Douglas Ross defends Conservative candidate Judy Lockhart-Hunter after 'Syrian refugees not welcome in Scotland' petition

The Scottish Conservative leader has defended a council candidate after she claimed Scotland ‘has no room' for Syrian refugees.

Judy Lockhart-Hunter, a Conservative candidate in the North Berwick coastal ward of East Lothian, started a poll entitled “#WeHaveNoRoom in Scotland” during the Syrian Refugee crisis in 2015.

The 2016 poll, reported in The National and confirmed by the Scottish Conservative leader, displayed a large image of a Union Jack with the slogan ‘Veterans before Migrants’.

The blurb also stated refugees would be far better placed going to another Islamic country where they can fit in easier”.

The Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has defended council candidate Judy Lockhart-Hunter after she claimed Scotland ‘has no room' for Syrian refugees (Photo: Andy Buchanan via Getty Images).

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Speaking on Friday, Douglas Ross defended the East Lothian candidate, saying “people make mistakes when they are younger."

He admitted “it was completely the wrong language and the wrong sentiment” but “it was a statement she made a number of years ago”.

Ms Lockhart-Hunter has since apologised, saying it “doesn’t reflect my feelings today”. She has also offered to take in a Ukrainian refugee family.

The Scottish Conservative Party has since accepted her apology despite calls from the SNP for her to step down.

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SNP North Berwick candidate Liz Allen said she was “appalled” by the poll and said Ms Lockhart-Hunter should withdraw her candidacy.

Ms Allen, who spent the past two years helping refugees from Afghanistan, Sudan, and Syria, learn English, said: “I don’t think she’s got any credibility now. We have this massive humanitarian crisis. We have vulnerable people experiencing untold horrors living in fear in a war zone."

The SNP candidate said Ms Lockhart-Hunter’s offer to take in a Ukrainian family was “very suspicious” and “politicking at its worst” as she said North Berwick Coastal has been very welcoming to Ukrainian refugees.

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Asked what people in her area will think of the petition, Ms Allen said: “I think they will be absolutely horrified. I have been getting messages from people saying this is not representative of their ward.

"There’s a very small number of right-wing people who have the loudest voices but the majority of people in North Berwick Coastal are extremely warm and very community minded.”

The Scottish Conservative Leader said he understood the poll had been deleted and was only aware of it when the request for a comment on the poll had been raised.

Judy Lockhart-Hunter: "This petition, from many years ago, was a mistake. I'm sorry to anyone who is offended by the sentiments in it. My language was not right and doesn't reflect my feelings today. Refugees from Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere are very welcome in Scotland."

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The news of the petition comes after the UK Government faced backlash after announcing some asylum seekers who cross the Channel to the UK will be given a one-way ticket to Rwanda.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the £120m scheme would "save countless lives" from human trafficking.

Ms Allen said: "I am astonished at the callous attitude towards refugees as expressed by the Conservative party today in their plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, and the historical hurtful comments from one of the North Berwick and Costal Conservative candidates.”

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