Scottish Unionists have joined together to launch an unprecedented attack on Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond.
The attacks from Labour, Tory and Lib Dem politicians in Scotland follow comments from Mr Salmond who had sought to ensure that riots in England were not inaccurately portrayed as having happened in Scotland.
On Wednesday when interviewed on Radio Scotland the First Minister highlighted the importance of tourism to Scotland and claimed that the presentation by some media outlets, which were describing the violence and looting as a ‘UK’ problem, was potentially damaging to the Scottish economy.
The SNP leader agreed, when put to him, that it was less likely that the rioting would spread to Scotland but insisted that the Scottish government were not being complacent and of the deployment of 250 police officers to help their English colleagues said: “We’ve got an obligation to help if we can and that’s what’s been done”.
The comments have had the effect of bringing Unionists in Scotland together in condemnation of the First minister. There were angry outbursts from Labour’s Iain Gray who called the remarks “embarrassing” and Tory David Mundell who labelled them “parochial”. Lib Dem Willie Rennie claimed Scotland already had “social disorder” and accused Mr Salmond of “gloating”.
Other Labour figures have also waded in, MP Tom Harris questioned whether Mr Salmond was right to emphasise that the riots had not happened in Scotland. He also compared the violence and looting to the Norwegian gunman massacre and accused Mr Salmond of having no sympathy with the victims of the riots and of trying to score “a petty, pathetic, Saltire-waving point”.
Labour MP Jim Sheridan attacked the First Minister when speaking in the House of Commons and claimed that Mr Salmond’s radio defence of Scottish tourism and reputation was not supported by most Scots.
Mr Salmond has also faced criticism from the Scotsman newspaper after he included the paper in media outlets he claimed had presented coverage of the riots in a manner that might have an adverse effect on Scottish tourism and increase the risk of copy-cat violence.
In an incredible editorial the Scotsman newspaper responded by insisting that Mr Salmond’s tone was wrong when he stated that no riots had occurred in Scotland. The newspaper defended its description of the riots as ‘UK riots’ and argued that Scottish tourism could not be damaged as ‘foreigners’ were not able to tell the difference between Scotland and the UK.
The editorial read: “… he [Mr Salmond] is misguided if he thinks countries such as those that issued travel warnings distinguish between Scotland and the UK. Rightly or wrongly, they simply do not do so.”
The newspaper accused Mr Salmond of adopting a holier-than-thou attitude and warned that “his pledge that Scotland’s police are prepared to deal with any trouble, may come back to haunt him.”
Supporters of Mr Salmond have pointed to the fact that recent riots in Northern Ireland were described as ‘Northern Irish’ riots and some have given the example of sectarianism that is often referred to by Labour politician’s as ‘Scotland’s shame’. There have also been fears that tourists will cancel visits to Scotland after some foreign agencies advised travellers against coming to the UK.
Speaking yesterday on Radio Scotland SNP MP Pete Wishart said that by highlighting the fact that no riots had happened in Scotland the First Minister was guilty of nothing more than “stating the bleeding obvious”. Mr Wishart pointed out that tourism is a vital sector of the Scottish economy and it was important to ensure everything was done to protect jobs and encourage visitors.
The BBC have already responded to complaints by amending their coverage to more accurately reflect the geographical and national origins of the trouble.
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