Scottish politicians fend off accusations of being 'anti-Scottish'

The long-simmering debate on Scottish independence has boiled over in Edinburgh, with one politician accusing colleagues of being 'anti-Scottish' for not supporting independence. 

Scott Heppell/AP
A display of t-shirts are seen for sale in a Scottish memorabilia shop in Edinburgh, Scotland on Jan. 13.

Fierce debate surrounding an upcoming referendum on Scottish independence took an ugly turn when a Scottish nationalist politician labeled the parliamentary members who oppose independence "anti-Scottish," claiming they had formed a political alliance to "defy the will of the Scottish people."

Joan McAlpine's remarks sparked an angry response in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, which passed a motion 67-56 stating that the Scottish legislature is responsible for making arrangements for the controversial referendum on the country's independence from the United Kingdom(For a full explanation of the independence referendum issue, see our earlier story.)

"I absolutely make no apology for saying that the Liberals, the Labour Party and the Tories are anti-Scottish in coming together to defy the will of the Scottish people, the democratic mandate the Scottish people gave us to hold the referendum at a time of our choosing, which the first minister said would be the latter half of the parliament," Ms. McAlpine told the Scottish Parliament.

Their opposition to independence is the only policy that the three main unionist parties – the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats parties – can be sure to be in more or less total agreement. Though the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats share power in the UK coalition government in London, it is an alliance of political convenience and their politics diverge greatly.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond derided the parties' decision to join forces on the independence issue as an unholy alliance between Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (who are otherwise political foes), formed merely to dismiss calls for independence. A Labour member of the Scottish parliament, Neil Findlay, led the unionist retort, calling McAlpine's outburst an "utter disgrace."

"I think the member should seriously consider what she is saying. Given the views that opinion polls suggest of the vast majority of the Scottish people, is she suggesting that they're not patriotic and do not love their country?" he said.

As the Monitor reported earlier this week, the most recent polls indicate that only 38 percent of Scots support outright independence. Another released Thursday suggested support was as low as 33 percent.

Conservative Scottish parliament member Jackson Carlaw, calling himself "a proud Scot and an elected member of the chamber," accused Ms. McAlpine of "political racism."

Salmond, who appeared to be trying to distance himself from the argument, reiterated the Scottish government's stance that the referendum should be "organized in Scotland, built in Scotland for the Scottish people, discussed with civic Scotland, and brought to the people in 2014 for a historic decision on the future of this nation."

On Friday, he invited Mr. Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg to Edinburgh for "constructive dialogue" about the the issue. Cameron's UK government prefers a vote "sooner rather than later," possibly within the next 18 months, and disputes Edinburgh's constitutional right to hold a legally-binding referendum without new powers being devolved by London. The British government's perceived interference in what Scots consider a domestic issue is what touched off this week's spat.

Although Ms. McAlpine later tried to tone down her comments by saying they were directed only at the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Dem leaderships, her clarification came with a stinging addendum. The unionist parties, she said, "should not be ganging up" in what would seem to be an alliance "against Scotland's democratic right to decide our own future."

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