A Tory MSP has apologised after heckling Nicola Sturgeon to suggest English people were not welcome to make Scotland their home.
The First Minister said she was “deeply offended” by a comment shouted by Tess White during First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) which alleged Scotland is not welcoming to English people.
Ms White, the newly-elected Scottish Conservative MSP for the North East region, has now apologised for the comments after admitting they were “over the line”.
The comment was shouted as Ms Sturgeon responded to a question about alleged discriminatory chanting by Rangers fans, in which they were heard to sing “the famine is over, why don’t you go home”.
Ms Sturgeon condemned anti-Irish racism and Catholic prejudice, but after she said Scotland “is home” to anyone who chooses to live here, Ms White interjected to suggest that did not apply if you were English.
After MSPs in the debating chamber erupted into apparent outrage, Ms Sturgeon then said: “I have just had a comment made to me from a sedentary position.
“I would not normally do this but I am so deeply offended by the comment that I do want – after this session – to take it up with you (the Presiding Officer) so that, with your permission, the member may be asked to reflect on that and to withdraw that comment.
“It was a comment that would have been unacceptable in any context, but in the context of what we are discussing right now I am deeply aggrieved that any member thought that was an appropriate thing to say.”
When parliamentary business resumed on Thursday afternoon, the offending MSP was called to “wholeheartedly” apologise.
Ms White said: “My comments during First Minister’s Questions were over the line and I would like to withdraw them and apologise to both the chamber and the First Minister.”
Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone replied: “I’m grateful that Miss White has reflected on her behaviour and that you have apologised to the chamber for these remarks.
“You will be in no doubt at all, Ms White, that great offence was caused.
“I would just like to say further that the fact that, on this occasion, no further action will be taken does not in any way detract from the seriousness with which I view this incident.
“Members must be in no doubt at all that I expect that their conduct at all times will be worthy of a member of the Scottish Parliament.”
Scottish Labour’s Pauline McNeill had originally asked about the “public displays of anti-Irish racism and anti-Catholic prejudice” that resulted in three arrests and Rangers FC confirming indefinite bans for participants.
Earlier on Thursday, Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland, of Police Scotland’s Greater Glasgow division, confirmed officers had made “the first of what I expect to be numerous arrests following the disgraceful racial conduct” by Rangers fans en route to Ibrox on Sunday.
At FMQs, Ms McNeill said: “There is still a clear problem with a minority of anti-Irish, anti-Catholic prejudice and a growing feeling that if those terms were swapped with any other minority to get the sentiments displayed on our streets, it will be treated far more seriously.
“I want the First Minister just to reassure me that Police Scotland will respond proportionately to these offences and, in doing so, I offer my full support to the First Minister to work with her and with everyone to ensure that all forms of racism and all forms of bigotry are stamped out in Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “There is never, ever any excuse or justification for hatred or bigotry and I unequivocally condemn anti-Irish racism and anti-Catholic prejudice.
“It should be called what it is and it should be called out.
“Scotland is a diverse, multicultural society. This diversity strengthens us as a nation and that’s why it’s so important that we tackle all forms of prejudice and discrimination.
“I take the view that anybody who chooses to live in Scotland – whether they and their families have been here for generations or whether they have come to Scotland very recently – is home.”
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