Professor Ailsa McKay and her colleagues raise important issues which require to be addressed by all of us in politics and by wider society (Letters, October 27.)
She correctly highlights that the current Cabinet has only five women. In contrast, Labour has been at the forefront of getting more women into Parliament and into senior positions. Ed Miliband has appointed 11 women to the Shadow Cabinet, including a number of newly-elected women.
Unfortunately Professor McKay and her colleagues have linked their general points to what had been reported before the facts of the matter were in the public domain.
Bullying or threatening behaviour is not acceptable in any circumstances. That is not up for debate – what is at stake is the truth of what actually happened at the Scottish Affairs Committee (“SNP MP quits over ‘threat’ by top Labour politician”, The Herald, October 26).
I did not threaten Dr Whiteford at the committee meeting in question (something confirmed by all others present) and it is false to claim that I threatened to “give her a doing”. As would be expected, any complaint of this nature is taken extremely seriously by the Parliamentary Labour Party. As soon as the allegations from the SNP surfaced, Labour’s Chief Whip, the Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Scottish Labour Whip interviewed me and went on to obtain the views of every other MP who was at that Committee meeting.
Those who were present – Labour, Tory and Liberal, men and women – all confirmed that no threat was made. Several made this point clear, in public and on the record, at the subsequent committee meeting last week. I believe that not one of them would have sat idly by had there been an example of threatening behaviour by the chairman to a committee member in any meeting.
The general principles and points raised by Professor McKay and her colleagues are very important. I know that factual rigour in academia is much prized. So too must it be in the reporting of public life. An allegation is not the same as the truth. It is wrong to threaten anyone but also wrong to smear them. Dr Whiteford is the sole SNP member on the Scottish Affairs Committee and brings a distinctive perspective. I hope she will continue to represent her particular strand of Scottish public opinion during the committee’s inquiries into separation and a referendum.
Ian Davidson, MP,
Chairman, Scottish Affairs Committee,
House of Commons, London.
Ian Davidson is a political bruiser of the old school, of whom only a few such as John Prescott and Dennis Skinner remain.
From what I have seen of Mr Davidson in the Commons, his debating style is both combative and abrasive. He appears to make little effort to be polite or courteous towards those who disagree with him, or to acknowledge their point of view. This is not unusual in the bear-pit of Westminster politics, and there is nothing wrong with that.
But it makes him quite the wrong person to chair an important parliamentary committee such as the Scottish Affairs Committee. In examining the critical matter of a referendum on Scottish independence (or “separatism” as Mr Davidson insists on calling it), the committee is already heavily loaded towards one point of view, without also having a partisan chairman. Ten of the 11 committee members are from the three Unionist parties, with just one from the SNP, and none of the four Conservatives represents a Scottish constituency.
With due respect to Ms Eilidh Whiteford, the sole SNP member, she is a very recent MP and not yet robust enough to be the only spokeswoman for the Nationalist case. One of the more battle-hardened SNP members like Pete Wishart or Stuart Hosie might have been better able to fight their corner and stand up to Mr Davidson.
The ultimate conclusions of this biased committee are entirely predictable. But given the imbalance on the committee, these conclusions will be worthless and irrelevant.
Iain A D Mann,
7 Kelvin Court, Glasgow.
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