Fergus Ewing cuts the ribbon to open Aquaculture UK 2018, when he was a minister for the SNP.

Fish farming supporter Ewing defiant after being suspended by SNP

Former aquaculture minister who helped block HPMAs won’t stop criticising ‘madcap’ policies


A former Scottish National Party minister who has a high-profile role in opposing SNP/Green Party plans to ban fishing and aquaculture from at least 10% of Scotland’s seas has been suspended by his party for a week.

Fergus Ewing, whose former ministerial portfolio include fishing and aquaculture, dramatically tore up a document setting out the proposal for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) during a Scottish Parliamentary debate on the issue in May.

“This is not a consultation document – it is a notice of execution,” he said, stressing his fears that HPMAs would devastate fragile rural coastal communities that relied on fishing and aquaculture.

Other SNP MSPs, including former finance minister Kate Forbes, also warned that HPMAs would be harmful, and the measures were later scrapped in their proposed form.

Several clashes

The HPMA fight is one of several run-ins Ewing has had with the leadership of the governing SNP and the Scottish Green Party, which is supporting the government with votes in return for two ministerial posts and influence on policy.

Ewing has been a critic of the party leadership on several issues and had voted against the government in a motion of no confidence in Green Party co-leader Lorna Slater, the minister for green skills, circular economy, and biodiversity.

At a disciplinary hearing yesterday, the SNP’s Holyrood Group confirmed the proposal to suspend Ewing for a week by 48 votes to nine with four abstentions.

After the vote, Ewing – whose late mother Winnie was a pioneer of the party – said he was “literally born into the SNP”.

'Hostile' policies

The veteran MSP, who represents Inverness, said: “Many is the time as a minister and as an MSP I have bitten my tongue for the greater good. I did this because I knew that whatever disagreements or policy shortcomings I thought the Party had, it was fundamentally attempting to do the right thing by my constituents and for Scotland. It was never an ordinary political party because it was one which put Scotland first.

“In good conscience this is no longer the case and it has nothing to do with personalities or my antipathy towards the Green Party.

“It has to do with policies on the deposit return scheme, on fishing, on transport, tourism and small businesses, and on boiler replacement, which are deeply hostile to the interests of my constituency.

'Let the cards fall'

“The SNP I joined would never have asked me, or indeed any other elected politician, to choose between loyalty to Party and loyalty to constituents. Indeed, in the old SNP it was always expected that country and constituency would come first. That is why the SNP, while often attacked, was always respected.”

Ewing said he would continue to speak out against the failure of the SNP to honour pledges to improve the A9 and the A96, and against the “madcap” policy to outlaw gas boilers in new homes from 2024.

“I choose to defend my constituents and Iet the cards fall as they will,” said Ewing, who has two weeks to appeal against the suspension.