SNP claim audience was unrepresentative
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
MEMBERS of the Conservative and SNP Parties differed in their reactions to a nationally televised political programme in Elgin.
Moray Councillors and MSPs from both sides commented following BBC1's Question Time at Elgin Town Hall featuring a studio audience who quizzed the panel of Conservative MP Bim Afolami, leader of the Scottish Labour Party Richard Leonard MSP, deputy first minister and Scottish education secretary John Swinney MSP, Edinburgh Liberal Democrat and work and pensions spokesperson Christine Jardine MP and vice-chair of Amnesty International and Scottish Brexiteer Eilidh Douglas.
Moray Councillor Claire Feaver (Conservative, Forres) was in the audience but was not given the opportunity to speak. She thought the programme was fairly balanced.
She said: "I applied to participate in Question Time just like everybody else through the normal process which included stating my political preference and views on Brexit - the BBC then allocated spaces to ensure a representative audience. There were SNP and independence supporters present, it’s just that John Swinney’s poor performance did not give them much to cheer.
"Anyone who proposes that we should have even more referendums, like John Swinney, is bound to have a rough ride, particularly from a Moray audience which voted so strongly against independence."
She added: "I found it interesting to see how the panellists responded to the questions and thought Fiona Bruce did a pretty good job as ringmaster – not an easy thing to do!"
Leading Moray Conservatives condemned Mr Swinney’s attack on Moray Council during the programme as “a disgrace”.
Councillor Marc Macrae (Fochabers-Lhanbryde), who was also a member of the audience, said: “There was an audible collective intake of breath when John Swinney blamed the financial problems afflicting Moray Council as the fault of previous administration.Frankly his comments were a disgrace.”
Jamie Halcro Johnston, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said, “It is incredible that a minister like John Swinney should come up from Holyrood and slag off a local council whose budgets, as a former Finance Secretary, he squeezed while in office. We’re now at the point in Moray where the Council can’t even afford to cut the grass in some places – a cut implemented by SNP councillors. It is telling that the biggest cheer of the night came when an audience member needed to tell John Swinney that the SNP should concentrate on the day job of running the Scottish Government."
He added: "The audience’s strongly negative reaction to John Swinney was far from surprising given his complete lack of awareness that many of the problems Moray faces are the result of decisions made by him and his SNP colleagues.”
Meanwhile, Richard Lochhead MSP claimed that the attack on the SNP was "shameless hypocrisy and opportunism from Moray’s Conservatives".
He said: "Our Conservative MP voted for a 28 per cent reduction in local government funding at Westminster and the Conservative MSPs at Holyrood voted against the additional £3.2million for Moray at the final stage of the budget because they wanted tax cuts and less public spending.
“The Tories were part of the Moray administration for 10 years and walked away after they fell out with everyone and failed to take the big decisions that have led us to where we are today as was highlighted by Audit Scotland. Some honesty and responsibility from Moray Tories would go a long way as would some genuine concern for the families and communities affected by Moray Council’s predicament."
He added: “In terms of the audience on the night, it seemed that almost everyone in the local Moray Conservative Party had turned out – including a former Tory MSP and her Tory councillor colleagues – so it is no surprise that it was unrepresentative.”
Moray Councillor Aaron McLean (SNP, Forres) does not believe Moray is as pro-Brexit as the audience appeared to be during Question Time.
He said: "I would have preferred if there was more people from the street there. There were Conservative office-bearers, councillors and even an ex-Tory MSP there.
"Personally I get enough opportunities in the press to put forward my views as a Councillor so I would have preferred to have heard from those who don't have that opportunity."