Row after left wing MSPs praise Fidel Castro

Left wing MSPs have been accused of lionising Fidel Castro after signing a Holyrood motion praising the late Cuban revolutionary.

The late Cuban leader Fidel Castro

The motion was tabled by the Labour MSP Elaine Smith and so far has been signed – amongst others - by the Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley and a couple of SNP politicians.

The motion suggested that Holyrood sent its condolences following the death at the weekend of the hugely controversial figure.

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It described Castro as an “icon of socialism” and praised Cuba’s health and education systems and its record of “international solidarity”.

Picture: TSPL

But the motion drew an angry response from Conservative MSPs with Tory leader Ruth Davidson tweeting that she had been “horrified “ by some coverage of Castro’s death for “glossing over or completely ignoring” his LGBT internment camps.

Annie Wells, the Scottish Conservative equalities spokeswoman said: “It is appalling to see left-wing politicians, including the deputy leader of the Scottish Labour party, lionise a man who jailed and murdered his opponents and put gay people in concentration camps.”

“If these crimes were carried by a political leader on the right, Labour and SNP politicians would be the first in the queue to condemn. Because it is Fidel Castro, they are happy to ignore the brutality of his regime. These Labour and SNP members should be ashamed of their total hypocrisy.”

Ms Smith’s motion has so far been signed by Labour’s Neil Findlay, Mr Rowley, Richard Leonard and David Stewart as well as Richard Lyle and Colin Beattie of the SNP.

Picture: TSPL

The motion praised Cuba for sending medical workers to poor regions, fighting Ebola and providing aid after the 2010 Haitian earthquake disaster. It recalled “the words of the late Nelson Mandela when referring to Cuban volunteers driving South African apartheid forces out of Angola that’ the Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice unparalleled for its principled an selfless character’.”

It also referred to “what it sees as Fidel Castro’s individual contribution as a champion of global social justice and his maxim of ‘not an inch to imperialism’.”.

But an amendment to the motion proposed by the Conservative Douglas Ross took an entirely different view of Castro, describing his leadership as a “one party dictatorship”.

Mr Ross’s amendment referred to the Cuban ban on Christmas, noted the one million Cubans forced into exile since the revolution and the many people who had been shot as they tried to flee.

It also recalled the “tugboat massacre” that saw Castro’s forces kill 37 would be escapees.