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Ruth Davidson slams Tories on Mandela stance

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson has criticised her party's stance on Apartheid in South Africa. Picture: TSPL

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson has criticised her party's stance on Apartheid in South Africa. Picture: TSPL

The Scottish Conservative leader has strongly criticised those in her party who failed to back the struggle against apartheid.

Those members were on the wrong side of history and left a stain on the party, Ruth Davidson told the Scottish Parliament.

She spoke out during a half-hour motion of condolence for Nelson Mandela on a day when world leaders gathered in South Africa to commemorate his life.

Miss Davidson, 35, was still at primary school when he was released from prison in 1990.

“Many members of my party did not recognise apartheid for the grave violation of human dignity that it was and did not back the struggle to end it,” she said.

“It is a stain on our party and those members have found themselves on the wrong side of history.

“For someone a generation behind, it is almost incomprehensible to me how their judgment could have been so wrong.”

Drawing attention to her age, she said Mr Mandela was talking about stepping down as president by the time she was able to vote.

“I don’t remember the struggle, so for me and people of my age it was something to be viewed almost in the rear-view mirror of modern history - as anachronistic and as wrong as American segregation or Communist rule across Europe,” she said.

“My view of Mandela was of a man greatly wronged trying to heal his broken country.”

First Minister Alex Salmond led the tributes to Mr Mandela at Holyrood.

“In recent days the entire world has given thanks for the unconquerable soul of Nelson Mandela and therefore it is entirely fitting that this Parliament should mark his passing in this fashion,” he said.

“He was a towering political leader, the greatest statesman of his generation, he was an inspiration to millions - countless millions - around the world.”

Mr Salmond noted the historic decision to grant Mr Mandela the freedom of Glasgow - the first city in the world to do so.

The Glasgow street on which the South African consulate sat was renamed Nelson Mandela Place in 1986, forcing the institution to set up a PO box to avoid embarrassment.

The renaming of the street was typically Glaswegian, according to Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont.

“Correspondence to the embassy had to be delivered in the name of the man who symbolised the world’s abhorrence of the apartheid regime they defended,” the Glasgow Pollok MSP said.

Praising Mr Mandela’s legacy, she told Parliament: “This was a life so immense that words can barely capture the character of the man or do him justice.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “For most our lives we could only have dreamed that he would be able to pass on peacefully, in freedom and with the thanks of the world around him.”

Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie remembered as a teenager watching the images of Mr Mandela being freed from jail.

“The dismay that I felt last week was not only because the man had died - all of us knew that was expected,” he said.

“It was also because he died in, and we still live in, a world in which hope is so hard to sustain.”

 

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