DOUGLAS Ross accused Humza Yousaf of “sacrificing” SNP MSP Fergus Ewing amid reports that he is set to lose the party whip.

Earlier this week, Ewing voted with Tory, Labour and LibDem MSPs during a vote of no confidence targeting Circularity Minister Lorna Slater.

However, the Tory-led bid failed as SNP and Green MSPs voted against, bar Ewing, who voted against the Scottish Government.

During a heated exchange at FMQs, the Scottish Tory leader demanded to know if Ewing was set to lose the SNP whip, despite declining to suspend former first minister Nicola Sturgeon from the party after her arrest.

The FM said he would not discuss internal SNP group decisions during FMQs, but Ross repeatedly pushed on why Yousaf was intent on getting rid of a “stalwart” of the SNP.

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Ewing has become an outspoken backbencher, railing against a number of Scottish Government policies in recent months, including HPMAs - where he ripped up the consultation in the Holyrood chamber - and the Deposit Return Scheme.

At the beginning of FMQs, Ross asked if the FM was going to "sack" Ewing.

Yousaf said it is a matter for the SNP group at the Scottish Parliament, adding: “I’m not going to go into issues that are matters for our group.”

“He’s sacrificing Fergus Ewing, the son of Winnie Ewing, one of the SNP's most famous representatives," Ross continued. 

“We've gone from ‘stop the world, the SNP want to get on’, now it’s ‘stop the SNP, Fergus Ewing is getting off’.

“Why is he considering losing a party stalwart who is standing up for Scottish businesses while keeping an incompetent Greens minister?”

Yousaf hit back that he would not take “lectures on leadership” from Ross, and said Scottish Secretary Alister Jack was the “real party leader” of the Scottish Tories.

After a number of interventions from the Presiding Officer due to jeering from the SNP and Tory benches, the FM said: "The reason why they don't want to hear this is because the blame squarely lies with the UK Government when it comes to the sabotaging, or the deposit return scheme.

"The reason why this parliament backed the Government, backed Lorna Slater when it came to that vote of confidence, is because they know that it was the UK Government's 11th-hour intervention that completely torpedoed the Deposit Return Scheme."

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The vote of no confidence in Slater was called after it emerged that Circularity Scotland, the firm set up to oversee the DRS, had filed for administration, with 66 staff set to lose their jobs.

Ross continued to go on the attack during the stage, bringing in Yousaf's predecessor.

He said: “There are serious questions to be raised about the conduct of one of his MSPs, who has voted against his own Government on a vote of no confidence.

“If he says it was the right decision to back Lorna Slater, what does that say about Fergus Ewing?

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“Humza Yousaf, the First Minister who won’t suspend Nicola Sturgeon who is under police investigation, looks like he will suspend Fergus Ewing for challenging Green incompetence.”

Yousaf however pointed out that MSPs had voted down the motion of no confidence in Slater.

The FM later accused the Tories of “morphing into climate deniers” to rapturous applause from the SNP and Green benches.

Earlier, Ross was chastised for calling the FM "useless" during the exchange. 

Elsewhere, the FM said that Labour's clean energy proposals would throw workers in the north east of Scotland "on the scrapheap". 

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Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar asked the FM to welcome his party’s plans for a publicly-owned GB Energy firm to be set up north of the border.

But after former Aberdeen City Council leader Barney Crockett quit Labour over party plans to ban new oil and gas explorations, Yousaf said the proposals would “abandon” workers in the oil and gas sector.

The FM said: “I’m often saying to Anas Sarwar that he is far more style over substance, so it was good to hear a little bit of substance from Scottish Labour today.

“The problem was, of course, the substance was panned by those in the industry, panned by climate activists, panned by trade unions, and then of course was panned by members of his own party as well.

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“So finally when we get Anas Sarwar talking about some substance, he manages to fluff it.

“What Scottish Labour will do is put the workers of the north east on the scrapheap, and we will not be prepared to do that.”

In response, Sarwar said the FM was "blinded by his opposition" to Labour in government that he refused to welcome the plans, claiming it was a "serious" plan that would bring more jobs to Scotland. 

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Yousaf told the chamber that Labour's plan had been "panned by those in the industry, climate activists and trade unions". 

"Anas Sarwar thinks we should be thankful for the fact that they're going to base a little bit of a government department here in Scotland," he added. 

"I'll tell you what the people of Scotland want- is full powers over our renewable energy, so it can't just be squandered by a UK Government, whether that's Tory or whether that's Labour."