THE Scottish Government has been urged to do more to stop university lecturers sharing “pro-Putin propaganda.”

The call from the Scottish Conservatives came as ministers south of the border promised to “crack down” on academics accused of acting as “useful idiots for President Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine”

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, UK Government education secretary Nadhim Zahawi told MPs that institutions, where staff had been sharing pro-Kremlin views, were being contacted. 

One of those accused of disseminating “pro-Putinist propaganda” is Prof Tim Hayward at the University of Edinburgh.

He retweeted a Russian representative to the United Nations describing the attack on Mariupol’s maternity hospital as “fake news” with the comment "As long as we’re still able to hear two sides of the story we should continue striving to do so".

Prof Hayward, who specialises in environmental political theory, said he was tweeting in a personal capacity and that he did not “retweet but quote-tweeted”.

During the Commons session, Robert Halfon, the chair of the Westminster Education Select Committee raised the comments from Hayward and two other academics and asked if the Government would take action to stop universities acting as “useful idiots” for the Kremlin. 

Mr Zahawi said UK ministers had already been in touch with the University. 

“Putin and his cronies are a malign influence on anyone in this country buying their false narrative. I repeat: it is a false and dangerous narrative and we will crack down on it hard,” he said.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Minister for Higher and Further Education Pam Gosal, said she hoped the Scottish Government would follow suit. 

“It is shameful that a professor at Edinburgh University believed it was acceptable to retweet these pro-Kremlin lies.

“The bombing of this maternity hospital was beyond horrific and it beggars belief that this professor shared a post describing it as fake news.

“This sort of disinformation has no place in our higher education sector as the people of Ukraine continue to suffer from Russia’s appalling actions.

“SNP Ministers should send out the clearest possible message that sharing this sort of pro-Putin propaganda is completely unacceptable in our universities.”

Minister for Higher and Further Education Jamie Hepburn was critical of Hayward's tweet but said it was an “internal” matter for Edinburgh University.

He said: “Any attempt to repeat the twisted rhetoric and disinformation of Russian authorities about their brutal and wholly unjustified actions in Ukraine is unacceptable.

“As autonomous bodies, universities are solely responsible for internal institutional matters such as complaints made or disciplinary action taken against staff and students.

“I will continue to encourage all institutions to review their operations for links and connections to Russia, however indirect, and for them to sever those. I have already been in touch with all colleges and universities and I welcome the action our colleges and universities have taken to date. I will stay in close contact with Principals on this issue.”

Prof Hayward told the PA that he did not endorse the “categorical fake news allegation” and that he quote-tweeted many people who he disagreed with.

“I recognise propaganda can abound on all sides. I am not pro-Russia and emphatically not pro-Putin,” he said.

“For all that, though, having learned lessons from Iraq WMD [weapons of mass destruction] lies and others since, I believe that citizens should keep a watchful eye on information that can be used to escalate tensions and war. I have not repeated any narrative,” he added.

A spokesperson for The University of Edinburgh said: “The University of Edinburgh joins colleagues in the sector in condemning the invasion of Ukraine and we fully endorse the Universities UK statement on this issue.”

They added: “We do not comment on individual members of our staff.”