“Racist” protesters at the Scottish-English border were “inspired by comments by SNP politicians”, a Tory MP has claimed.
The comments by John Lamont (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) prompted heated exchanges in the Commons as SNP MPs rushed to condemn “anti-Englishness”.
Speaking during an SNP Opposition day debate, Mr Lamont branded the protests “totally unacceptable” and also claimed the SNP “will use any means to push for their independence obsession”.
He said: “We had the horrific scenes on the Scottish-English border in my constituency, on the A1 north of Berwick, of nationalist protesters shouting, and I quote, ‘stay the F out’ at English people travelling into Scotland.
“Now these racist protesters have admitted taking inspiration from the division stoked by the SNP politicians, they were inspired by comments by SNP politicians, and one of the protesters has been pictured with Nicola Sturgeon (and other senior SNP figures).”
Responding in an intervention, the SNP’s Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) said: “(He) accuses effectively this bench of stoking racism. The SNP condemns unreservedly any kind of anti-Englishness and any kind of racism directed at people from south of the border.”
Mr Lamont said: “The completely unacceptable behaviour towards our neighbours and friends and family members trying to cross the border between Scotland and England, coming into my constituency to work, to see family members, to visit friends, and nationalist protesters with yes banners were shouting abuse at them – totally unacceptable.”
The SNP’s Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) said the “allegations” were “hysterical”.
Intervening, she said: “The SNP, as he knows, does not have any truck with racism in any of its forms, and if he’s suggesting that the SNP’s an anti-English party, if you seek self-government, if that makes a country racist, then that means that every other 190 members of the UN are all racist countries… the First Minister’s granny is English, so what possible motivation could he have for these hysterical comments?”
Mr Lamont said the SNP’s call for a Brexit extension is “not about protecting Scotland’s economy, it’s not about assisting the economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s all about creating further uncertainty and constitutional chaos to assist the nationalist dream of breaking up the UK. That is their top priority, that is their only priority”.
He went on: “The SNP lack ambition for our great nation of Scotland, and I’m sad to see the division and uncertainty in Scotland that the SNP are stoking up in an attempt to score political points – they will use any means to push for their independence obsession.
“It will not come as any surprise to the House that I will not be supporting the SNP’s motion tonight. The SNP are desperately trying to undermine the UK and the UK internal market, putting Scottish jobs and the livelihoods of my constituents and other Scots at risk.”
Tory Andrew Griffith (Arundel and South Downs) called on any members of the SNP who campaigned at the border to prevent English tourists from entering Scotland to be expelled from the party.
Mr Griffith told MPs: “Perhaps (Pete Wishart) will now tell us the truth about whether any of those involved in setting up those illegal road blocks had been members of his party.
“And will he give the House the commitment in his wind-ups that if that does turn out to be the case, anyone involved will be expelled.
“Because as a direct result in the SNP’s delay in condemning this behaviour at the border businesses in the tourism sector, one of the largest parts of the Scottish economy, are receiving booking cancellations over concerns about whether Scotland will be open and welcoming to them.”
He added: “They claim to be worried about adding to the costs of Covid-19 but they themselves are compounding the damage to the Scottish economy.”
SNP MP Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) described Mr Lamont’s speech as “absolutely and utterly appalling”, adding: “Trying to suggest that a constitutional political party who has done nothing other than promote our cause civically and democratically are somehow anti-English and racist, that was an appalling slur for which he should apologise.”
Tory MPs could be heard shouting “rubbish” at Mr Wishart as further heated exchanges erupted.