This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

The week long suspension of Fergus Ewing from the SNP's Holyrood group has again put the party's disciplinary rules into the spotlight.

Mr Ewing was given the sanction in September when SNP MSPs voted to impose the punishment after he voted against the Scottish Government minister Lorna Slater in a motion of no confidence brought by the Conservatives back in June.

However, the sanction wasn't imposed at the time as the former rural affairs secretary appealed against the decision.

But on Tuesday, Mr Ewing, the long serving MSP for Inverness and Nairn and son of the late SNP trailblazer Winnie Ewing, lost his appeal with the suspension taking effect from midnight last night.

September's decision over the penalty was far from unanimous though.

Forty-eight SNP MSPs voted to suspend the former rural affairs secretary for one week, while nine voted against and four abstained from the motion.

After the sanction was announced at the time, Mr Ewing read a defiant statement to the press flanked by some of those who had supported him – former finance secretary Kate Forbes, his sister, deputy presiding officer Annabelle Ewing, and the long serving MSP Christine Grahame.

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The Herald was told at the time of the meeting that some of those who backed Mr Ewing did so for different reasons with some having concerns over process while others felt that he had a point that he was defending his constituents' interests.

Those who voted for the sanction, such as Mairi McAllan, the then cabinet secretary for net zero and now economy secretary, insisted it was a "proportionate response" after, she said, Mr Ewing committed "a serious breach of the party's standing orders".

It is understood that voting against the government in either the budget or in a no confidence motion is a breach of the SNP's standing orders which requires disciplinary action to be taken.

As not all SNP MSPs were convinced that Mr Ewing, who has been an MSP since 1999, had breached the rules, it suggests there are possible grey areas.

These seem to surround exceptions that can be made for SNP MSPs if there is a clash between government policy and the interests of their constituents.

Clearly, Mr Ewing has argued he shouldn't have been sanctioned as he was voicing the concerns of his constituents over what he and they considered would be the damaging effect on their businesses of the deposit return scheme, a policy led by Ms Slater, which has now been shelved.

However, what may have weakened his case, was that in 2021 the SNP brought in a new rule that anyone seeking a conscience or constituency vote would have to get the prior approval of all its MSPs.

Mr Ewing pointed out that this rule did not exist during the previous five parliaments and that its introduction suggested the SNP was now an "authoritarian" party.

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The development does indicate a change in the way the party disciplines its MSPs who fail to back the government.

But what about other MSPs who are under investigation for potential wrongdoing?

That seems a greyer area still.

Last year the SNP MSP Michelle Thomson called for Ms Sturgeon to resign the party whip following the former first minister's arrest by police investigating SNP finances. Ms Sturgeon was released without charge pending further investigation.

Ms Thomson pointed out resigning the whip would have been a consistent course for the former first minister to follow as back in 2015 Ms Thomson had to give up the whip when she was an MP under Ms Sturgeon's leadership following press reports about her property dealings.

Ms Thomson pointed out she did so despite never being arrested nor personally under police investigation.

“After careful consideration, I feel that the right thing for the former first minister to do is resign the SNP whip. This is not because she doesn’t deserve to be treated as innocent until proven guilty – she does, but because her values should be consistent," said Ms Thomson.

The question now looms over whether the SNP group will impose any sanction against former health secretary Michael Matheson.

The Falkirk West MSP resigned from his Cabinet role earlier this month after running up a £11,000 iPad bill while on holiday in Morocco.

Initially, he claimed the costs were incurred for legitimate parliamentary work while abroad but later he admitted in an emotional statement to parliament that it had fact been run up by his sons watching football during the overseas festive break. After the initial outcry over the bill, Mr Matheson paid the money back.

The Herald: There is now the question of if the SNP will impose any sanction on former health secretary Michael MathesonThere is now the question of if the SNP will impose any sanction on former health secretary Michael Matheson (Image: Newsquest)
But the saga has some way to run with Mr Matheson currently preparing his response to what is believed to be a highly critical provisional report by the Holyrood authorities into his actions.

Once the findings are published they may be referred to MSPs on the cross-party standards committee who will decide whether to impose any sanction against Mr Matheson.

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If it turns out the report is indeed damning, it would be open to the SNP group to take action against him too.

SNP MSPs may want to argue that Mr Matheson's already stood down as health secretary which in itself is enough of a penalty.

It's not an argument that will carry much weight among the opposition parties.

And they could well return to the case of Mr Ewing.

They may argue that the SNP will impose robust discipline against an MSP speaking up for his constituents regarding a flawed policy, while prepared to turn a blind eye to another of its MSPs who racked up a £11,000 expense from the public purse for illegitimate use of his parliamentary iPad.