First Minister apologises for quote mistake


By a Newsnet reporter
First Minister Alex Salmond has apologised to the Scottish parliament for mistakenly attributing a quote to a leading academic during First Ministers Questions.
Mr Salmond made the mistake when answering a question on the forthcoming independence referendum.

Mr Salmond answered the question by saying that leading referendum expert Dr Matt Qvortrup had described the SNP government’s proposed two-question vote on Scotland’s future as “fair, reasonable and clear”.

However it subsequently transpired that the Professor had not in fact used the phrase and that the words were from a draft written by a Scottish government aid.

Mr Salmond returned to the chamber immediately and apologised for his mistake after Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser questioned the source of the quote.

The First Minister corrected the error and said: “I was given a message shortly before I entered the chamber which was wrong, and therefore my response was incorrect.

“The responsibility for that is mine and mine alone, which is why I apologise to the chamber for the misinformation.”

Mr Salmond explained that the Professor had agreed that the referendum plans were “fair, reasonable and clear” provided certain conditions are met.

The First Minister also revealed that Professor Qvortrup and he had spoken and the academic had agreed to lend his expertise in helping to set up a two question referendum should it be the will of the Scottish parliament.

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser claimed that the Scottish government had tried to “mislead, manipulate and manufacture evidence” and that people who hold an opposing view were being bullied.

Labour leader Iain Gray claimed that the First Minister had deliberately chosen “to mislead the chamber” and claimed that the error was an abuse of trust.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie claimed that the mistake was evidence that the SNP had tried to “nobble” Professor Qvortrup and doctor evidence.

The row follows comments attributed to Prof Qvortrup in the Times newspaper in which he expressed concerns that as things stood a two-question referendum would not provide enough clarity on Scots wishes.