Independence supporters 'disillusioned' with SNP - Cherry

Joanna Cherry
Joana Cherry has been a vocal critic of the SNP leadership under Nicola Sturgeon [PA Media]

Voters have have become "disillusioned" with the SNP over its failure to progress the case for Scottish independence, former MP Joanna Cherry has said.

She told Sky News that ex-first minister Nicola Sturgeon owed an apology to those who lost seats as the SNP slipped from 48 MPs in 2019 to nine in last week's election.

Ms Cherry, who was ousted by Labour in Edinburgh South West, also said she was "ashamed" for the party, adding its reputation for competent governance and integrity had taken a "severe battering".

Former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford - who sacked Ms Cherry from the party's frontbench following vocal criticism of the leadership under Ms Sturgeon, particularly over gender recognition reform - described her as "bitter".

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Ms Cherry told Sky News: "It was difficult to persuade people to vote SNP in this election".

She said the SNP's core support was "very disillusioned at the party's failure to progress the cause of independence", citing missed opportunities following Brexit and Boris Johnson's premiership and calling it a "huge strategic failure".

Ms Cherry said she was "ashamed" for the SNP "that both our reputation of governing competently and for integrity has taken a severe battering in the last couple of years".

She said the election result could not solely be blamed on Ms Sturgeon, but asked whether the former first minister owed the party an "apology", Ms Cherry replied: "I think she does."

She said the former first minister "brooked no debate and no dissent" and that she had reversed the SNP "very slowly down a blind alley on independence".

Ms Cherry said the Scottish government's handling of gender recognition reforms - which were blocked by the UK government - was a "microcosm of everything that was wrong with Nicola’s leadership".

She backed the current SNP leader John Swinney but said he would have to acknowledge the "enormity of the setback and address the reasons why it happened".

Ms Sturgeon, who was part of ITV's General Election coverage, said on air that said it would be the "easy solution" for people to "take refuge in somehow it's all my fault".

Ian Blackford
Ex-SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford described Joanna Cherry as "bitter" [Getty Images]

Mr Blackford, who led the SNP in the Commons between 2017 and 2022, told the Sunday Mail: "You can't sugar coat any of this. It's up to John what the party does but the electorate have delivered a very clear message to us."

In response to comments made by Ms Cherry about the former SNP leadership on election night, Mr Blackford said: "She is just someone who is bitter, never mind losing her seat."

He added: "I have to look at everything I did when I was Westminster leader and of course I did have a good relationship with Nicola.

"Should I have pushed more on certain things? I don't know."

Asked if Mr Swinney would be able to turn the party's fortunes around, Mr Blackford said: "Time will tell but there isn't really anybody else, so he's the man for it."

Liz Lloyd
Liz Lloyd, Nicola Sturgeon's former aide, said the party was right to focus on the cost of living during the election campaign [Getty Images]

Liz Lloyd, Ms Sturgeon’s former chief of staff, told BBC Scotland's Sunday Show it was "hardly breaking news" that her old boss and Ms Cherry did not like each other.

However, she said she was not convinced that more prominence for pro-independence arguments would have improved the SNP performance at the election.

Mr Swinney said his government would have been "empowered" to begin negotiations for a second independence referendum if the SNP had won a majority of Scottish seats.

Ms Lloyd said the party was right to focus more on austerity and the cost of living.

She told the programme that the public know there is not going to be a referendum by the end of the current Scottish Parliament in 2026.

“So as you talk up independence, and you talk up what this election might mean for independence, the public are going ‘aye right’.

“That’s not coming, that’s not happening. It is a longer journey now.”

Ms Lloyd said independence would not happen until the “grassroots” independence movement has pushed support “significantly higher”.

Stephen Gethins, who was one of nine SNP MPs to win a seat, said the party would have to listen to voters following the election.

“The public don’t get it wrong,” he told the Sunday Show, “You’ve got to reflect on the election result as it is.”

Meanwhile, Alba Party leader Alex Salmond revealed he voted for the SNP in last week's election.

The former SNP leader and first minister told LBC he had been voting in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, where there was no Alba candidate.

The SNP won the seat, defeating the outgoing Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross - who controversially stood for election instead of a colleague who had been ill in hospital.

Mr Salmond said: "I'm one of the few people in Scotland who can say I voted for a successful SNP candidate because in this seat, because of the shenanigans of the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, who stabbed one of his colleagues in the back, metaphorically."

He added: "So this was the SNP's gain of the election and I and Alba supporters contributed to it, so I'm glad to give the SNP their saving grace."