MSP who accused bus company of anti-Catholic bias receives coded rebuke

The Glasgow MSP who suggested anti-Catholic bias lay behind Lothian Buses' decision to suspend bus services in Edinburgh on St Patrick's Day has been given a coded rebuke by the Scottish Parliament's presiding officer.

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 4:45 pm

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James Dornan, SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, sparked outrage when he claimed during a Holyrood debate last week that he "could only assume" the bus company believed "Irish Catholics were to blame" for a rise in anti-social behaviour.

Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton raised the comments in a point of order in the Scottish Parliament, calling for Mr Dornan to be compelled to apologise both to parliament and to Lothian Buses.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP raised a point of order
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP raised a point of order

He said: "Any Edinburgh MSP will tell you that Lothian suspended its services on the 17th after its drivers had suffered many nights of sustained abuse and violent attacks, including repeated stoning. Their decision was motivated by a desire to protect staff and nothing more.

"Made anywhere beyond the proceedings of this parliament, Mr Dornan’s remarks might have constituted defamation against Lothian Buses and as such, cannot be allowed to stand."

Presiding officer Alison Johnstone said it was not a point of order. "Members themselves are responsible for the accuracy of their contributions and it is not a matter for this chair to rule on."

But she said if an MSP believed inaccurate information had been provided there were a number of mechanisms available to bring that to the attention of the member concerned and, if appropriate, for the record to be corrected.

And she added: "I would take this opportunity to remind members about their responsibilities as elected representatives and invite them to have regard to these in contributions. Members have a duty to conduct themselves in a courteous and respectful manner."

Meanwhile, Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber has written to Mr Dornan, urging him to apologise to the parliament and the bus company and their employees.

She told him: “Lothian Buses made the decision to remove services after 7pm on March 17 due to concern for the safety of their colleagues. Knowing this, it is unacceptable to make the claims you did and I condemn your comments. I stand in solidarity with Lothian Buses and the fantastic service they offer across our wonderful capital city.”

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