Salmond chooses portrait unveiling over PM’s statement

SNP international affairs spokesman Alex Salmond unveils a portrait of himself at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh on Thursday, which led to him being criticised for missing the Prime Minister's statement on Syria. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire
SNP international affairs spokesman Alex Salmond unveils a portrait of himself at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh on Thursday, which led to him being criticised for missing the Prime Minister's statement on Syria. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire

SNP international affairs spokesman Alex Salmond has come under fire for missing the Prime Minister’s statement on Syria.

Mr Salmond chose to be in Holyrood instead of the House of Commons to hear David Cameron argue it is “morally” unacceptable for the UK to rely on its allies to take military action against Islamic State.

The former first minister, who is still the MSP for Aberdeenshire East, was in the chamber at the Scottish Parliament to watch his successor Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions.

He then went to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh to unveil a portrait of himself that was painted by the artist Gerard Burns.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson hit out at Mr Salmond, saying: “There is nothing more serious than the potential deployment of our service personnel abroad.

“The fact the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman would apparently prefer to unveil a portrait of himself in Edinburgh than take his seat in the Commons during the Prime Minister’s statement on UK actions in Syria speaks volumes.

“Alex Salmond has form in unveiling vanity projects to himself but he needs to remember he’s paid - twice over - to be a parliamentarian, not an art critic.”

An SNP spokesman branded the Tory attack as “both crass and ridiculous”.

He said: “Firstly, Alex attended a full briefing on Privy Council terms and received a full briefing last night in the Cabinet Office from the security services and the joint chiefs. Therefore, there was nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement which was a surprise or new information to him.

“Secondly, prime ministerial statements are always answered by Angus Robertson as SNP leader in Westminster. When the issue comes to debate and vote Alex will be contributing to the debate as foreign affairs spokesman on the issue of peace and war in Syria.”

He continued: “Alex was representing his constituents today in the Scottish Parliament as an MSP, and where after watching the Commons statement he attended First Minister’s Questions.

“After voting, Alex will host a Scottish parliamentary reception for veterans, serving armed forces personnel and local community representatives to an event in conjunction with the War Memorials Trust to mark the success of the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund. In that light and given the nature of that event, the Tories statement is simply crass.

“Finally, Alex is taking part this evening with MSPs in a briefing on the SNP position on Syria which is an issue that deserves a great a deal more than this childish nonsense from the Scottish Tories. In contrast to all of that parliamentary activity the portrait unveiling was a short lunchtime engagement.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was also critical of the former first minister, saying: “Nothing gets in the way of Alex Salmond’s ego including debating war and peace in our country and the Middle East.

“His absence from the Commons at this critical moment means we will be more sceptical about his motivations the next time he expresses outrage on the matter.”