Shropshire Star

Swinney: Sunak should apologise for ‘foolish’ comments on Scottish nationalism

The Prime Minister included independence supporters in a list of dangers to the UK, alongside Russia, China and North Korea.

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John Swinney

John Swinney has urged Rishi Sunak to apologise for his “foolish” comments labelling Scottish nationalism as a danger to the UK.

In a speech on Monday, the Prime Minister said the coming five years are set to be among the “most dangerous”, as he included independence supporters in a list of threats alongside Russia, Iran and North Korea.

The comments were previously condemned by SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn.

First Minister Mr Swinney has now demanded the Prime Minister apologises and withdraws the remarks, which he said were “disrespectful”.

He said comparisons with “extremists” are “very poorly judged” and heighten negative debate.

Speaking during a visit to Alloa Academy on Wednesday, Mr Swinney told LBC: “I think the Prime Minister’s reference was poorly judged, very poorly judged.

“I don’t think it helps to assist civilised, reasonable debate in our society. There’s absolutely no relationship between all of these classifications that he linked Scottish nationalists to.

“I want to make sure we have respectful debate. I think the Prime Minister’s contribution slotted in directly to disrespectful debate.

“I think he should apologise, I think he should withdraw his remarks. I think they’re foolish remarks.”

In his speech, Mr Sunak listed a number of growing threats, including war, terror and authoritarianism promoted by countries like Russia and Iran.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak made the comments during a speech on Monday (Toby Melville/PA)

He also said “extremists” are exploiting the global conflicts to divide the country.

The Prime Minister said: “From gender activists hijacking children’s sex education to cancel culture, vocal and aggressive fringe groups are trying to impose their views on the rest of us.

“They’re trying to make it morally unacceptable to believe something different and undermine people’s confidence and pride in our own history and identity.

“Scottish nationalists are even trying to tear our United Kingdom apart.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Sunak was challenged on his comments by Mr Flynn, who described them as “puerile and pathetic”.

Mr Sunak replied: “That’s not what I said, but I would say to the honourable gentleman that his party is indeed a threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom, and I hate to remind him that is literally their entire purpose.

“Because when the people of Scotland accepted the referendum in 2014, it was the SNP who didn’t. They went on creating a minister for independence, focused on constitutional wrangling, ignoring the needs of the people.

Douglas Ross
Douglas Ross said the future of the UK ‘is under threat’ from the SNP (PA)

“Education standards falling, taxes rising, so actually finally he should do the right thing and end the obsession with independence, and put the needs of the Scottish people first.”

Speaking after Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Flynn said Mr Sunak had “insulted half the population of Scotland and demeaned the office of Prime Minister”, adding his failure to apologise will “alienate Scotland even further”.

Speaking earlier on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross defended the Prime Minister’s remarks.

He said: “What Rishi Sunak was discussing in his speech on Monday was threats to the United Kingdom. This was a wide-ranging speech on a number of threats.

“I don’t think anyone would believe that a party that wants to tear up the United Kingdom, end the United Kingdom by removing Scotland from it, is anything but a threat to the United Kingdom.”

Asked if he thought it was offensive to group independence supporters in with “extremists”, he said: “He was going through a range of threats to the United Kingdom.

“The future of the UK is under threat from a party that wants to destroy it.

“The SNP get up every morning to tear Scotland out of the UK.”

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