Sturgeon hits out after Tory MSP heckle amid anti-racism statement

The FM was 'deeply offended' by a comment shouted in Holyrood which alleged Scotland is not welcoming to English people.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she was “deeply offended” by a comment shouted in Holyrood which alleged Scotland is not welcoming to English people.

During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Sturgeon was responding 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”.

Sturgeon condemned anti-Irish racism and Catholic prejudice, but after she said Scotland “is home” to anyone who chooses to live here, MSPs erupted in apparent outrage in response to heckling from the Scottish Conservative benches.

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.”

The First Minister’s spokesman later suggested the comment was about Scotland being home to anyone unless they are English.

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.”

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.”

In a post-FMQs briefing, Sturgeon’s spokesman told reporters: “The First Minister has been to see the Presiding Officer personally about this matter.”

He added that while heckling in the chamber is a normal event at Holyrood, “there are some things like this which cross the line and are unacceptable”.

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