Calls for Lamont to condemn “offensive” comments from deputy Sarwar


  By Martin Kelly
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has been called on to distance herself from comments described as “offensive to Scotland” made in the House of Commons by Labour MP Anas Sarwar.

Speaking in a debate on Tuesday in which MPs voted to grant Holyrood the powers to hold a legally binding independence referendum, Mr Sarwar claimed the Scottish Parliament was “not a democratic place”.

Speaking in the chamber, the Glasgow MP attacked the Scottish Parliament saying: “We have a majority SNP Government in the Scottish Parliament, but that is not a democratic place in the conventional sense.

“It is a dictatorship of one man sitting in Bute house, who will do not what is in Scotland’s interests, but what is in his own or his party’s interests.”

The comments from Mr Sarwar came despite the Labour MP pledging recently to cut back on negative campaigning.  The Scottish Labour Deputy Leader, who heads his party’s referendum campaign, also admitted that constant negativity would not win over voters.

It has now emerged that Glasgow Kelvin MSP Sandra White is writing to Mr Sarwar’s Scottish leader Johann Lamont asking her on behalf of the Labour Party to apologise for his comments.

Calling the attack “an embarrassment for Labour” and “unpleasant”, Ms White added:

“Only a week past Sunday, Anas Sarwar promised to raise the level of debate from the No camp, but instead he has done the exact opposite and plunged to new lows with this ridiculous statement.

“Johann Lamont is the leader of the opposition in the Scottish Parliament – does she really think she is an elected and prominent member of a parliament that is ‘not a democratic place in the conventional sense’? 

“Mr Sarwar’s words were directed at the whole Holyrood institution, of which Ms Lamont is rightly a proud part of.

“As well as being offensive to Scotland, Mr Sarwar’s silly choice of words could also be offensive to people who really know what it’s like not to have the democratic freedoms that we are so fortunate to enjoy.

“It is sad that Mr Sarwar should have allowed his partisan hostility to cloud his judgement, and use such absurd and inappropriate language about Scotland’s Parliament.

“Johann Lamont is the leader of the whole Labour Party in Scotland – including its MPs – and I am writing to ask her to do the decent thing and apologise on behalf of her party, so that a line can be drawn under the matter.

“Mr Sarwar should reflect on the fact that the votes of the people of Scotland returned the SNP to office with an overwhelming mandate at the last election, and rejected his party.

“His problem is that Labour supports the broken, undemocratic Westminster system which has the trust of just 18 per cent of people in Scotland, compared to the Scottish Government which has the trust of 71 per cent.”

Mr Sarwar’s comments followed similar attacks by his Labour colleague Ian Davidson who claimed Scots only celebrated Bannockburn because English people had been murdered.

Glasgow MP Davidson caused outrage when he said the commemoration of the 700th anniversary of the ancient battle was timed “to take place after the anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn, which is celebrated mainly because Scots slew large numbers of English people,” and that it commemorated “the murder of hundreds of thousands of English people”.

Ms White added: “Anti-independence politicians at Westminster seem to be scared stiff of the process of Scotland taking charge of her democratic future – but their unpleasant language only exposes the No camp’s weakness, as deep down they know it is true that Scotland is better placed to make decisions for herself.”