Committee row expert seeks apology from SNP MSP

Professor Adam Tomkins has demanded an apology from SNP MSP Willie Coffey, pictured. Picture: Contributed

Professor Adam Tomkins has demanded an apology from SNP MSP Willie Coffey, pictured. Picture: Contributed

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A LEGAL expert is demanding a formal apology from an SNP MSP who he accused of treating him with “disrespect” during a Holyrood committee meeting.

Professor Adam Tomkins, Glasgow University chair of public law, said Willie Coffey had misrepresented the evidence he gave to the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee and had interrupted him “repeatedly”.

Prof Tomkins also claimed committee convener SNP MSP Christina McKelvie had dealt with the situation “inappropriately” by “cutting me off and not allowing me to complete my evidence uninterrupted”.

He has now written to Mr Coffey, Ms McKelvie and Holyrood Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick.

It comes after the legal expert was interrupted by Mr Coffey while highlighting “inaccurate” information in the Scottish Government’s independence white paper.

Prof Tomkins had told MSPs on the committee on Thursday: “It’s unfortunate that the independence white paper, the most important document published in the lifetime of the Scottish Government, proceeds on an inaccurate footing as a matter of international law.”

Mr Coffey began shouting across the room and both the MSP and the witness were silenced by Ms McKelvie.

Labour MSP Alex Rowley then told the convener: ‘’I think the witness should continue giving evidence.

‘’You may not like the evidence but you can’t just cut the evidence off because you don’t like the evidence they’re giving, for goodness sake.’’

But Ms McKelvie insisted: ‘’I can if it’s becoming contentious. I’m sorry, Alex, I’m the convener and I can decide.’’

In his letter to Mr Coffey, Prof Tomkins said he was “very disappointed to be treated so disrespectfully” by him during the meeting.

“Not only did you misrepresent my evidence, but you then interrupted me repeatedly whilst I was seeking to clarify that evidence to the committee,” he told the MSP.

“I have given evidence to numerous committees in both houses of the UK Parliament and since 2009 I have been a legal adviser to a select committee in Westminster, during which time I have observed dozens of evidence-taking sessions.

“In all that experience I do not recall ever having seen a witness treated with the disrespect I was shown. In my view you owe me an apology.”

In his letter to Ms McKelvie the legal expert said she had been “put in a difficult position” as a result of Mr Coffey’s behaviour.

But he told her: “In my view you acted inappropriately in dealing with it by cutting me off and not allowing me to complete my evidence uninterrupted.”

Prof Tomkins added: “I would be grateful were you now to acknowledge that, on reflection, this would have been the better course for a convener to have pursued.”

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