Harvie: Twitter ye not at my manners

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A SCOTTISH MSP accused of "lacking emotional intelligence" over his blogging during a dinner with the Prime Minister today defended his actions.

In a letter to The Scotsman, Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie has, however, partly admitted to another social faux pas at the dinner with Gordon Brown and Scotland's other political leaders.

It is understood that despite the dinner at Mr Brown's North Queensferry home this week being full of bitter political foes – not least Mr Brown and SNP First Minister Alex Salmond – the only angry words exchanged and raised voices came in a row between Mr Harvie and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott.

A source at the dinner said that a second conversation on football, which Mr Harvie despaired at on his Twitter page, which he updated throughout the evening, was started by Mr Salmond and Mr Brown as a means of stopping the two minor party leaders from spoiling the friendly atmosphere.

The meal reportedly involved "copious amounts" of Chianti Classico but, contrary to Scottish Government claims on the country's booze culture, this did not lead to any bad behaviour.

However, Mr Harvie has taken issue with criticism of himself over his constant use of his Blackberry to update his Twitter page during the evening by Mr Scott, who described the Prime Minister as "forbearing" about the "tweeting", and later by social etiquette guru Peter York who wrote in The Scotsman that Mr Harvie was "guilty of the worst kind of behaviour".

He added that Mr Harvie "lacked emotional intelligence" and compared the behaviour with reading a book at the table in the 1950s.

This led to another update on Mr Harvie's Twitter page: "This is the first time in my life that I've been chastised by an 'etiquette guru', whatever that means."

And, in his letter, Mr Harvie suggests that Mr York and other critics were just out of date. "Being only vaguely aware that such people existed, I am very grateful to you (The Scotsman] for securing the services of an etiquette guru to comment on my Twitter habit," he writes.

"However, I can't agree with the suggestion that a few discreet under-the-table text messages represent 'the worst sort of behaviour'."

He went on to say he may have been guilty of poor behaviour if he had sent messages that "betrayed a confidence or insulted other guests".

He added: "If my blog was full of innuendo, scandal and outright lies (I assume that I needn't Labour this point), then I'd understand the outrage. But a few harmless tweets at the level of small talk really don't merit condemnation."

He insisted that, contrary to Mr York's criticism, he was fully engaged in the conversation.

However, he claimed that the leading politicians around, including almost all Holyrood's political leaders except for Conservative Annabel Goldie who was sick, were less important than the members of the public who read his website updates, who "ultimately paid for the delightful dinner we enjoyed at the Prime Minister's home".

He added: "The feedback I've had from people who read my posts … was very positive."

And he claimed critics should accept that new technologies will only become easier to engage with in every situation.

But he suggested that there was a need to develop some kind of "tweetiquette" – social rules about what's expected.

"But they won't be rules grounded in the 1950s, you can be sure of that," he said.