JOANNA Cherry, the high-profile SNP MP and QC, has been "sacked" from the party's front bench as part of a Westminster reshuffle. 

Ms Cherry, who represents Edinburgh South West, was removed as the party's shadow justice and home affairs spokeswoman.

She broke the news on Twitter, writing: "Despite hard work, results & a strong reputation I’ve been sacked today from @theSNP front bench. 

HeraldScotland:

"My constituents & fellow party members who gave me a resounding mandate in recent NEC [the SNP's national executive committee] 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."

The move sparked an outcry from her allies, who labelled it "inexplicable and harmful to our cause".

Anne McLaughlin, the SNP MP for Glasgow North East, will take over the justice brief, while Stuart McDonald, MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, will take on home affairs.

Elsewhere, Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard lost his role as the party's shadow spokesman for the Cabinet Office. He will now be its shadow spokesman for constitutional affairs. 

The SNP's reshuffle gave roles to every MP except the three seen as closest to former first minister Alex Salmond: Ms Cherry, East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill and Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil.

Mr Salmond is currently at loggerheads with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over the Scottish Government's handling of sexual misconduct claims made against him.

Ms Cherry, who is seen as one of the SNP's best parliamentary performers, successfully led a legal challenge against Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plans for the prorogation of Parliament in 2019.

However she has been accused of disloyalty to the party leadership and has publicly clashed with other SNP politicians over issues around trans rights.

Last year, her attempt to swap Westminster for Holyrood was thwarted following a party rule change. 

She is seen by some as a potential rival to Ms Sturgeon.

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.

"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".

He wrote: "Jo was the best of the best at any of the 3rd party briefs."

The latest development exposes deepening rifts within the SNP, which was once renowned for its unity. 

One party source said: "It's not surprising that Joanna has chosen to play a victim rather than supporting colleagues who have an exciting chance to cover the brief.

"At every turn she has played the victim card and hopefully people will see right through it." 

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the reshuffle 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.

There are four new additions to the party's front bench: 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.

"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."