Scottish Tory leader brands SNP MP ‘poor and inept’ in Commons committee spat

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross branded the chair of a Westminster committee “poor and inept” in a furious spat resulting from his questioning of a UK Government minister.

SNP MP Pete Wishart, who chairs the Scottish Affairs Committee in the House of Commons, had pressed Scottish Secretary Alister Jack on whether last week’s Holyrood election result should mean a fresh vote on independence.

Mr Wishart said the result of the ballot was a “victory for the parties of pro-independence and pro-referendums”, as the 64 SNP MSPs elected, along with the eight Greens, back a second vote on Scotland’s place in the UK.

But Tories on the Westminster committee complained about the chair’s choice of questions.

Conservative MP John Lamont said: “People watching this at home will find it extraordinary that the SNP chairman of this committee has spent over 20 minutes talking about another independence referendum when there are so many other things that are pressing, like how for example we are managing Covid, how we are managing the vaccine programme, how we are dealing with the economic recovery plan.

“The last 20 minutes could have been much better spent.”

When it came to his turn to quiz Mr Jack, the Scottish Tory leader – who is both an MP and MSP after winning a seat at Holyrood last week – said: “I have to say at the outset how disappointed people must have been to watch the quite frankly inept and poor chairing of this committee so far by Mr Wishart.”

Mr Wishart interrupted, saying: “Listen Douglas, excuse me, Douglas Ross, there is no need at all to make attacks on the chair of this committee.

“I have been elected by the House to chair this committee, could you please just get on with the job of addressing your questions.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross criticised the way Mr Wishart had been chairing the committee (Jane Barlow/PA)
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross criticised the way Mr Wishart had been chairing the committee (Jane Barlow/PA)

But Mr Ross told the committee chair: “When you are so poor at your job I will personally attack you.”

Mr Wishart responded: “This is just absolutely pathetic, will you please just get on with your questions without making any sort of erroneous attacks on the chair.”

Mr Ross however told him: “Well it is not erroneous if you are poor and inept.”

Retaliating, Mr Wishart urged the Tory to “get on with your poor and inept questions please, so we can get on with this session”.

The Conservative hit back, saying: “So our impartial chair has already decided my questions will not be as good as his and I think yet again people will see the SNP don’t like to be criticised.”

Mr Ross then told the SNP MP: “Hopefully you can calm down now, chair.”