ONE of the SNP’s longest-serving MPs has strongly criticised former party leader, Nicola Sturgeon for closing down all serious discussion about independence.

Angus MacNeil, the MP for Na h-Eileanan ar lar, stated this week that he would sit as an independent following a heated row with SNP Westminster whip, Brendan O’Hara that resulted in a one-week suspension.

In a statement, Mr MacNeil had branded the party ‘utterly clueless’ about how to pursue independence and claimed they had “no clear understanding that it has to use elections to negotiate independence from Westminster”. 

Read more on this story: Angus MacNeil will not rejoin SNP until party 'pursues independence'

In an exclusive interview with The Herald he has now doubled down on this position and suggested that new party leader, Humza Yousaf must “de-couple” from the Nicola Sturgeon era which he says was “eight years of missed opportunities”.

Asked about the risks to his own political career of standing as an independent at the next Westminster election he said: “You pass this way but once. If you don’t try to change things you’ll always reproach yourself. I’m in a position where I may possibly be able to change things. If we sit and play it safe then none of us are going anywhere.”

He accused Ms Sturgeon of dominating group meetings and silencing discussions about how best to achieve independence and that this had cowed too many of his colleagues into submissiveness.

He said it had become clear after her decision to go to the Supreme Court to test Holyrood’s competency to hold a referendum without Westminster consent that there had been little or no discussion about this with the party’s most senior figures.

He said that the fundamental and basic discussions hadn’t even happened and that those people doing most of the thinking about it were being kept out.

“The deference that you were expected to show Nicola whenever she spoke was a big part of the problem."

Mr MacNeill’s uncompromising views will rock a party still reeling from the ongoing police investigation into its finances and the flurry of senior resignations that followed Ms Sturgeon’s sudden decision to resign the leadership.

Read more: SNP's Stewart Hosie denies 'split' in Westminster party after Angus MacNeil suspended

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr MacNeil was unequivocal about what ails his party, including the role of the Greens in the Scottish Government and the tendency of too many among his colleagues to "settle down rather than settle up" while doing nothing to advance independence.

He also outlined his route-map to achieving independence, saying: “it’s not the Tories who are the main blocks to this. We accuse them of being anti-democratic, but they’re not. Rather it’s our own inertia that’s become the main problem.”

He said that in the first few hours following his statement he had been “overwhelmed” by the messages of support for his stance from his constituency members and further afield.

Read the full interview in tomorrow’s Herald