I experienced the SNP’s toxic culture first-hand and admire brave Lisa Cameron

Humza Yousaf told to apologise after Douglas Ross accusations

Lisa Cameron’s decision to leave the Scottish nationalist “cult” (as she described it to me) and join the Conservative Party is seismic.

It would have been unimaginable for virtually my entire 23-year career covering politics such was the visceral hatred the SNP has of the Conservative “and Unionist Party”, but what was once apparently impossible has now happened.

This is certainly a huge coup for Rishi Sunak and one which should give him genuine hope going forward. Despite all the criticisms of his government it says a lot about the Prime Minister’s warm personality that Cameron has felt able to join his party.

But the real story is that the toxic culture, bullying leadership and East German Communist Stasi approach to government have finally caught up with the SNP, Humza Yousaf and his mentor Nicola Sturgeon.

In some ways this is an even bigger blow than the humiliating by-election defeat last week in Rutherglen and Hamilton West and shows that the fragile coalition of different people for independence is on the point of collapse.

READ MORE: SNP MP quits party and joins Tories in bombshell move over ‘toxic’ treatment

First, though, we should all admire the incredible bravery of Dr Cameron to do what she has done.

In Scotland, the SNP have the power and willingness to exact revenge on people they do not like in the sort of way you would normally associate with a totalitarian state.

Just to illustrate that let me tell my story of dealing with the SNP.

I moved to Edinburgh to report from the Scottish Parliament in late 2006 just before the SNP seized power from Labour in one of the closest of elections.

When the Scotsman told me they were moving me to cover politics in Westminster in 2010 my wife wept tears of joy and relief because of the awful time we had suffered at the SNP hands.

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During those three years there were death threats, people searching for my car number plate online, people searching for my home address and the windows of my home was smashed seven times.

My editor at one point banned comments on my stories – because SNP activists were using it as a platform to try to make threats against me.

My “crime” was not opposing independence; but writing up news pieces on the SNP’s policies such as local income tax or the failure to keep its promise to pay off student debt. But this was taken as an attack on the independence movement.

Whenever we tracked down individuals responsible, who were SNP members, the names were passed on to senior people in the party who refused to deal with the issue.

It was impossible to prove, but there was a belief from Scottish Labour and the Lib Dems that the SNP were orchestrating political trolling andwere one of the first parties to do it. There was no doubt certain SNP MPs were deliberately playing to the gallery.

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters later would follow the same playbook.

The worst moment came when I revealed a letter the President of the European Commission had written during the Scottish Independence referendum saying an indepedent Scotland would not automatically remain in the EU but would need to apply.

This was contrary to the lie the SNP had been telling voters in the campaign.

The letter had not been sent so there was a period of uncertainty of a couple of days in which time the SNP leadership, incudng a personal call to the editor by Nicola Sturgeon I was told, demanded the Scotsman apologise and sacked me.

I think only the support of political editors in Westminster and Holyrood prevented me from losing my job even though the story was correct.

But I was certainly not alone in my experience.

Stephen Daisley, the digital political editor of STV (Scottish version of ITV), was hounded out of his job by SNMP MPs Pete Wishart and John Nicolson in 2017.

A friend who is a well known political commentator and historian in Scotland was blocked from getting jobs with the SNP threatening anyone who tried to employ him.

People in the public and charity sector learnt not to criticise the SNP or risk lose funding or their jobs.

Meanwhile, the online Cybernat (as we called them) abuse just continued to grow.

During the referendum people would put up Yes posters to pretend they were voting for independence as form of protection.

There was the infamous case of the Edinburgh cake shop which dared put the Union Jack on a cake in its front window during the referendum and staff were threatened and abused.

This is just a small smattering of the abuses which have taken place, there are endless examples of the bullying and toxicity of the SNP.

But it seems that they also applied the same tactics to their own as Dr Cameron’s story highlights.

Back in 2015 when the SNP won all but three seats in Scotland they did something new which was to force their MPs to sign a contract never to speak out against party policy on anything.

It was a sort of authoritarian move meant to squash free speech and parliamentary privilege.

That was just a taster though.

Dr Cameron’s problems started when she objected to the now former Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford attempting to protect the sexual abuse of another SNP MP Patrick Grady – Grady was later suspended from Parliament.

A recording of Blackford’s statement to the SNP group was leaked and all hell broke out.

Cameron, a professional in mental health, made it clear she thought a man who was suspended for sexual harrassment should not be allowed back in the group.

Her decision to stand up for the victim was seen as an act of betrayal and she in turn was bullied, harrassed and isolated by the group.

Worse still the SNP leadership were in the process of replacing her at the East Kilbride candidate with what she believed was a rigged contest.

In truth though, what they really objected to was that other than supporting independence Cameron is quite conservative in her political views.

This came to the fore when she strongly opposed the transgender bill which Sturgeon tried to force through. It was probably what sealed her fate and may well also spell the end for others who have been villified like Joanna Cherry.

Back in Scotland lifetime SNP stalwart Fergus Ewing has also been suspended from the party for not toeing the neo-Marxist line set by Nicola Sturgeon and carried on by her hand picked successor Humza Yousaf.

He was guilty of daring to criticise the sNP’s equally toxic coalition bedfellows – the Scottish Greens.

Cameron may just be the first to leave as the dream of independence sours, not least because of the horror of what Scotland would be under SNP only rule.

The fragile coalition of supporters of independence is now beginning to collapse and it is not because of Alex Salmond’s Alba alternative.

The SNP’s own toxic culture, its narrowing hard left focus and its policies which harm Scotland are catching up with it.

Its demise in its current form will be a blessing for the wider political culture in this country and will hopefully stand as a lesson that others should not follow its example.

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