By a Newsnet Reporter
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont is being urged to distance herself from remarks made by a Labour peer who has said she was shamed by calls from the SNP for a Tory peer to apologise after he had claimed independence would “dishonour” the war dead of the UK.
During a debate held in the House of Lords, Conservative peer Ian Lang, now Lord Lang of Monkton, said that a vote for independence would “dishonour the sacrifices made in common cause of those who died for the UK”.
The comments were immediately condemned by the Scottish National Party with several senior party members calling for the Conservative peer to withdraw the remarks and apologise.
However, the SNP’s calls were attacked by former Labour MP Helen Liddell who congratulated the Tory peer on what she called, “his excellent introductory speech” and said calls for him to apologise shamed her.
Liddell, who is herself now a peer, then added: “Your Lordships’ House may not be aware that the noble Lord, Lord Lang, has already been under attack for having the audacity to mention the First World War. He has been under attack from a Mr Keith Brown, a member of the Scottish National Party and a Member of the Scottish Parliament. Frankly, that kind of attitude shames me as a Scot.”
It is a sign of the contempt with which those of us who believe in the United Kingdom as a family [are treated] that such attacks are made on the noble Lord Lang.”
The former Labour Minister’s support for Lord Lang came despite the leader of the Scottish Conservative party distancing herself from her own party colleague’s remarks.
In a statement released by the Scottish Conservative Party, she said: “Lord Lang must speak for himself. I deplore all intemperate language in this hugely important constitutional debate, whatever the source. I believe everybody in Scotland, no matter their views on the referendum, will come together throughout the year to commemorate those who fought for their country in the First World War.”
The apparent U-turn by Davidson followed earlier reluctance to disassociate herself from Lord Lang’s remarks. The issue had been raised at First Minister’s Questions when First Minister Alex Salmond called on the Scottish Conservative leader to disassociate herself and her party from Lord Lang’s comments.
Challenging Miss Davidson, he said: “Can she at least put that ridiculous point outside the scope of this debate?”
SNP MP, Angus McNeil was scathing in his condemnation of the insensitive nature of the comments made in the Lords’ debate, and said:
“These peers have damaged themselves and their campaign, and shown how utterly out of touch they are with the debate happening in Scotland.
“The House of Lords has proved itself an affront to democracy again. A chamber stuffed to the gunnels with over 800 unelected peers many of whom continue the practice of ‘clocking on’ for forty minutes and claiming £300 from the taxpayer every time they do, and of course who will never have to face an electorate of any kind ever again.
“It’s an anti-democratic influence in Scottish politics and we will end this preposterous gravy train with a Yes vote in September. Lord Lang and his Labour supporter may rue the day such language was used – it can only have the effect of further damaging the anti-independence campaign.
“As Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson finally distances herself from the dishonour caused to her party and the No campaign by Lord Lang’s ill-judged and offensive remarks, it is all the more extraordinary that Scottish Labour peer Baroness Helen Liddell has come to his support.
“Lord Lang took the No campaign to a new low when he claimed that a Yes vote in the referendum would dishonour those who died in war – and just as shocking was that Labour’s Baroness Liddell felt that his remarks were perfectly in order.
“Now that Ruth Davidson has disowned Lord Lang’s remarks, Johann Lamont ought to distance herself from what Helen Liddell has said – or perhaps she thinks that this is just another ‘wee thing’.”
His final comment was a reference to Johann Lamont’s gaffe at First Minister’s Questions where she was roundly mocked for referring to the proposed benefits of independence as “wee things.”