A SENIOR SNP MP has been criticised after defending his party’s decision to bring down James Callaghan’s 1979 Labour Government, ushering in more than a decade under Margaret Thatcher.

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP’s Cabinet Office spokesman, told a Westminster debate: “In retrospect, I would have done exactly the same thing.”

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird insisted his statement was “proof that in the SNP's blinkered worldview, the pursuit of independence will always come ahead of the economy, ahead of jobs and ahead of people in their list of priorities”.

She said: "To suggest that Thatcherism was a price worth paying to inflict a defeat on the Labour Party removes all pretence that the SNP are a party of the centre left.

"Workers in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and in constituencies across Scotland, know only too well the human cost of Tory rule through the 80s and 90s – job losses, communities ripped apart, deindustrialisation and a legacy of neglect.

“To say that even with the benefit of hindsight you would do the same again is astonishing.”

Mr Sheppard made the remark during a debate on “strengthening the Union”.

He said Labour MP George Cunningham had “frustrated” 1979’s devolution referendum by pushing an amendment which required 40 per cent of the total electorate to vote in favour.

He added: “The Labour administration, in the midst of economic chaos in the spring of 1979, had the opportunity to go ahead and legislate with the will of the Scottish people expressed at the ballot box, but they declined to do so.

“Given that the administration were on their last legs, the SNP MPs decided to withhold confidence from them. In retrospect, I would have done exactly the same thing.”

All 11 of the SNP’s MPs supported a vote of no confidence in Mr Callaghan’s Government in 1979, forcing a general election which was won by Mrs Thatcher’s Conservatives.

Labour did not return to power for 18 years.