MSP Roseanna Cunningham faces no censure after ‘evil Tories’ rant

First Minister Alex Salmond will not reprimand Perthshire MSP Roseanna Cunningham after she branded two MSPs “evil Tories” in a bar room rant.

The SNP’s Perthshire South representative has written to Conservative politicians Mary Scanlon and Alex Fergusson to apologise for the outburst, which her party has claimed was a “light-hearted comment”.

However, witnesses to the incident say it was not just banter and back Ms Scanlon’s version of events. She claimed community safety minister Ms Cunningham interrupted a private conversation, which included the Nationalist Christine Grahame, before launching a verbal attack.

Mr Salmond previously said he would “draw a line” under any abuse of SNP opponents after MSP Stewart Stevenson gloated via Twitter about job loses at a pro-union newspaper.

However, the Scottish Government believe it was right for Dundee West MSP Joe FitzPatrick to be the person to deal with Ms Cunningham, given both his position as chief whip and the fact he was there to pull his colleague away from the situation.

Mr FitzPatrick reportedly apologised in a “gracious manner” both at the time of the flash point and later to both Ms Scanlon and former Presiding Officer Mr Fergusson personally.

It is understood that, although she has now written and sent letters to both members, Ms Cunningham has not telephoned or directly approached them to say sorry in the same manner Mr FitzPatrick did.

The Courier asked for an interview with Ms Cunningam who played a high-profile role in the Government’s campaign against football hooligans so she could explain her side of the story but our request was declined.

An SNP spokesman said: “Roseanna’s intention was to make light-hearted comment to a fellow SNP MSP and some Tory members as she was leaving there was certainly no offence intended, and of course she apologises if any was taken.

“She is now writing to the Tory members concerned to make that clear and to apologise for any offence,” added the spokesman.

The incident happened on Wednesday night at Holyrood’s main bar in the Garden Lobby, ahead of an SNP dinner that same evening.

Responding to the row, a Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “This was an unfortunate incident. We are now pleased Roseanna Cunningham is going to apologise for the comments made to the MSPs concerned.

“As far as we are concerned the matter is now closed.”

Just days after the incident last week, the SNP issued a press release in response to a speech by Labour MP Douglas Alexander, who had criticised the “bitter” nature of the Scottish independence referendum in a speech.

As details were beginning to emerge about the altercation, a spokesman for the Nationalists said “denigration of people has no place in the referendum debate, it doesn’t matter whether those doing it support Yes or No.”

The spokesman added: “All of it must stop, because the referendum debate needs to be a positive one with the people about what Scotland can achieve as an independent country with the powers of independence we can build a fairer society and stronger economy, be a close friend and neighbour to the rest of the UK, and a good citizen of the world.”