Spat erupts in Holyrood as MSPs pass agriculture bill

Conservative Oliver Mundell described Fergus Ewing as a 'sub-optimal chicken'.

A spat erupted at Holyrood when a Tory MSP called the rural economy secretary a “sub-optimal chicken”.

Conservative Oliver Mundell was describing Fergus Ewing, as MSPs debated agricultural legislation.

But the remarks prompted an angry reaction from Deputy First Minister John Swinney, as well as Ewing’s sister, fellow SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing.

During detailed scrutiny of the Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill, Mundell insisted: “The only thing Scottish farmers have to fear is the sub-optimal chicken sitting in the Cabinet Secretary’s chair, that refuses to take the big decisions.”

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh ruled that the remark was a “metaphor not a personal insult”, although he said it was “borderline” whether it was acceptable.

However Swinney said: “I do think the comment Mr Mundell made was inappropriate in a Parliamentary context.”

The Deputy First Minister insisted the Conservative’s comment fell “well below what is an acceptable comment”, with Mr Swinney saying that permitting the remarks could result in a “lowering of standards in the national parliament”.

Annabelle Ewing then intervened, telling the Tory: “To call my brother a sub-optimal chlorinated chicken, I just think my 12-year-old niece would be hugely unimpressed with you Mr Mundell.”

Ewing explained that the legislation, which was passed by 113 to zero, was necessary to allow European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding schemes to continue.

Fergus Ewing said: “We will use the powers in this Bill to ensure the CAP schemes will continue in 2021.”

In addition, the Bill will also allow for the rules for these schemes to be simplified and improved “to meet our needs and our interests”, he added.

He said it “should provide farmers, crofters and land managers with as much certainty as possible in the current climate” while long-term rules are developed which will apply beyond 2024.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code