Independence: Top lawyer’s tweets spark race row

Mr Smart's tweet. Picture: twitter/@ianssmart
Mr Smart's tweet. Picture: twitter/@ianssmart
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A TOP Scots lawyer has been accused of using racially-charged language in a series of Twitter messages on Scottish independence.

Ian Smart, former President of the Law Society of Scotland, said in his tweets that foreigners would be targeted if independence failed to deliver economic benefits.

Ian Smart has been publicly criticised by his brother over the comments. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Ian Smart has been publicly criticised by his brother over the comments. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Mr Smart, tweeting as @ianssmart, said: “Better 100 years of the Tories than the turn on the Poles and the Pakis that would follow independence failing to deliver.”

Mr Smart received numerous replies and retweets from SNP supporters, and responded with the tweet: “It’s really interesting when you touch the racist nerve in cybernattery.”

Use of the word ‘paki’ in an interview saw former Rangers’ chief executive Charles Green fined by the SFA last week. Green resigned his post at the club over the row.

Smart has stood as an election candidate for Labour in the past, and is a noted ally of former First Minister Lord McConnell. McConnell tweeted on the row, saying that SNP supporters online should “get a life”.

An SNP spokesperson said: “It is only a few days since Labour’s Douglas Alexander called for a respectful referendum debate, yet these nasty tweets have been posted by prominent Labour blogger Ian Smart.

“The tweets are highly offensive, not just to everyone who supports a Yes vote, but more particularly to Scotland’s Pakistani community.”

Mr Smart told the Daily Express that he was not a racist, and that he “was making a rhetorical point about the language used by others.”

Mr Smart, appearing on STV’s Scotland Tonight said more than once that he stood by what he had tweeted.

But he said his words had been “twisted” by others to discredit him similar to the criticism recently directed at comedian Susan Calman.

“I’m annoyed at myself for making a remark others are capable of twisting.”

He went on to say he had a background of working for the Anti-Apartheid movement and that he had “used a rhetorical caricature” used by others

However, he continued that with “the benefit of hindsight” the words which attracted negative attention should have been in inverted commas.”

SNP activist Natalie McGarry, also appearing on the programme, described Mr Smart as a “very astute lawyer” and said he was continuing to “obfuscate” in order to excuse what was said in the tweet.

“I don’t think he’s racist but the language used was racist.”

Ms McGarry said that Lord McConnell’s intervention had suggested that elements of the Yes campaign were anti-English.

Adding that such debate on Scotland’s possible future independence would be picked up by others, including business investors, she added: “What sort of society are they portraying?”

A Labour spokesman said: “We do not condone any language which can be viewed as offensive and would call on everyone taking part in the referendum debate to do so respectfully.”