Douglas Ross has been accused of “deliberately misleading” a House of Commons committee during an evidence session on the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Ross is said to have “selectively” quoted past remarks from Jeane Freeman about the Covid-19 four-nation approach in order to elicit a negative response about the health secretary from a committee witness.
At the evidence session, Scottish secretary Alister Jack told MPs he had attended a late-night meeting with Ms Freeman in March to discuss “joint Covid-19 working” between the UK and Scottish governments.
Mr Ross responded to the comment by saying that Ms Freeman had previously told the commitment “she is not aware and could recall communication with Mr Jack”.
Hi Dan. That was a serious accusation. I’ve checked the transcript and Jeane acknowledges that meeting twice. pic.twitter.com/zBiqvzJWcG
— Pete Wishart (@PeteWishart) September 17, 2020
The Scottish Tory leader then asked who was misleading the committee, Ms Freeman or Mr Jack – to which Mr Jack replied: “She has”.
The exchange has seen a war of words erupt between the Scottish Tories and SNP.
SNP shadow Scotland secretary Mhairi Black said: “Rather than playing politics with the pandemic, Douglas Ross and Alister Jack must apologise for their deliberately selective and deceiving remarks against the Scottish Health Secretary.
“It’s clear from the exchange that Ross omitted the key part of the answer from Jeane Freeman at the committee – highlighting that this is nothing short of a cheap Tory stitch-up that will fool absolutely no one.
“Douglas Ross, of course, has form in issuing incorrect remarks given he earlier misrepresented the views of National Farmers Union Scotland and misled the public over the threat of low-quality imported goods – with NFU Scotland’s policy director stating he was ‘fuming’ with the MP’s comments.
“The people of Scotland deserve better than the petty and dangerous politics being peddled by Douglas Ross and Alister Jack. They must apologise now.”
A Scottish Conservatives spokesman said: “Scottish Conservative MPs accurately represented Jeane Freeman’s spurious claims. She is clearly furious that she has been caught out playing politics instead of working constructively with the UK Government.”
A Scotland Office source added: “The Secretary of State rightly challenged the wholly untrue suggestion that the Scottish Government has had little or no contact with the Scotland Office on our joint efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.”