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Penny Mordaunt heckled by SNP MPs over heroin jibe row

The Commons Leader had said the SNP’s legacy would be for young Scots to have “somewhere safe and warm” to take the drug.

Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt was heckled by SNP MPs after she dismissed calls to apologise for her heroin legacy jibe.

The Commons Leader said had been criticising the SNP for having “let down a generation of children” by its approach to education when she said young Scots will have “somewhere safe and warm to take heroin” as a result of the party’s “appalling legacy”.

Ms Mordaunt added she would “not apologise” for holding the “party to account” after her previous comments were described as “ignorant”.

Ms Mordaunt was responding to SNP MP Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South) who recalled how his brother died “at home and alone” having taken an overdose of drugs following a “life of serious harmful addiction”.

He invited Ms Mordaunt to visit Glasgow and to meet with families who have welcomed the UK’s first drug consumption room, with a facility planed in the city already approved by NHS and council officials.

The project took a step forward after Scotland’s top law officer, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, announced it would not be in the “public interest” to prosecute users of such a facility.

The UK Government has said it is not in favour of drug consumption rooms, but said it has no plans to interfere.

Speaking at business questions, Mr McDonald said: “Last week, the leader stood at that despatch box and dismissed the pilot in Scotland of drug consumption facilities, she dismissed them as somewhere safe and warm for heroin users – people like my brother to take their heroin.

UK Parliament portraits
Stewart McDonald asked the Commons Leader to apologise (UK Parliament)

“But it’s a healthcare facility, designed to help people with addiction problems and turn their lives around.

“She did it in the most ignorant and contemptuous way possible.

“So can I invite the leader to my constituency to meet with the families who are thankful that the pilot is finally taking place and maybe she’ll come back and make an apology in her statement at the despatch box and, given her love of clicks, if she puts it on Twitter I’ll even share it.”

Ms Mordaunt replied: “(Mr McDonald) can go and look at last week’s Hansard because that is not what I said.

“I was actually saying that would be a legacy of the Scottish Nationalist Party.

“What I was criticising the Scottish National Party for is having let down a generation of children by destroying an education system, reducing the number of teachers that are there, by starving schools of resources, for widening the attainment gap and many other things.

“I am sorry, genuinely sorry, for (Mr McDonald’s) loss and I know a great deal about the particular pilot and this Government is supportive of the Scottish Government doing this pilot.

“But I’d just say to (Mr McDonald) his obligations to the children of Scotland are important and they are failing them and I will not apologise for holding him and his party to account.”

Earlier in the session, Ms Mordaunt claimed the SNP will soon have fewer supporters than there are pandas in Edinburgh Zoo.

The UK’s only giant pandas are to return to China after 12 years in Scotland.

SNP MP Deidre Brock said: “Her comments last week about Scotland’s drug policies were literally frontpage news.

“The Daily Record describing them as an odd rant, one of the more positive responses. One correspondent asked, ‘why does Penny hate Scotland so much, was she scared by the bagpipes as a child?’ We certainly look forward to the leader’s reply to that.

“Her answer illustrated very comprehensively I am afraid the attitudes and contempt on that side of the House for the people of Scotland.”

The Edinburgh North and Leith MP called for a debate on child poverty in England, and asked if the Commons Leader wanted a copy of research which suggested Holyrood’s child payment scheme would alleviate the problem north of the border.

Ms Mordaunt replied: “Given that the autumn statement has given the Scottish Government an additional £545 million, and we are about to hear their budget, I think it is a pretty safe bet that it will not be spent wisely.

“By all means she can send me what she likes, but I have to say there is a trend here and I think that Scottish SNP supporters will soon be outnumbered by the number of pandas in her local zoo.”

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