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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Adam Forrest

SNP MP Lisa Cameron quits and joins Tories over ‘toxic and bullying’ treatment

Parliament UK / Creative Commons

A SNP MP Lisa Cameron has announced she is quitting the party and defecting to the Conservatives over the “toxic and bullying” treatment from colleagues at Westminster.

The backbencher will now sit with the Tory party in the Commons rather than spark a by-election in her East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow seat.

The furious SNP leader Humza Yousaf accused Ms Cameron of “betrayal” for switching to the Tories – demanding that the MP “do the honourable thing” and resign her seat.

Coming just days before the SNP conference, Mr Yousaf said: “To see somebody who claims to have supported Scottish independence cross the floor to the Conservative and Unionist Party betrays the fact that she probably never believed in the cause in the first place.”

Ms Cameron blamed her SNP colleagues in parliament for the “deterioration” of her mental health and being put on antidepressants – revealing that she had received support from Rishi Sunak.

The defecting MP said she had been badly treated over her decision to support the harassment victim of fellow SNP MP Patrick Grady. She also lashed out at the “division” caused by the party’s push for Scottish independence.

In a statement, the MP said: “Families like mine experienced significant division regarding the issue of [Scottish] independence”. She added: “I have come to the conclusion that it is more helpful to focus my energies upon constructive policies that benefit everyone across the four nations of the UK.”

Labour’s Ian Murray MP, the shadow Scottish secretary, said Ms Cameron had had let down her constituents and “shown her true colours” by defecting to the Tories.

Mr Sunak said he was “delighted” that Ms Cameron has decided to join the Conservatives. “Lisa is right that we should aim to do politics better, with more empathy and less division and a dedication to always doing what we think is right.”

Lisa Cameron fell out with ex-SNP Westminister leader Ian Blackford
— (PA Wire)

She had spoken out over Mr Grady and challenged how the leadership handled sexual harassment allegations against her colleage. The former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford had reportedly said in a group meeting that the party should offer “absolute full support” to Mr Grady.

The Commissioner for Standards concluded last year that Mr Grady had breached sexual misconduct policy – upholding a complaint that he had made “an unwanted sexual advance” to a junior member of staff”.

Announcing her decision to quit on Thursday, Ms Cameron said: “I do not feel able to continue in what I have experienced as a toxic and bullying SNP Westminster group.”

She said it had “resulted in my requiring counselling for a period of 12 months in parliament and caused significant deterioration in my health and wellbeing as assessed by my GP including the need for antidepressants”.

Ms Cameron said she would “never regret my actions in standing up for a victim of abuse at the hands of an SNP MP last year” – but had lost faith in the party’s leadership.

Rishi Sunak said he was ‘delighted’ by the SNP MP’s decision to join the Tories
— (PA Wire)

Ms Cameron was set to be challenged soon for the SNP nomination in her East Kilbride constituency at the next general election.

The MP said only last month that she “can’t entirely rule out” forcing a by-election immediately if she was not nominated to stand again by the party.

But she is not thought to be willing to call a by-election after her exit from the party, and will instead sit as a Tory MP until the general election expected in 2024.

Andy Maciver – the Scottish Tories’ former media chief – said the SNP would be “delighted, when they think about it”.

The host of the Holyrood Sources podcast said it meant SNP get to engage their base by complaining about the Tories without the need for the “bruising” by-election Ms Cameron had threatened. “The Tories get another MP and a bit of fun. Labour get to say ‘we’re the alternative’. Everyone’s happy.”

Conservative MP John Lamont posted a “warm welcome” to his new colleague on Twitter, while Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said it was a sign that the SNP was “imploding”. Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “It’s great to have Lisa Cameron on board.”

Ms Cameron praised Mr Sunak and said she was “particularly grateful” to him for reaching out to her after receiving “no contact from party leadership in the past weeks” despite her mental health struggles.

The new Tory MP added: “It is the first time I have felt heard and shows positive, inclusive leadership in contrast to that which I have encountered in the SNP at Westminster over many years.”

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