Nicola Sturgeon condemns 'disgraceful' abuse of BBC journalist by protester

Nicola Sturgeon has condemned the “disgraceful” abuse of a BBC journalist by a protester outside the Conservative Party leadership hustings in Perth.

James Cook, the broadcaster’s Scotland editor, was called “scum”, “traitor” and a “liar” as he tried to talk to people gathered outside the venue.

Around 300 protesters booed and jeered Tory Party members as they made their way inside Perth Concert Hall on Tuesday evening to hear leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak make their pitches for the top job.

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Many of the protesters carried pro-independence flags and placards, while a prominent banner read: “Tory scum out”.

As The Scotsman arrived, eggs were being thrown towards a queue of Tory members, including older men and women and a wheelchair user, trying to get into the venue.

Holly Moscrop, the national chair of Scottish Young Conservatives, said she was called a “Tory whore” and spat on.

"I had abuse screamed in my face,” she wrote on Twitter.

A screenshot of the video showing the abuse directed at the BBC's James Cook.A screenshot of the video showing the abuse directed at the BBC's James Cook.
A screenshot of the video showing the abuse directed at the BBC's James Cook.

In video footage posted on social media, a man can be heard shouting at Mr Cook: “You’re a traitor.”

Ms Sturgeon tweeted: "Hurling abuse at journalists is never acceptable.

"Their job is vital to our democracy & it is to report & scrutinise, not support any viewpoint.

"@BBCJamesCook is a journalist of the highest quality and a total pro – the behaviour he was subjected to last night was disgraceful.”

Other SNP ministers also condemned the abuse, with Deputy First Minister John Swinney calling it “totally and utterly disgusting behaviour that only damages the cause of Scottish Independence”.

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He said: “I am sorry James had to endure this. And to the people responsible, stop damaging the cause you apparently cherish.”

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said she was “absolutely disgusted”.

She tweeted: “James is a journalist of the highest integrity and a downright nice person too.

"How anyone thinks treating people like that helps case for independence I honestly don’t know. Folk should be ashamed of themselves.”

However, James Cleverly, the UK Education Secretary, accused Ms Sturgeon of “selective condemnation”.

He said: “[James Cook] was not the only person to be abused. Implying that some people are legitimate targets for abuse is deeply wrong and very dangerous.”

Earlier, Scottish Tory MP Andrew Bowie, who introduced Mr Sunak at the hustings, tweeted: “Eggs being thrown, spitting at pensioners. The good old ‘Tory scum’ banner out … good to see @NicolaSturgeon's civic and joyous nationalism in action in Perth tonight.”

Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish Tory leader who now sits in the House of Lords, said she was “heartened to see condemnation of the abuse” aimed at Mr Cook.

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But she added: “Confused why that condemnation seems reserved only for him. If ‘scum, traitor, not Scottish’ is wrong for him, surely it is wrong for everyone receiving it?

"Or are we at 'deserving' & 'undeserving' targets now?”

In a statement, BBC Scotland called Mr Cook “an exceptional correspondent” who “showed professionalism throughout the incident”.

It added: “It is never acceptable for journalists to suffer abuse of any nature while doing their job.”

The National Union of Journalists said: “No journalist – and no worker – should be subjected to this at their place of work.”



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