NICOLA Sturgeon has spoken in support of an SNP MP facing bullying allegations, insisting Joanna Cherry is a “massive asset” to her party at Westminster.

The First Minister said she spoke to Cherry at the weekend after the complaints emerged. She stressed the claims should be “properly considered” and due process must take place.

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Speaking to Radio Clyde, she said: “Joanna is hugely talented, she is a massive asset to the SNP and the Westminster parliamentary group. I think everybody recognises that.”

The First Minister added: “Where complaints are brought forward by the staff of any parliamentarian it is important that they are properly considered, but that should happen under due process, not in the pages of the media.”

Cherry, the SNP’s justice and home affairs spokesperson at Westminster, hit out on Twitter about the “smear campaign against me”, and described the reports as “lies”.

Yesterday she stated she was “pleased to have the support of Nicola Sturgeon”, adding: “I echo the views on the need for due process which she has today expressed.”

The National:

The First Minister dismissed the MP’s comments on SNP infighting, denying this was a problem for the party.

She said: “The SNP is not just a big party, we represent a mass movement, that’s a real strength and attribute and something that most other leaders of most other parties would give their eye teeth for.

“There are vibrant debates, that is a good thing in democracy, but I lead a party that is very focused in the short term on winning the European elections and then beyond that giving people in Scotland the opportunity to choose independence, and then winning that argument so Scotland can become that progressive, independent European nation.”

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The FM stressed: “My focus as SNP leader is firstly on winning the European elections next week, because that’s how we send the strongest possible message that Scotland doesn’t want Brexit.

“Then, of course, in the legislation we will bring forward later this month in taking the steps to give people in Scotland a choice of independence later in this term of Parliament. That’s my focus as SNP leader and I think that is what the party is focused on.”

Support for the MP came from a number of SNP figures, including MSPs Joan McAlpine and Ruth Maguire, while Kirsty Hughes, director of the the Scottish Centre for European Relations, also backed her.

Earlier this month, Cherry was given police protection a her weekly surgery after receiving a death threat online. Two officers attended her constituency surgery after the threat, which included the posting of a cartoon with a gun and the words “Do it”.

Scottish Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Nicola Sturgeon has made clear today that, as she puts it, ‘her focus’ at these elections is a second independence referendum. Once again we see the reality: it doesn’t matter what the election is - Nicola Sturgeon’s priority is always to try and use it to push through the one thing she cares about - independence.”

He added it was “time to respect the results of the referendums”, deliver “a sensible Brexit” and “let Scotland and... the UK move on”.