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SNP should re-examine withdrawing MPs from Westminster – depute leader

The SNP should re-examine the issue of whether to withdraw MPs from Westminster following the chaos over its motion on Gaza, the party’s depute leader has said.

There were angry scenes in the Commons last week following Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s decision to allow a debate on a Labour amendment to the SNP’s motion calling for a ceasefire.

The Speaker apologised to MPs and then offered another debate to the SNP, which had not been able to vote on its own motion in the first instance, but on Monday the request for a debate was turned down.

Writing in the Sunday National, Keith Brown, SNP depute leader, said the “tradition whereby Westminster sidelines, marginalises or suppresses Scotland is not new”.

He said the reaction of some Labour representatives to how the Gaza motion was handled raises concerns about how Scotland would be treated if Labour were to win the next general election.

He wrote: “Given the ‘diet democracy’ of the UK and the denial of democracy to Scotland, it seems we now need to examine whether it is right to confer any legitimacy on an institution determined to deny democracy in Scotland.

“Some have believed for many years that Scotland should withdraw from Westminster while others believe it is necessary to be there, to make arguments on Scotland’s behalf, to promote and protect Scotland’s interests. I have tended to agree with this.

“But when the institution can so easily be manipulated to thwart Scotland’s representatives, the issue needs, in my view, to be re-examined.”

He said that seeing some Labour representatives, with “quite a few” honourable exceptions outwith their party in parliament “cock-a-hoop with having ‘dished’ the SNP (regardless of the substantive issue on Gaza) must be a warning for how Scotland will be treated under any Starmer-led UK government”.

Commons Gaza ceasefire motion
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle apologised after the Commons was plunged into chaos last week (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Shona Robison said there is a debate to be had about the role of the SNP parliamentary group at Westminster but that the party is focused on leading on the issues that people are concerned about.

She told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show: “I think our SNP parliamentary group at Westminster has an important role to play in leading on issues like, for example, Gaza when they brought forward a debate that recognised, for example, the need for an immediate ceasefire and talked about the collective punishment of millions of people, and I think that is where the SNP is at its best, leading on these issues.

“There is a debate to be had in terms of the role of our parliamentary group but for my perspective they are best when they are highlighting key important issues and leading from the front, as they have been doing on the issue of Gaza for example.”

Asked if she would be worried if they were talking about withdrawing, she said “I’m not aware that they are talking about that.”

She added that the group at Westminster is focused on “making sure the SNP continue to lead on the issues that people are concerned about like Gaza and that’s what they will continue to do”.

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray MP said: “The SNP have been disengaged with Westminster for years, delivering nothing for communities across Scotland.

“At the general election Scotland has a chance not just to send a message but to send a government who will work to deliver the change that Scotland needs.”