SNP Westminster leader defends PMQs protest
Ian Blackford was thrown out of the Commons for the rest of the day after clashing with Commons Speaker John Bercow.
Prime Minister’s Questions was plunged into chaos after the SNP’s Westminster leader was kicked out for repeatedly challenging Speaker John Bercow.
Ian Blackford dismissed suggestions the move was a stunt and insisted he had a right to highlight the “outrageous” actions of Theresa May’s Government over Brexit.
The Speaker acted after the SNP MP defied numerous demands to retake his seat after claiming Scotland was being sidelined in Brexit debates.
Mr Bercow ordered him to leave the chamber and said he could not return for the rest of the day.
SNP MPs stormed out in solidarity with their leader and shouted at the Speaker.
Tempers flared after time ran out for debate on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill on Tuesday night as MPs were set to consider what the SNP has termed a “power grab” by Westminster over responsibilities returning to the UK from Brussels.
Mr Blackford suggested that the row could make the case for independence stronger.
He told the Press Association: “It is quite outrageous what has happened.”
The Government “railroaded through amendments” without the SNP being able to have its say in the Commons.
“Not one single Scottish MP was able to speak in a debate that lasted less than 20 minutes,” he said.
“That’s undemocratic, that is a slight to the Scottish Parliament and to the people of Scotland.”
At the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections the SNP stood on a mandate of saying it could hold an independence referendum if there is a “material change in circumstances” for Scotland.
“People in Scotland will reflect very carefully on what has happened over these last 24 hours,” Mr Blackford said.
“It will be the case that Brexit will be a material change in circumstances.
“When the time is right we will ask the people to come with us, to take that jump, to become a modern European nation.”
Conservatives accused Mr Blackford of orchestrating a publicity stunt because Mr Bercow had agreed to hear his motion for the House to sit in private – which would have required a vote and disrupted PMQs – at the end of the session instead.
Mr Blackford said the SNP would take the Government on “every way” including through parliamentary devices.
Mr Blackford rejected the suggestion the move was a stunt, saying: “We have a responsibility to stand up for our constituents, to stand up for Scotland.
“We have not been allowed to raise our voices in Parliament.”
The Speaker can kick out MPs who “disregard” his authority.
Labour’s Dennis Skinner has been ordered out for the day four times since 1992.
Mr Blackford is the ninth MP to be asked to withdraw for the remainder of the day over that period.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said she was “right behind” Mr Blackford and accused Westminster of treating Scotland with “contempt”.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the SNP was about to be granted a debate on the devolution aspects of the EU Withdrawal Bill.
He added: “Disappointed, if not surprised, that if they really felt so strongly about it, they chose a stunt over holding the Government to account.”
Mr Blackford said the Scottish Secretary had “done nothing to defend our national interest”, adding: “If he has any dignity, if he has any self-respect, David Mundell should resign.”
Later, Scotland’s Economy Secretary Keith Brown told Holyrood’s chamber that “just this afternoon” the SNP had attracted 1,000 new members.
The party’s chief executive Peter Murrell tweeted that it was “awesome to see so many people joining @theSNP after the Tory attack on devolution”.
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