Cherry: Sturgeon owes defeated SNP MPs apology after voters were ‘disillusioned’

Nicola Sturgeon owes SNP MPs who lost their seat an apology after voters became “disillusioned” by the party’s independence strategy, Joanna Cherry has said.

The veteran politician was one of 39 former SNP MPs to lose her seat in Thursday’s General Election, after her Edinburgh South West seat was gained by Labour.

Ms Cherry, who has been among the loudest internal critics of her party’s former leadership, told Sky New’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillip’s programme that it had become “difficult to persuade” people to vote for the SNP.

She said the party had failed to convince its core independence support of the way forward in the cause, while accusing the SNP-run Scottish Government of losing its “competence and integrity”.

Scottish devolution
Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon (Jane Barlow/PA)

Speaking on the programme, she said: “It was difficult to persuade people to vote SNP in this election.

“Many, many former constituents said to me on the doorstep ‘I would vote for you Joanna but I just can’t vote SNP this time’.

“Our core support the people who believe passionately in the cause of Scottish independence… was very disillusioned at the party’s failure to progress the cause of independence and failure to take advantage of some of the opportunities that were presented to us during the Brexit saga and also during the Boris Johnson premiership.

“And on the other hand there were a lot of people who voted for us in the past in Scotland who didn’t necessarily support independence but saw us as a strong and competent government at Holyrood, and also a party that governed with integrity.

“And I’m afraid to say, I’m not ashamed because it’s not down to me, but I am afraid to say and ashamed for my party, that both our reputation of governing competently and for integrity has taken a severe battering in the last couple of years.”

And while she said the defeat could not be solely blamed on Ms Sturgeon, she was asked whether the former first minister owed the party an “apology”.

She replied: “I think she does.

“I don’t think you can ever blame a setback like this on one person, however, Nicola Sturgeon was a very strong leader who brooked no debate and no dissent, as I know to my considerable cost.”

She said there had been a “huge strategic failure” on Ms Sturgeon’s part to further the cause of independence and reach unconvinced voters.

She added that Ms Sturgeon was “reversing us very slowly a blind alley on independence”.

Ms Cherry, who has repeatedly said she felt “excluded” from the party after she spoke out against its stance on gender reforms and the approach to independence, did back current leader and First Minister John Swinney.

She told the programme that Mr Swinney had “widespread support” within the party, but added: “If he is to maintain that support, he is going to have to acknowledge the enormity of the setback and address the reasons why it happened.”

Ms Sturgeon, who was part of ITV’s General Election coverage, said on air that said it would be the “easy solution” for people to “take refuge in somehow it’s all my fault”.