Ross McCafferty: Is John Mason Holyrood's most controversial MSP?

John Mason is no stranger to controversy and incurring the wrath of the families of Scottish soldiers murdered by the IRA is the latest in a line of incidents.

John Mason. Picture: TSPL
John Mason. Picture: TSPL

After the SNP MSP seemingly made an offensive comparison between the murderers of three young soldiers in Belfast and freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela, Nicola Sturgeon was urged to act.

Initially offering only a ‘clarification’ on Twitter, Mason finally sent an apology to the families of Fusiliers Dougald McCaughey and John and Joseph McCaig, who were killed in 1971.

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The trio were lured from a bar in Belfast, where they had been off-duty and out of uniform, and were killed in the North of the city.

Picture: TSPL

David McCaughey, cousin of John and Joseph, said that Mason’s apology was akin to locking the stable doors after the horse has bolted.

It would appear that the SNP, perhaps naively, consider the apology an end to the matter, and hope it will disappear amid Brexit, indyref2, and other stories.

But it was Mason’s apparent intractability that led this story to stagger into another week, and kept the member for Glasgow’s East End firmly in the news.

A Religious Rebel

Picture: TSPL

The incident is not the first time Mason has attracted controversy. On social issues, the fundamentalist Christian is about as close to the SNP comes to a rebellious backbencher.

Mason said in 2011 that he was ‘relaxed’ about his colleagues in the Scottish Government introducing gay marriage.

His controversial contributions on the debate suggested otherwise.

A motion in parliament seen as being anti-gay marriage made Scottish political journalists fondly recall when Mason, then a humble Councillor in Glasgow, virulently opposed an erotica fair at the SECC.

Picture: TSPL

That same motion caused SNP MEP Alan Smyth to lash out at ‘mean bigots’ who opposed the marriage move.

Tyrannosaur and metaphor

In another move that enhanced Mason’s reputation as Holyrood’s answer to a Republican congressman in America, in 2015 he formally announced his support for teaching creationism in schools.

Noting it was a valid belief that the Almighty created the World in a week, Mason’s motion in Parliament said without irony that the ‘theory’ couldn’t be disproved by science.

Picture: TSPL

A massive shock to anyone familiar with the definitions of the words ‘disproving’ and ‘science’, the motion sparked outrage and ridicule in equal measure.

A senior academic likened Mason to a dinosaur, a double-edged insult considering that Mason’s embrace of creationism likely believes we once lived alongside them.

Mason also became the butt of jokes, and much head-scratching about the IQ of MSPs, when he publicly queried the difference between national debt and a national deficit.

He was a senior member of the parliament’s finance committee at the time.

Another instance of scandal hitting the beleaguered bachelor came earlier this year when he was accused of ‘trivialising rape’ on Twitter.

Mason’s view on the likelihood of Scots embracing independence was expressed through another trademark clumsy metaphor, when he mused that “the girl doesn’t always say yes the first time.”

“I’m sorry if anyone was offended or anything like that,” Mason later added, meaning his 2017 pace for insincere apologies is now running at one per month.

Nicola Sturgeon runs a minority government, and as such needs every vote on crucial matters as she can get.

But with Mason continuing to generate unwanted controversy for the SNP, it could be a matter of ‘when and not if’ the MSP finds himself sitting as an independent.