Former SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes has praised “living legend” Fergus Ewing and said she was keen to ensure he didn’t “stand alone” following his suspension from the party’s Holyrood group.
Ms Forbes, along with fellow SNP MSPs Christine Grahame and Annabelle Ewing – who is Mr Ewing’s sister – stood alongside the former minister as he addressed the media after he was suspended for a week.
The Inverness and Nairn MSP was sanctioned by his fellow MSPs after a number of rebellions, including speaking out against Scottish Government policies like highly protected marine areas, the dualling of the A9 and the deposit return scheme.
He also voted in favour of a motion of no confidence in Scottish Government minister and Green co-leader Lorna Slater and has been heavily critical of the Government’s power-sharing deal with the Greens.
On Sunday, Mr Ewing announced he would appeal the decision.
Speaking to The Herald newspaper, Ms Forbes said: “Fergus is a living legend throughout the Highlands and Islands and mainly because he always puts the needs of these communities first.
“My concern was that he didn’t stand alone going in or leaving that room.
“Our parliamentary group is a family and you must have each other’s backs. And when you face difficult circumstances, you need your troops around you.”
The SNP refused to comment on the appeal against Mr Ewing’s suspension, but it is understood a three person panel – made up of Westminster MPs or members of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) – will be appointed by the SNP’s ruling body and the process will normally be resolved within three weeks of the appeal letter being received.
Ms Forbes, who served as finance secretary under Nicola Sturgeon and reportedly turned down the rural affairs brief she was offered by Humza Yousaf, also weighed in on the future of education in Scotland.
With the Scottish Government’s aim of reducing the poverty-related attainment gap – the MSP said it was important not to drop educational standards to do so.
Ms Forbes said there was a risk in public discussion about the attainment gap that Government should “make education simpler and easier”, while she believed the opposite should be the case.
Ministers should recognise, she said, the country’s education system is in competition with those elsewhere in the world.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Tackling the attainment gap is not about making education simpler but is about removing barriers to education that are presented by poverty and enabling children and young people to reach their full potential.
“We want to ensure children from our poorest communities have the same opportunities to succeed as their peers and this will continue to be the relentless focus of the Scottish Government.
“Scottish education continues to be aspirational for all of our young people and is underpinned by the guiding principle that every school in Scotland must have high ambitions for every child, no matter their circumstances.
“That is why the Scottish Government is investing a record £1 billion over this parliamentary term to help close the poverty related attainment gap.”
They added: “Finally, there are no proposals to remove examinations from Scotland’s school education system.
“The Hayward Review presents options for reform, but a key part of that consideration is the appropriate and balanced approach to assessment central to our qualifications system and external examinations retain a critical role.”