LABOUR’S shadow secretary of state for Scotland has apologised in the Commons for describing an SNP MP as “ridiculous and pointless.”
The clash between Ian Murray and Angus Brendan MacNeil came as the SNP used one of their three allotted opposition days in Parliament to debate Scottish independence and the Scottish economy.
It was an at times badly tempered session.
Mr Murray hit out after Mr MacNeil asked him if would “prefer an independent Scotland with a Labour or SNP government or a Scotland inside the UK with a Tory government?”
The Labour MP replied: “I’d prefer Scotland within the UK with a Labour government. What an absolutely ridiculous and pointless intervention from a ridiculous and pointless Member of Parliament… is that unparliamentary? Ok, I apologise.”
Another MP could be heard shouting “it’s accurate” before Mr Murray repeated his apology.
Mr MacNeil later raised a point of order to say: “When you ask a question of a colleague in Parliament who finds it difficult to understand, is it in order to respond with insults?”
Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans noted Mr Murray had apologised immediately, adding: “I think you should really accept that with good grace.”
Mr Murray went on: “I did apologise and I do so again.”
Mr MacNeil shouted he accepted it.
Later Mr Murray clashed with Alba MP Neale Hanvey after he claimed the Labour politician has suggested there “needs to be violence” for Scotland to claim independence.
Mr Murray replied: “If that is the kind of argument we are getting from the Alba party who was elected as an SNP Member of Parliament, then the people of his constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath should reflect very seriously on what they should do at the next general election.”
Mr Hanvey called for the shadow cabinet minister to correct the record, as he was elected as an independent MP.
Mr Murray replied: “Yes, he did correct the record, because I forgot he was suspended for antisemitism.
“I am surprised he wants to put that on the public record of why he was thrown out of the Scottish National Party.”
In return, the Alba MP said: “I know it may feel politically expedient for the shadow minister to slur me in the way that he did, but he should be aware that I was reinstated into the SNP because the accusations of antisemitism did not stand.”
Opening the debate, Ian Blackford dismissed talk of hard borders and passport control between Scotland and England after independence as “project fear.”
Under the SNP’s plan, an independent Scotland would rejoin the EU, meaning the border with post-Brexit England would become a tightly regulated external EU border.
Last month, the First Minister admitted the Scottish Government was still “in the process” of scoping out possible systems to minimise disruption to trade.
During his opening speech, Mr Blackford took an intervention from the Tory MP David Duguid who said Nicola Sturgeon had already “admitted that there could be hard borders, passport control, between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom”.
Mr Blackford said: “Here we go. Project fear all over again. Let me give the honourable gentleman in this House the example of Ireland – way back in the 1940s close to 90 per cent of Ireland’s exports were to the rest of the United Kingdom.
“Today, it’s less than 10%. But the value of Irish exports to the UK actually increased, every single year, irrespective of the economic cycle.
“But the point is that an independent Ireland was able to pursue policies that delivered growth, that resulted in investment, that resulted in trade opportunities.”
Mr Blackford also spoke of the “massive act of economic self-harm” of Brexit.
He said: “The evidence of the damage being done by Brexit is mounting by the day and yet from those that forced this on Scotland not one word of contrition, not one word of apology has ever been offered for the massive act of economic self-harm that has been inflicted on all of us.”
Asked by Tory MP Luke Evans if an independent Scotland would join the euro, “ceding some of his control over the fiscal situation that he wants to deal with”.
Mr Blackford replied: “The key difference is that Europe is a partnership of equals… when Scotland becomes independent as it will, that we will retain the pound…
“The fact is we will keep the pound until such time that a number of economic tests that are met, that would allow us to have a Scottish pound, that’s what will happen.”
He added: “In order to join euro you need to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism for a two-year period. Joining the ERM is voluntary, you cannot be forced into the euro.
“Our position is very clear, our position is that we will deliver the fiscal programme that will deliver jobs for Scotland, create the circumstances for investment, drive up living standards, that is what we want with independence and we will make sure that we have the answer to the currency situation that delivers for our people.”
Labour’s shadow secretary of state for Scotland Ian Murray said that would deny Scotland EU membership and mean an “independent Scotland would have a separate currency from both the EU and its bigger trading partner, the rest of the UK.”
The Tory Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack said the SNP were not respecting the result of the 2014 independence referendum: “I believe this House should be discussing ways to improve Scotland’s economic growth, because our economic growth has lagged behind that of the United Kingdom during the time the SNP has been in power at Holyrood.”
“I’d welcome a proper debate about the Scottish economy any day and this is not a serious debate. It is, I’m afraid, just another opportunity to dust off some of their old tired grievances,” he added.
Mr Jack said the Scottish Government’s independence papers have “provoked scorn from respected economic experts”, before adding: “One prominent nationalist, and I apologise in advance for the unparliamentary language, but I quote, referred to the recent economy paper as ‘utter pish’.”
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