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Yousaf: Defecting MP probably never supported independence in first place

The SNP leader aimed sharp criticism at Dr Lisa Cameron who quit his party for Rishi Sunak’s.

Humza Yousaf has sharply criticised the MP who quit his party to join the Conservatives, saying she should resign her seat and “probably never believed” in Scottish independence to begin with.

The First Minister said he was not surprised by the decision of Dr Lisa Cameron to switch sides, becoming the first MP of her party to join the Tories.

Her defection comes on the day she was facing a selection battle in her constituency of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.

Rishi Sunak said he was “delighted” by her decision, which Dr Cameron said was due to the “toxic and bullying” culture within the SNP.

She also said Scottish independence had led to “significant division” in families like her own.

First elected as an SNP MP in 2015, Dr Cameron is a clinical psychiatrist who went on to win again in the two subsequent general elections.

Asked about her defection on Thursday, the First Minister told the PA news agency: “It’s the least-surprising news I’ve had as leader of the SNP, I must confess.

“Lisa Cameron should do the honourable thing, she should resign her seat.

“She should do the honourable thing by her constituents, who voted for an SNP MP, (but) did not vote for a Conservative MP.”

He said he was confident the SNP could win any by-election and her decision was a “betrayal” of activists who had campaigned for her election.

Mr Yousaf added: “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.”

He noted that Dr Cameron had written to the UK Government urging it to block Holyrood’s gender recognition reforms.

Dr Cameron’s opponent in the selection race, Grant Costello, had received the backing of an SNP minister and she was not expected to win.

Rishi Sunak visits Currys Repair Centre – Newark
Rishi Sunak said he was ‘delighted’ by the switch (Joe Giddens/PA)

Dr Cameron claimed she was shunned by other SNP MPs at Westminster after challenging the support given to former chief whip Patrick Grady – who was suspended from the House of Commons and apologised in Parliament after being found to have acted inappropriately towards a party staffer.

Her change of party comes days before the SNP conference in Aberdeen and follows the party’s significant by-election loss in Rutherglen and Hamilton West last week.

Mr Sunak reacted to her decision saying: “I am delighted that Lisa Cameron has decided to join the Conservatives. She is a brave and committed constituency MP.

“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.

“I look forward to working with her on the disability issues she has championed so passionately in Parliament.”

UK Parliament portraits
Dr Lisa Cameron said the fight for Scottish independence has led to ‘division’ within families (Richard Townshend/UK Parliament)

An SNP spokeswoman said her constituents would be “appalled” that they now had a Conservative MP.

She said: “Lisa Cameron should now do the right thing and step down to allow a by-election.

“Her constituents elected an SNP MP, not a Tory, and they deserve to have the democratic opportunity to elect a hard-working SNP MP who will put the interests of Scotland first.

“On a personal basis, we wish her well.”

In the 2019 election, Dr Cameron took 46.4% of the vote as an SNP candidate, with Labour winning 22.7% and the Conservatives 21.2%.

Dr Cameron has previously been the SNP’s spokeswoman on mental health matters.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said he looked forward to working with Dr Cameron.

He said: “Like many ex-SNP supporters, she has realised that her former party is hopelessly divided under Humza Yousaf and incapable of focusing on the real priorities of the Scottish people.

“Lisa took a principled stand in supporting the victim in the Patrick Grady case, when her party took the side of the disgraced MP.”

Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary, Ian Murray, said: “This bizarre move shows that the SNP is falling apart before our eyes.

“The fact is that the SNP and the Tories are two sides of the same coin – putting the cause of division before the needs of the people.

“While the SNP and Tories compete to out-do each other in incompetence, Labour is focused on rebuilding our country and getting Britain its future back.”

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