Tom Peterkin: SNP councillors’ bonfire of vanity

The symbolic gesture, which has been recorded for posterity on YouTube, was not an edifying spectacle
The symbolic gesture, which has been recorded for posterity on YouTube, was not an edifying spectacle
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What a winter it’s been for bonfires.

Not since Lord Watson of Invergowrie visited Prestonfield House Hotel has the primal link between man and fire been so prominent in Scottish politics.

Last month we had the torching of Alex Salmond’s effigy by the people of Lewes, East Sussex.

A topless likeness of the former First Minister wearing a kilt and sitting on a bucket of North Sea oil went up in a blaze of gunpowder.

The latest event in this celebration of political pyromania was nothing to do with bonfire night. It was the burning of a copy of the Smith Commission report by SNP councillors.

This symbolic gesture, which has been recorded for posterity on YouTube, was not an edifying spectacle.

“The Smith Commission report… this is exactly what we think about it,” said Will Mylet, SNP councillor for Paisley East and Ralston, brandishing his fag lighter.

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“No real powers for Scotland yet again from Westminster. We have been lied to again. There you go Gordon Brown. Cheers,” he added, dumping the burning document in a metal bucket outside the Renfrewshire Council HQ.

The former council leader Brian Lawson of the SNP also put his lighter to the document and wished viewers a Happy St Andrew’s Day. Another SNP representative, Mags MacLaren, looked on approvingly.

A fourth SNP councillor, Kenny MacLaren, was also said to be involved in the ill-judged episode.

Yesterday Nicola Sturgeon moved swiftly and suspended her four SNP colleagues. She was quite right to do so.

It was the sort of immature stunt that would normally be associated with an extremist fringe.

This one, however, was performed by mainstream elected politicians, who have responsibility for huge public spending budgets.

They are also key figures in Scotland’s ruling party. Ms MacLaren runs the constituency office of the transport minister Derek Mackay, while Mr MacLaren is a researcher for SNP MSP Stuart McMillan.

No matter how strongly they feel about Scottish independence or how disappointed they were by the outcome of the referendum, it is nonsense to burn a document simply because they disagree with its contents.

This was a document the SNP had signed up to. It was also a document that owes its existence to a No vote, which was supported by more than 55 per cent of the Scottish electorate.

In this post-referendum era, more respect should be given to the views of others. Furthermore, it is worth remembering that burning documents does not have a healthy historical precedent.

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