Alex Salmond was under fire last night after missing Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement on Syria – because he had travelled to Edinburgh to unveil a portrait of himself.
The Gordon MP met schoolboy Ryan McGuigan – whose impression of the ex-SNP leader went viral this week – at the event.
He was photographed with the huge Gerard Burns painting at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
The SNP insisted last night Mr Salmond, who is also the Aberdeenshire East MSP, was in the capital to attend First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, describing the unveiling as a “short lunchtime engagement”.
He was later due to welcome veterans and serving armed forces personnel to the Scottish Parliament to mark the achievements of the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund.
But opponents criticised Mr Salmond’s decision to be at Holyrood rather than Westminster.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “There is nothing more serious than the potential deployment of our service personnel abroad.
“The fact the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman would apparently prefer to unveil a portrait of himself in Edinburgh than take his seat in the Commons during the prime minister’s statement on UK actions in Syria speaks volumes.
“Alex Salmond has form in unveiling vanity projects to himself, but he needs to remember he’s paid – twice over – to be a parliamentarian, not an art critic.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said:
A spokesman for Scottish Labour said: “If Alex Salmond was chocolate he would eat himself. On the day that he had a job to do in parliament over Syria it’s ridiculous that the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesperson was in Edinburgh to look at a picture of himself.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added: “Nothing gets in the way of Alex Salmond’s ego, including debating war and peace in our country and the Middle East.
“His absence from the Commons at this critical moment means we will be more sceptical about his motivations the next time he expresses outrage on the matter.”
An SNP spokesman branded the attack “both crass and ridiculous”.
He said Mr Salmond had attended a “full briefing” on Privy Council terms and received a briefing from the security services at the Cabinet Office the night before.
“Therefore, there was nothing in the prime minister’s statement which was a surprise or new information to him,” he added.
He also pointed to the fact prime ministerial statements were always answered by the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson.
The spokesman added: “When the issue comes to debate and vote Alex will be contributing to the debate as foreign affairs spokesman on the issue of peace and war in Syria.
“Alex was representing his constituents in the Scottish Parliament as an MSP and where, after watching the Commons statement, he attended First Minister’s Questions.”
He also said Mr Salmond was due to take part in a briefing with MSPs last night on the SNP position on Syria.