AN SNP MP has been accused of capitalising on the virus crisis to undermine Nicola Sturgeon and boost their own profile following a series of remarks made in an online party meeting.

Joanna Cherry, MP for Edinburgh South West, attended a virtual session with members of the SNP’s Orkney branch on Monday where she is alleged to have made ‘brazenly disloyal’ comments about the government, party leadership and its strategy for discussing the currency in an independent Scotland.

The session came just days before she wrote a column stating there was a need for a “radical” change within the SNP towards Scottish independence, prompting predictably furious criticism from unionist groups such as Scotland in Union.

Privately however, her own party colleagues told The Herald the article was “ill-informed at best” with one senior party source commenting that Ms Cherry had “lost the plot” during a time when the country was trying to come together to fight the pandemic.

In the column, Ms Cherry compared the First Minister to Winston Churchill who lef the UK through WWII, but subsequently lost power at the 1945 general election.

She wrote: “Currently, we are at the peak of a crisis led by a leader who is widely respected and trusted. However, when the peak of the crisis is over and we start to return to some degree of normality, that won’t be enough.

“After the Second World War was won, when Britain went to the polls, voters chose not the leader who won the war but Clement Attlee, who had a radical plan for the peace.”

During the online session with Orkney SNP members on Monday, held via Zoom video conference, Ms Cherry is said to have made several “less than complimentary” remarks regarding the party’s position on the currency in an independent Scotland, and is alleged to have said the discussion around the subject at the last SNP party conference had been “stage-managed”.

One party source in the north of Scotland said: “Joanna had planned to go on holiday to Orkney in April but because of the restrictions she couldn’t, so a Zoom call was organised with local members.

READ MORE: SNP's Joanna Cherry comes under Unionist fire for 'unbelievable' focus on independence during pandemic

“It was provoking debate; she was talking about a range of subjects including Brexit, the current pandemic and policy within the SNP. She wasn’t entirely complimentary about the Scottish Government, or the party leadership’s performance.

“She was very angry about the way the conversation around currency in an independent Scotland had gone at conference, said it had been stage-managed, and that questions had to be answered around the currency issue to give people comfort, and that wasn’t happening.”

Another senior party member said: “Having declared that now is not the time for party political considerations, the First Minister is being openly challenged by Joanna Cherry. The level of Cherry’s brazen disloyalty and barely-disguised personal ambition is quite staggering.

“To do this any time is bad enough, but in the middle of a crisis when thousands of people are dying is beyond tasteless.”

When asked to respond to accusations that she was openly now challenging Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership, Ms Cherry said it was “infantile” to make such a suggestion.

The MP said: “In my weekly column I reflected on five years since the 2015 General Election and called upon the SNP to work on policy and strategy using digital platforms during the lockdown.

“I made it categorically clear that the primary focus of the Scottish Government should be the Covid crisis but that the party internally should have bandwidth for policy discussions.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry: I don't want to replace Nicola. I want to get to know her

“It is infantile to characterise any call for internal party debate about policy as a leadership challenge. Indeed Alyn Smith MP had called for such discussions in his column the previous day. “

Ms Cherry added that the feedback she had received “indicate that such debate would be welcomed by most party members.”

On the Orkney branch Zoom meeting, the MP said: “What happens at branch meetings is private and it’s a pity someone is seeking to make mischief here. “