Humza Yousaf has denied the SNP is an 'authoritarian' party.

The accusation was made by former rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing after he lost his appeal yesterday against his week long suspension from the SNP group at Holyrood.

Asked by journalists today if the SNP is authoritarian, the First Minister said: "No, we're not."

SNP MSPs at Holyrood had agreed to suspend the Inverness and Nairn MSP from their group for a week back in September 2023 after he voted against Scottish Government minister and Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater in a crucial vote of confidence.

The motion had been tabled by the Conservatives over her handling of the now halted deposit return scheme.

READ MORE: Ewing blasts SNP as he loses appeal against suspension

Mr Ewing, the son of late SNP trailblazer Winnie Ewing and a former rural economy secretary in the Scottish Government, had appealed against that decision.

But in a statement released by his office on Tuesday evening he said the suspension had been upheld by the party who he then turned his fire on.

Claiming his vote against the circular economy minister Ms Slater had been a “vote of conscience”, Mr Ewing hit out, saying: “The SNP has now become an authoritarian party requiring strict obedience to the leadership at the expense of personal freedom for any individual member.”

He insisted that the public “do not want MSPs to be mere ciphers or rubber stamps of leadership dictation”, with Mr Ewing claiming: “If my constituents wanted a doormat, they would have gone to B&Q.”

READ MORE: SNP MSPs vote to suspend Fergus Ewing from Holyrood group

His comments came after the politician, who has been an MSP since the first Holyrood elections in 1999, spoke out against the Scottish Government on policies such as the now halted deposit return scheme (DRS), and his party's co-operation deal with the Scottish Greens.

It was after DRS was put on hold that a vote on no confidence in Ms Slater was called, with Mr Ewing saying he had “stood up for my constituents to protect them against a disastrous policy (the Deposit Return Scheme) and voted with my conscience against that policy, which was eventually discarded”.

But he insisted: “The SNP leadership no longer tolerates a conscience vote.”

The party’s leadership brought in new rules in 2021, preventing SNP MSPs from using a conscience vote or constituency grounds to go against the Scottish Government, Mr Ewing claimed, adding the party had never before exerted such control over its members at Holyrood.

READ MORE: Revealed: The nine SNP MSPs who voted not to suspend Fergus Ewing

He also claimed "the same authoritarianism" was evident in some of the party's policies such as the gender recognition reforms, also now halted, and a plan to have a pilot where rape trials are heard by a single judge without a jury. The latter policy is currently going through Holyrood.

"We no longer trust ordinary citizens to reach the ‘right’ verdict in trial by jury; or, regarding gender reform, where leadership will only listen to arguments deemed by them to be ‘valid.’

He repeated his call for Mr Yousaf to put the power-sharing agreement with Greens at Holyrood to a fresh vote.

The Bute House Agreement gives the SNP a majority in the Scottish Parliament, but Mr Ewing, who has previously branded the Greens as being “wine bar pseudo-intellectuals”, insisted it was a “disastrous deal”.

He told how he had “served” the SNP for 50 years as it was “the main vehicle for independence”, but added: “Over the past two years, we have borne the high electoral cost of a disastrous deal with the Greens. It is dragging us down."

Mr Ewing was asked on BBC's Radio Scotland Good Morning Scotland about a change in 2015 to the party standing orders which meant that no elected SNP politician should publicly criticise a group decision, policy or another member of the group. 

He was pressed: "We've known for a long time of this informal arrangement of wheesht for indy, the idea there should be no criticism in public until the prize of independence is won, you've gone along with these in the past, why now feel the need to speak with your conscience?"

Mr Ewing said as a cabinet secretary and a minister for 14 years he observed the rules of collective responsibility before saying that he had not been speaking out about another SNP MSP but an MSP from the Scottish Greens.

"I'm...speaking out not about the group member but about a member of another party, the Green party, a party incidentally, whose leader said that his support for this cooperation agreement or coalition if you like, would have been withdrawn, had the Party decided to be led by Kate Forbes, as it very nearly did," he said.

"So it seems that the Greens can impose their conditions upon our cooperation, but we apparently have to give unqualified cooperation to them as they set down their unilateral conditions of their agreement. That surely is one way traffic, not the two way street that it should be."

Mr Ewing went on to say that he had been in the SNP for 50 years and "for most of those years until the last two or three, the party has stood up for Scotland" saying that meant the people of Scotland, the farmers, fishermen, people who work in oil and gas as well as fish farmers and business people working in hospitality and tourism sector.

Scottish Conservative Chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: “Fergus Ewing’s suspension from the party he – and his family – is synonymous with highlights how divided the SNP are over Humza Yousaf’s pandering to the extremist Greens.

“He has been punished for daring to point out the obvious: that Lorna Slater should have been sacked for her shambolic handling of the deposit return scheme.

“This decision shows how Humza Yousaf and the SNP have turned their back on rural Scotland and the major issues that are affecting those areas. Even Fergus Ewing recognises that the SNP are failing them.

“But Humza Yousaf is hellbent on defending the deal with the Greens – which he previously said was worth his weight in gold – rather than listening to rural Scotland.

“This suspension proves that the SNP are all too happy to continue to fight like Nats in a sack, while also ignoring Scots real priorities.”

Responding to Mr Ewing's statement last night, a SNP spokesperson said: "Discipline is an internal matter for the SNP Holyrood Group."