McConnell slammed for defending racist tweet as Smart refuses to apologise

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   By a Newsnet reporter

A Labour supporting blogger who claimed Scots would turn on ‘Poles’ and ‘Pakis’ after independence has refused to apologise.

Appearing on STV’s Scotland Tonight, pro-Union blogger Ian Smart (pictured) claimed his tweet was ‘rhetorical’ and didn’t reflect his own views.

Mr Smart has caused outrage after posting the tweet and following it up with another which compared the SNP with the racist Ku Klux Klan.

However despite being asked by other users of the social media site Twitter to remove the offensive tweet, he refused. 

Also coming under increasing pressure after wading in is former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell, who defended Mr Smart and suggested those offended by the tweets should “get a life”.

The former First Minister himself has come under fire for suggesting Mr Smart’s critics were themselves racist.

The row has created a storm on social media sites and has led to headlines in the Herald, Scotsman and the Sun.  However Mr Smart’s appearance on STV has ensured the row will rumble on.

Refusing to apologise, the Labour supporting blogger, who is also a regular guest on BBC Scotland political programmes, tried to blame others he claimed had “twisted” his words.

“I’m annoyed at myself for having made a remark that others have been capable of twisting to suggest that I said”, he told interviewer John Mackay.

He added: “Because there’s a pattern to this if you’ll understand that anyone who criticises the SNP seems to be fair game for any kind of slur.”

Appearing alongside Mr Smart, Yes Scotland campaigner Natalie McGarry said she was disappointed with Mr Smart’s refusal to apologise.

She added:

“Well I was hoping to come on tonight and hear an apology from Ian Smart.  I thought that at the time he made the comments he’d made a grave error of judgement.  I tweeted Ian to say that.  I expected he would have woke up the next day with a clearer view on it.

“But instead he’s continued to obfuscate and try to bring in the reasons and parameters to excuse it.  But you know, Ian Smart is a lawyer, he’s a very astute lawyer.  He knows about captioning phrases.  He knows what he was doing.  I don’t think for a second that Ian Smart is racist.  However, the language he used was racist.”

Commenting on the intervention of Jack McConnell, Ms McGarry said:

“And I think that part of the problem with what happened with Ian and a bigger issue is Lord McConnell weighed into this and admitted that he hadn’t actually read the initial tweet, defended Ian Smart, went on the offence about so-called cybernats calling them a pack mentality. 

“In my opinion he didn’t actually read the tweet that Ian had sent which was offensive and weighed in to it by suggesting that elements of the Yes campaign were anti-English and continued that kind of discourse which is really offensive to many people.”

The row is embarrassing for the No campaign and follows a high profile media attack on pro-independence online activists with several pro-Union commentators accusation senior SNP figures of being behind coordinated online attacks.

It is also uncomfortable for the BBC which appears to be trying to play down the incident involving one of its regular guest pundits.  Despite a very high profile news campaign last week, which saw several reporters and commentators on BBC Scotland attack ‘cybernats’ after claims made by comedienne Susan Calman that she had been the target of online abuse, the broadcaster has refused to give the story equal promnence.