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‘Embarrassing snub’ for SNP’s Pete Wishart as Sturgeon declines Westminster invite

Nicola Sturgeon and Pete Wishart.
Nicola Sturgeon and Pete Wishart.

Nicola Sturgeon turned down an invite to speak at Pete Wishart’s Westminster committee in what was branded an “embarrassing” snub for the SNP MP.

The veteran nationalist had wanted the first minister to make an appearance but Ms Sturgeon said she’s too busy.

Mr Wishart said he was surprised by the six-month time it took for the refusal, and hopes the SNP leader will reconsider.

The SNP’s political rivals accused the first minister of dodging scrutiny.

Labour’s Jackie Baillie said: “This dismissive reply is an embarrassing snub for Pete Wishart, but it betrays a much more serious problem at the heart of this government.

“This contempt for Parliamentary scrutiny is consistent with the attitude the First Minister has shown towards Holyrood for years.

Deputy leader of Scottish Labour Jackie Baillie MSP.

“At every opportunity this arrogant and out-of-touch SNP government will seek to dodge accountability and continue operating under a veil of secrecy.”

Ms Sturgeon insisted she was instead accountable to Holyrood, despite Mark Drakeford speaking at the Welsh Affairs committee twice since this parliament first sat.

Tory MP Andrew Bowie, who also sits on the committee, said he could “see no reason” for the SNP leader not to attend.

He said: “I know the first minister is a busy person but it’s very disappointing that she took so long to respond to the initial invitation, then declined to appear before the committee.

“As her SNP colleague and committee chairman Pete Wishart pointed out, there are clear overlaps in responsibilities between the UK and Scottish parliaments.

Andrew Bowie MP.

“Rather than it being just an issue of courtesy, I think it would be informative and helpful for both parties if Nicola Sturgeon appeared.

“If Wales’ First Minister can find the time to appear before the Welsh Affairs Committee, I see no reason why Scotland’s one can’t do the same at our committee.”

Mr Wishart confirmed his group had first invited Ms Sturgeon to appear in November.

He was “surprised” that a response from the first minister had not come sooner.

The SNP MP said the committee regularly discussed matters important to Scotland and urged his party leader to “reconsider her decision”.

Earlier this year MPs quizzed energy bosses on the impact of Storm Arwen.

‘It would have been helpful’

Mr Wishart said: “Our committee is focussed on reports and inquiries that are relevant to the people of Scotland, and it would have been helpful to have explored the issues with the first minister.

“In this Parliament we have had inquiries and reports on universities, renewable energy and public sector broadcasting issues that cut across responsibilities of both Parliaments.

“The invitation remains open to the first minister and we hope that some time in the future she may be in a position to reconsider her decision.”

‘There’s no obligation’

Mr Wishart said he understood why the first minister had been unable to attend – but hopes she may speak to the committee in future.

He said: “It’s really up to the first minister. There’s no obligation.”

In a letter to MPs on the committee, Ms Sturgeon said she had appeared at Holyrood’s convenors’ committee earlier this year.

She said: “Unfortunately due to my responsibilities and range of commitments I will have to decline the invitation.

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