Davidson’s referendum ultimatum falls on deaf ears as BBC interview sees MP implode


By a Newsnet reporter

A Labour MP who insists that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to hold an independence referendum has turned twitter alight after imploding on live TV during an interview.

Scottish Labour MP Ian Davidson stunned viewers when he repeatedly harangued and hectored a female interviewer whilst trying to defend his claims that only Westminster had the right to sanction an independence referendum.

Davidson’s conduct in the interview on Newsnight Scotland saw him question the professional integrity of one of BBC Scotland’s most respected presenters, Isabel Fraser, repeatedly using the phrase ‘NewsNat’ in a thinly disguised attempt at implying bias on the part of Ms Fraser.

The aggressive and bullying performance eventually saw Ms Fraser, who described his behaviour as “offensive”, ask for an apology from the Labour MP.  However Davidson refused and instead went on to make more allegations.

When asked to apologise, Davidson told the presenter: “Certainly not” and added, “I have already complained as has the Labour party on a number of occasions about the way in which ‘NewsNat Scotland behaves.

“And I think you are clearly biased and have been for a long time against the Unionist parties.”

Davidson’s interview will cause severe embarrassment to both the Scottish Labour party and the wider UK party.  It also follows a row earlier this year that saw the same MP accused of threatening a female MP with a “doing” if she spoke to the press about Committee meetings Davidson chaired.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP eventually refused to sit on the Committee because of the behaviour towards her from Davidson.

Davidson chairs The Commons Scottish Affairs select committee which has ruled that Westminster must have the final say on the form and conduct of Scotland’s independence referendum.

However the attempt by the anti-independence parties to railroad the Scottish Government into holding an early referendum at a time, and with a question, of Westminster’s choosing appears to have fallen on deaf ears, as even traditionally anti-independence media outlets rubbished the Committee’s findings.

Committee chairman Davidson had said: “It is clear from our evidence that the Scottish Parliament has no powers to hold either a binding or an advisory referendum on constitutional change.

“We believe the best way to proceed is for the government to propose a detailed and specific Section 30 (S30) notice, giving the Scottish Parliament powers to conduct a referendum on separation.

“This S30 notice should be subject to a scrutiny process by the Scottish Affairs Committee and approval by Scotland’s MPs.”

The Scottish Government’s response to Davidson and the other MPs who make up the Unionist dominated Committee has been confined to a brief statement that the report by Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Select Committee is “devoid of all credibility”.

Mr Davidson appeared to struggle to justify his comments in the BBC Scotland interview.

The Scottish Government has dismissed the Committee’s report, which had adopted the pejorative phrase “referendum on separation for Scotland” as the official title for its proceedings.

A spokesperson for Bruce Crawford, the Secretary for Parliamentary Business and Government Strategy, said: “Given that this Westminster committee can’t even get the name of the Scottish Government’s constitutional policy right – we stand for an independent Scotland, and a new relationship of equality with our friends and neighbours – this exercise is devoid of credibility.”

The spokesman added that the Scottish Government had “set out the position about the right and ability of the Scottish Parliament to hold an independence referendum in our January consultation paper.”  

However the spokesperson insisted that Holyrood was not prepared to let Westminster attach strings or conditions to the ballot, saying:

“We have also always said that we have absolutely no objection to a section 30 order in regard to the referendum, so long as no Westminster strings are attached – and an order on that basis could be agreed very shortly.

“The real issue is that the terms and timing of the referendum must be decided in Scotland, by the Scottish Parliament – not dictated by Westminster – and that includes a possible ‘more powers’ option.

“It is only right that these matters are carefully and properly considered, which is exactly what the Scottish Government are doing.”

In a more serious blow to Mr Davidson’s credibility, the Westminster committee’s report was dismissed as unconvincing even by traditionally pro-Unionist media like the Scotsman newspaper.

The paper’s leader on Tuesday noted that in reaching their conclusions the MPs had relied heavily on evidence from Jim Wallace, former Lib Dem deputy First Minister.  The Scotsman leader caustically remarked: “Mr Wallace is hardly a neutral.”

The Scotsman leader went on to accuse MPs of putting the law above the people, and reminded them that the law exists to serve the people, the people do not exist to serve the law.  The leader article continued:

“From even the most cursory reading of the report, it is clear the committee has fundamentally misunderstood the way modern democracy works.  Instead of trusting Lord Wallace, they would have done well to reflect on the words of Irish home rule campaigner Charles Stewart Parnell, who said: ‘No man has the right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation; no man has the right to say to his country, Thus far shall thou go and no further.'”

In an article published in Newsnet Scotland yesterday, Mr Davidson’s credibility received a further blow.  Canon Kenyon Wright, one of the leading lights in the campaign to establish the Scottish Parliament, and key organiser of the Claim of Right for Scotland, reminded Mr Davidson that he had signed the Claim of Right in 1989, swearing to uphold “the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine what form of government best suits their needs”.  

Canon Wright warned Mr Davidson that the antics of Westminster MPs could very well backfire on them, noting that if Westminster’s supposed absolute sovereignty was incapable of recognising and accommodating the constitutional will of the Scottish people, then Scots may very well conclude that independence is the only option.

Appearing on BBC’s Newsnight Scotland last night, Mr Davidson lost his last vestige of credibility as he imploded after being challenged by presenter Isabel Fraser, who put it to him that the legal position on the referendum was far from clear-cut, as he maintained.

The incident will again call into question Mr Davidson’s suitability for a high profile role in the anti-independence campaign.

The controversial MP has also angered opponents with some outrageous language whilst speaking in the House of Commons.  He once refused to apologise after describing the Scottish National Party as “Neo Fascists”.

His boorish and aggressive behaviour towards a female TV presenter will also prove embarrassing to Johann lamont, who is the official leader of all Scottish Labour MPs and MSPs.

Davidson stood in the same election as Lamont, when she contested the leadership of the Scottish party and he the deputy leadership.