Foodbank nurse Claire Austin abused while eating in restaurant

Claire Austin  had challenged Nicola Sturgen over nurses pay during the Leaders Debate.
Claire Austin had challenged Nicola Sturgen over nurses pay during the Leaders Debate.
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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to condemn the abuse of nurse Claire Austin after she was branded “Tory scum” while eating in an Edinburgh restaurant.

Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale called on Sturgeon to intervene after the abuse of Ms Austin, a NHS Lothian nurse who embarrassed the First Minister during a live TV debate by describing how she struggled to get by and relied on food banks.

Dugdale made her plea after a video was posted online of a member of the public calling her “Tory scum”.

The footage showed an individual approach Austin, saying: “Where’s your foodbanks that you were going to? You were lying about going to foodbanks.”

The nurse replied that the foodbank was in Granton.

Her harasser then said: “You were lying. This is a nice swanky dinner in a posh Edinburgh restaurant in St Andrews Square.

“This woman was lying on Question Time. You were lying. You are Tory scum. You are Tory scum.”

Last night Dugdale said: “This kind of harassment is completely unacceptable. It is deeply upsetting that our political discourse in Scotland has become so poisoned by the SNP that people think this behaviour is appropriate. It categorically is not.

“This is the sad reality of what happens when senior SNP figures resort to smear tactics – it creates an environment where supporters think they can get away with vile actions like this.”

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to stop the muck raking and speak out to condemn this behaviour.”

Immediately after Austin criticised the SNP’s stewardship of the NHS during a General Election debate, senior SNP figures attempted to discredit her during the post-debate analysis.

The SNP MP Joanna Cherry told the BBC that the nurse was the wife of a Conservative councillor – a claim that was not true.

The Conservative Murdo Fraser claimed Cherry was told to make the false claim by Jeane Freeman, the Scottish Government’s welfare minister. Fraser was in the same room and claimed Cherry asked Freeman if that information could be used and the minister said it could, saying she had checked with the party that it was accurate. Cherry then repeated the claim during a BBC interview.

A SNP spokesman said: “We absolutely condemn this abuse, which has no place in democratic debate or in a civilised society.”