No campaign must apologise for ‘poison of Scottish nationalism’ comment

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   By a Newsnet reporter

The Scottish National Party has invited the Chairman of the ‘No’ campaign, Alistair Darling, to apologise for the reported “poison” description of Scottish nationalism made by Tory peer Thomas Galbraith at the launch of the No campaign’s London branch on Wednesday evening.

Mr Darling and Mr Galbraith, who sits in the House of Lords as Lord Strathclyde – where he was leader of the Conservative party until recently – were the key speakers at the event, along with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

Thursday’s Scottish Daily Mail reported: “The battle against the ‘poison’ of Scottish nationalism reached London yesterday with the launch of a new campaign aimed at convincing English-based Scots to join the fight to save the UK. At yesterday’s launch, Lord Strathclyde branded First Minister’s independence dream as ‘poison’ …”

Mr Galbraith was recently appointed by the Conservatives’ Scottish leader Ruth Davidson as chair of a Conservative commission to examine the devolution settlement.  His appointment was criticised by other leading members of the Conservatives in Scotland. 

Murdo Fraser, who lost the Scottish Conservatives’ leadership campaign in 2011 to Ms Davidson by the narrowest of margins, said that Mr Galbraith was “no personal enthusiast for further devolution”, and suggested that it was unlikely that the commission he chairs would produce any proposals which might stand a chance of finding support amongst the Scottish voting public.

An hereditary peer, Mr Galbraith has never held any elected office, and owes his prominent position entirely to political patronage. He was a non-executive director on the board of Trafigura’s hedge-fund arm, Galena Asset Management until 2009.  Trafigura has been in the news for a number of years in relation with the 2006 Ivory Coast toxic waste dump scandal.  He resigned from his position as Tory leader in the House of Lords in January this year in order to pursue a career within the private sector. 

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP said:

“This sort of denigration and abusive language has no place in the referendum debate – and these appalling comments by Lord Strathclyde stand in stark contrast to Nicola Sturgeon’s positive speech today. Alistair Darling is chairman of the No campaign, and was present when Lord Strathclyde made these distasteful remarks – I am calling on him to publicly apologise on behalf of the No campaign.

“Lord Strathclyde is a senior Conservative and head of Ruth Davidson’s devolution commission. He is an unelected peer, and his comments about the policy of the democratically elected government of Scotland are a gross insult to the people of Scotland, regardless of their views on our country’s future.”