THE former SNP cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing is facing the loss of the party whip after voting to sack Green minister Lorna Slater yesterday.

The Inverness MSP, son of SNP legend Winnie Ewing, could be suspended from the Holyrood group by the end of the day, the Herald understands.

SNP sources said Mr Ewing had “crossed a line” when he supported a Tory motion of no confidence in Ms Slater over the failed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS).

READ MORE: Lorna Slater sees off vote of no confidence

One told the Herald that since the Bute House Agreement cementing the SNP-Green joint government in 2021 the Green co-leader was considered “one of our own”.

In addition, any suspension would not be a token punishment - over the summer recess, for instance - but would cause Mr Ewing “pain”.

It is understood Mr Ewing's fate will be known next week.

If he loses the whip and is forced to sit as an Independent MSP it would raise questions for Humza Yousaf about why Nicola Sturgeon retains the whip despite her arrest as a suspect in the criminal inquiry into the SNP’s finances.

It could cause tension between the Government and business leaders after Mr Yousaf promised a fresh start in relations after taking over from Ms Sturgeon.

More than 50 figures from the drinks industry today said it  was "totally backward" that Mr Ewing might lose the whip while Ms Slater kept her job as a minister.

They signed a letter telling Mr Ewing he had “shown great courage and integrity in standing up for the interests of businesses" despite it putting him as at odds with his party.

Ms Slater survived the vote after SNP and Green MSPs backed her 68 votes to 55.

Mr Ewing was the only SNP MSP to support the calls for Ms Slater to be sacked.

A long-term critic of the recycling scheme, he called it “fatally and irremediably flawed” yet the Scottish Government had ignored business concerns.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon refuses to say if husband innocent of wrongdoing

He said after voting for Ms Slater’s removal: “The minister with responsibility for the scheme does not enjoy the confidence of business.

“I have therefore voted to seek a new minister appointed to take over this troubled matter to deal with the huge fallout of numerous compensation claims and reconsider afresh how best to achieve recycling objectives.” 

The DRS was due to start in August but has been postponed to late 2025 at the earliest following the UK Government placing limits on its scope, and barring glass from it.

That in turn led to the collapse of the body running the scheme, Circularity Scotland, which yesterday went into administration with the potential loss of 60 jobs.

Business leaders said it was a “totally backward situation” that Mr Ewing could be facing losing the SNP party whip while Ms Slater remains in post.

A letter was signed by dozens of figures from the Scottish drinks industry, including Edinburgh’s Stewart Brewing,  Elgin's Avva Scottish Gin, Shipyard Gin in Gourock, Wild Thyme Spirits on the Isle of Colonsay, and the North Uist Distillery, as well Bon Accord soft drinks in Edinburgh.

More than 50 figures from across the sector had put their name to it by lunchtime on Wednesday, with signatories telling Mr Ewing he had “shown great courage and integrity in standing up for the interests of businesses, even though it has put you at odds with your party”.

In the letter, seen by the PA news agency, the business leaders said they were grateful to the MSP for his “efforts to persuade your colleagues to halt the scheme”.

They added: “Thank-you again for your leadership and for your commitment to standing up for the interests of businesses in Scotland.”

Ms Slater, meanwhile, refused to say if Mr Ewing should face sanctions for going against his party and voting for the motion of no confidence in her, telling BBC Radio Scotland: “Those are internal matters for another political party.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have won this vote convincingly – one SNP MSP not abiding by the whip in this instance is an internal party matter, which will be considered by the chief whip in due course.”