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 Scottish First Minister said she spoke to Ms Cherry at the weekend after the allegations emerged.
Ms Sturgeon stressed these should be “properly considered” and due process must take place.
Speaking to Radio Clyde about the SNP’s home affairs spokeswoman, Ms Sturgeon 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.”
Ms Cherry has spoken out on Twitter about the “smear campaign against me”, with the Edinburgh South West MP “calling for unity behind the #independence cause & an end to @theSNP infighting”.
She also 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.”
Ms Sturgeon dismissed the MP’s comments on SNP infighting, denying this was a problem for the party.
She stated: “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.”
The First Minister 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.”
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’s time to respect the results of the referendums we have held, deliver a sensible Brexit and then let Scotland and the whole UK move on.”