Police Scotland said officers are investigating following a report of ‘threatening communications’ being made online against Joanna Cherry.
The 54-year-old, an ally of former party leader Alex Salmond and widely tipped as a future SNP leadership challenger to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, was replaced yesterday as justice and home affairs spokeswoman at Westminster.
The QC, who has been involved in an internal party row over gender recognition and trans rights, she had been removed from her role despite ‘hard work, results & a strong reputation’.
Her sacking sparked a huge row within the party, which has been riven by the schism between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond. They are also on opposing sides of an investigation into the mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints against Mr Salmond in 2018 over which he was later cleared.
Ms Cherry lashed out at SNP colleague Kirsty Blackman today after the Aberdeen North MP supported her and attacked the ‘totally unacceptable’ threats.
Ms Cherry, who represents Edinburgh South West, replied: ‘Thank you for your concern but this is what can happen when you rile up your base with lies & smears.
‘Actions have consequences so please think hard again before you attack a colleague on social media.’
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: ‘Around 7pm on Monday 1 February 2021 officers received a report of threatening communications having been made online. Inquiries are ongoing.’
Ms Cherry has urged caution over the Scottish Government’s plans to allow people to self-identify their gender.
This would allow people to change their gender legally without a medical diagnosis.
Along with other senior politicians, she has raised concerns over the impact it could have on women’s rights.
This has brought her into conflict with other SNP MPs, and she publicly clashed with Ms Blackman on the subject only last week.
Last night’s reshuffle revealed that Anne McLaughlin had been appointed as the party’s Westminster spokeswoman on justice and immigration, without mentioning Ms Cherry’s departure.
An official reason for removing Ms Cherry from the frontbench was not given by the SNP amid speculation that it could have been because of the trans rights row or because she is viewed as a leadership threat to Ms Sturgeon.
As the reshuffle was announced, Ms Cherry tweeted: ‘Despite hard work, results & a strong reputation I’ve been sacked today from @theSNP front bench.’
She added: ‘Westminster is increasingly irrelevant to Scotland’s constitutional future and @theSNP would do well to radically rethink our strategy.’
Later on Monday the MP said she had contacted police after receiving a threat from a man.
She tweeted: ‘Action and inaction have consequences. Tonight I’ve received a vicious threat from a man to my personal safety.
‘The matter has been reported to Police Scotland and I’m somewhere safe. Thank you for all the lovely messages of support.
The decision to sack Ms Cherry prompted a furious backlash from supporters as fellow SNP MP Kenny MacAskill tweeted: ‘This is the leadership’s call but many of us find this inexplicable and harmful to our cause.’
An SNP parliamentarian told The National newspaper they believed Mr Blackford had sacked Ms Cherry with Ms Sturgeon’s approval.
‘It’s been well known that Jo and Nicola have not been getting on well for a long time,’ they said. ‘Ian Blackford was the willing stooge to wield the knife. There is no way this would have happened without Nicola Sturgeon. Not a chance.’
Meanwhile, an SNP source claimed to the New Statesman that the dismissal was for ‘continued gross disloyalty’.
The reshuffle saw four SNP MPs join the party’s frontbench team in the Commons, with Patricia Gibson becoming spokeswoman for housing, communities and local government, while Angela Crawley takes on the role of shadow spokeswoman for the Attorney General.
Richard Thomson and Stephen Flynn, both of whom were only elected to the Commons in 2019, have also stepped up, becoming the party’s Northern Ireland spokesman and business, energy and industrial strategy spokesman, respectively.
Meanwhile, Tommy Sheppard switches to constitutional affairs, having previously been the SNP’s Cabinet Office spokesman.
In a statement, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said they party had a ‘wealth of talent and experience’, and that the reshuffle ‘ensures we are in the best possible position to hold the UK Government to account during this global pandemic and the aftermath of Brexit, to support colleagues ahead of the Scottish elections, and to deliver independence’.
There was no mention of Ms Cherry in his statement, with the SNP Westminster leader adding: ‘We are at a crucial time in politics. Never before have we faced a challenge as great as the global pandemic, and Scotland is acutely feeling the ramifications of leaving the European Union.
‘With the Scottish elections on the horizon and independence in touching distance, our new team is ready to work hard for Scotland.’