Rishi Sunak has come under fire after some journalists were initially blocked from asking questions following his speech at the Scottish Conservative conference.
The Prime Minister’s media team restricted attending journalists to just six questions from “approved” members of the media in a press huddle.
Attending reporters rejected the move before advisors relented and allowed nine questions to be asked.
It came after the Tory leader used his address to attack Nicola Sturgeon, branding Scotland a “mess” after the outgoing FM stood down.
He went after the SNP’s record on crime, education and transport, branding the party’s 16 years in government “a failure”.
In a speech to just over 300 members at the SEC in Glasgow, the PM quipped that Sturgeon had “quit Bute House to take up driving lessons,” adding that “someone has to drive that motorhome” in reference to the ongoing investigation into SNP finances.
He said: “If the SNP can’t sort out the mess Nicola Sturgeon left their party, how on earth can they sort out the mess Nicola Sturgeon has left Scotland’s public services in?
“What we need is a government in Holyrood that is focused on Scottish people’s real priorities, not constitutional abstractions.
“The SNP may not be able to find some auditors for their party, but we can certainly audit their record in government.
“Just take a look at the education attainment gap, the very thing Nicola Sturgeon said they should be judged on, a gap widening.
“Violent crime rising, and they can’t even deliver the ferries they promised the islanders. It is a record of failure.”
Sunak also attacked the SNP’s record on transparency following the arrest of Sturgeon’s husband, and former party chief executive Peter Murrell, amid the probe.
As part of the investigation, police were seen removing a luxury campervan said to be owned by the SNP.
But moments after that speech, Sunak’s press huddle was at the centre of controversy after his team’s initial offer of six questions was refuted, before the briefing was at risk of being cancelled completely.
One member of the PM’s media team shouted that reporters “can all delete [their] tweets” about restricted access after the compromise was reached.
Questioned on the situation when the huddle started more than an hour later than planned, Mr Sunak rejected accusations of a lack of transparency.
“Just yesterday, I filmed quite an extensive interview with BBC Scotland, a part of which was pooled and mad available to other broadcasters, and I’ve just done another pool clip earlier today, and I’m speaking to half a dozen of you here, which was always the plan,” he said.
Put to him that the press conference only went ahead because of the protests of journalists, the Prime Minister said: “That’s just completely wrong, completely wrong.
“I was always due to speak to, I think, about half a dozen or so (journalists) today.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists’ Association – which represents reporters working at Holyrood – said: “Journalists expect to be able to hold the Prime Minister to account when he is in Scotland as a vital part of the democratic process.
“Today’s actions to restrict access are unprecedented and undermine that important principle.”
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