Indyref2 vote on hold after Scottish Parliament suspended

MSPs leave the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament after the session was suspended. Picture: PA
MSPs leave the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament after the session was suspended. Picture: PA
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The Scottish Parliament was suspended amid bitter exchanges halfway through a flagship debate on a second independence referendum following the attack on Westminster.

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham was seen to gesticulate at the Tory benches in the Holyrood chamber after the decision was taken to call a halt to proceedings. The minister was opposed to the session being suspended in the face of terrorism.

Police presence in the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

Police presence in the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

But it prompted an angry response from the opposition.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last night gave her backing to the suspension.

Presiding Officer Ken MacIntosh said the attack on MSPs’ “sister parliament” was having an impact on MSPs contributions during the debate, which will now resume later today.

His deputy, Linda Fabiani, had earlier told MSPs that the debate would carry on and it was “business as usual”.

Mr MacIntosh later intervened to halt proceedings.

But as MSPs left the chamber, Ms Cunningham was seen on the SNP frontbench to point her finger angrily towards Tory frontbencher Murdo Fraser who had initially called for the debate to be halted.

Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw later condemned the minister’s behaviour on social media.

“Absolutely disgraceful conduct from @strathearnrose (Ms Cunningham) in response to PO suspension of @ScotParl - totally unbecoming,” he tweeted.

It meant a delay to the crunch vote on a Holyrood motion calling call for Westminster to give permission for a second referendum on Scottish independence to be staged.

A spokesman for Ms Cunningham said: “Roseanna’s first thoughts are with all of those affected, and while she did initially take the view – shared by some from other parties – that business should not be suspended in the face of terrorism, she fully supports the decision, given the seriousness of events.”

Mr MacIntosh stepped in yesterday after a meeting of the Parliament’s business bureau.

“Members will be aware that there has been a series of incidents at Westminster and Westminster itself has been locked down because of security concerns,” he said.

“Now there is no wish to cause undue alarm here and security has been increased here but I’m also aware, and business managers and I have discussed this, that the fact that our sister Parliament has had a serious incident is affecting this particular debate and its affecting the contribution of members. So it is for that reason we are deciding to suspend this sitting.”

He added: “I think to continue at this moment would not allow members to make their contributions in the manner they would wish.”

Labour sources last night revelaed that party leader Kezia Dugdale was preparing to withdraw her MSPs from the debate before Mr MacIntosh intervened, as she believed to continue would have been inappropriate given the circumstances.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton was visibly shaken as he addressed MSPs during the debate and struggled to deliver parts of his speech.

“I was very emotional and felt it seemed incongruous to be speaking about that when you had this real situation hapening down there,” he said.

“It just knocked me off my stride. I’ve got friends down there and you hear about what’s happening and just imagine the worst.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton backed the decison to suspend the sitting.

“On such an important issue, we were so distracted by events, it wouldn’t have been fair to the debate up here or events in London to continue.”

Ms Sturgeon later said the Scottish Government has been “liaising closely” with Police Scotland Justice Secretary Michael Matheson had been briefed by the Chief Constable.

“My thoughts are with everyone caught up in the dreadful incident at Westminster today, including the emergency services who responded bravely to ensure the safety of the many people nearby.

Ms Sturgeon added that she “fully support” the suspension Parliament.

“It should be made clear, however, that this was not because of any specific threat to the parliament or to Scotland,” the First Minister added.