A HOLYROOD debate on the legacy of Baroness Thatcher has been moved to avoid a “provocative and insensitive” clash with her funeral.
The debate, brought forward by the Green-Independent group, was due to take place today, but has now been moved to tomorrow following agreement by the Scottish Parliament’s business bureau.
It became clear at yesterday’s meeting of the bureau – attended by business managers from all opposition parties, the Scottish Government and the Presiding Officer – that there was widespread support for the move, the Green-Independent group said.
Conservative MSPs, backed by the Liberal Democrats, called on other parties to support a change in the parliamentary timetable to avoid the clash.
Speaking after the bureau meeting, Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “I’m glad all parties involved have reached a sensible compromise, which will see the debate take place on Thursday instead.
“Staging this at the same time as the funeral would have been provocative, disrespectful and extremely upsetting for many people across Scotland and the UK,” he added.
“That would have reflected badly not only on those behind the debate, but the Scottish Parliament as a whole.
“We have absolutely no problem taking part in this debate and will do so robustly and passionately. Our only issue was the timing, and that has now been resolved.”
The Green-Independent group was allocated debating time on Wednesday back in March. Following Baroness Thatcher’s death, the group put forward the legacy of Thatcherism as the debate’s subject matter.
Independent MSP John Finnie, the group’s representative on the bureau, said: “Given the widespread public discussion about the legacy of Thatcherism, we felt we couldn’t ignore the need to use our slot to assess the impact on Scottish society and the way forward.
“While we didn’t feel the timing was insensitive, it became clear at this morning’s meeting that there was broad support for a swap of business, and we were happy to agree to this.
“By having the debate on Thursday afternoon, we can ensure the maximum number of MSPs can take part and, in particular, ensure those on the Tory benches answer for the terrible effect on Scotland of 13 years of policies that promoted selfishness over society.”
Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Wednesday afternoon, hours after the funeral takes place, would have been a perfectly appropriate time for this debate.
“However, if other MSPs cannot see past the coincidence of timing, I wouldn’t want that issue to detract from the debate and undermine this opportunity to challenge the failed consensus of free-market ideology which the Thatcher legacy represents.”
Argentine envoy rejects funeral invite as Obama sends old allies
Argentina’s ambassador to London has declined an invitation to attend the funeral of Baroness Thatcher, Downing Street said yesterday.
No 10 invited Alicia Castro to today’s proceedings, but did not extend an invitation to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the decision to refuse was a “matter for the Argentine ambassador”.
It comes amid increased attention on the international guestlist for the ceremony, particularly attendees from the United States.
Downing Street insisted that David Cameron was not disappointed with Washington’s decision not to send currently serving senior politicians to the ceremonial funeral.
Barack Obama’s official presidential delegation will be led by George Shultz and James Baker, who both served as secretaries of state during the Thatcher era.
Former US vice-president Dick Cheney and ex-secretary of state Henry Kissinger are also due to attend the funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I think the fact that the official US delegation includes two former secretaries of state with whom she had a very close personal working relationship is testament to the esteem with which she was held.”