Joanna Cherry

Joanna Cherry: ‘hard work’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Joanna Cherry, one of the SNP’s most high-profile MPs, has been “sacked” from the party’s Commons front bench in a controversial move by Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

In a reshuffle announced today Ms Cherry lost her role as the party’s shadow justice and home affairs spokeswoman.

Ms Cherry (Edinburgh South West) is a QC who has led a number of well-publicised campaigns, including taking Boris Johnson to court over the Brexit process.

She expressed her dismay at losing her position, writing on Twitter: “Despite hard work, results & a strong reputation I’ve been sacked today from @theSNP front bench.

“My constituents & fellow party members who gave me a resounding mandate in recent NEC elections should rest assured that I will continue to work hard for them.

“Westminster is increasingly irrelevant to Scotland’s constitutional future and @theSNP would do well to radically re-think our strategy.”

However, she has drawn opposition from some of her colleagues and is seen by some as a potential rival to Nicola Sturgeon. Last year her attempt to swap Westminster for Holyrood was thwarted following a party rule change.

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The reshuffle will spark further tongue-wagging of division in the party as it rewards every MP except those regarded as closest to former First Minister Alex Salmond: Ms Cherry, Kenny MacAskill and Angus MacNeil.

Mr MacAskill, a former Scottish justice secretary, wrote on Twitter: “I know how highly rated Joanna Cherry is in UK justice circles as well the party grassroots in Scotland.

“She remains head and shoulders above most others and I for one stand by her.

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“This is the leadership’s call but many of us find this inexplicable and harmful to our cause.”

Mr MacNeil retweeted others calling the decision to sack Ms Cherry “ridiculous”.

Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East), formerly spokeswoman on women and equalities, will assume the justice brief.

Stuart McDonald, (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East), will take on home affairs.

Mr Blackford’s shake-up also saw Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard move from shadow spokesman for the Cabinet Office to take on constitutional affairs.

Mr Blackford said the reshuffle, which includes promotions for some of those elected in 2019, would draw on new talent and ensure the SNP has the best possible team in Westminster as Scotland faces the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Four additions to the party’s front bench are: Patricia Gibson as shadow spokesperson for housing, communities and local government; Angela Crawley as shadow spokesperson for the attorney general; Richard Thomson as shadow spokesperson for Northern Ireland and Stephen Flynn as shadow spokesperson for business, energy and industrial strategy.

Mr Blackford said: “We have a wealth of talent and experience and this reshuffle of SNP MPs ensures we are in the best possible position to hold the UK government to account during this global pandemic and the aftermath of Brexit, to support colleagues ahead of the Scottish elections, and to deliver independence.

“Team working and cooperation are key to ensure results and this reshuffle will give us a strong team to take us forward.

Ian Blackford

Ian Blackford: ‘hard-working group’ (pic: Terry Murden)

“We have an incredibly hard-working group of MPs – I thank them all for their commitment and congratulate those in new positions.

“I was pleased to welcome four MPs to the front bench; Patricia Gibson MP, Angela Crawley MP, Richard Thomson MP and Stephen Flynn MP.

“I would like to thank Tommy Sheppard for his work as shadow spokesperson for the Cabinet Office and I congratulate him on his new role as the SNP’s shadow spokesperson for constitutional affairs.

“Neil Gray MP will coordinate our inclusion and wellbeing team before he steps down as a MP and seeks election to the Scottish Parliament. I thank him for all his work and wish him the very best.

“We are at a crucial time in politics. Never before have we faced a challenge as great as the global pandemic, and Scotland is acutely feeling the ramifications of leaving the European Union.

“With the Scottish elections on the horizon and independence in touching distance, our new team is ready to work hard for Scotland.”



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