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Highland MPs trade accusations over SNP protest in Westminster

By Scott Maclennan

An SNP protest in Westminster has been dismissed as a “cheap stunt” by far north MP Jamie Stone.

Nationalist MPs were this week excluded from a vote on the NHS in England under the English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) system.

They insisted there would be an impact on NHS Scotland funding in the vote and that they should have a say on the issue but they were excluded by Paisley-born Dame Eleanor Laing.

To mark their displeasure at the ruling, the SNP group posed to take a picture holding placards that variously read “hear no EVEL, see no EVEL, speak no EVEL” and which was tweeted out by MP Pete Wishart.

But Mr Stone insisted that convention in the House of Commons means MPs other parts of the UK cannot vote on bills that apply only in England and the bill in question affected NHS England only.

He called on the SNP to pay closer attention to matters closer to home, such as NHS Scotland, so “people in my constituency might see their services improve”.

Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said: “The SNP has deliberately misrepresented the ‘English Votes for English Laws’ system for its own political gain.

“English MPs have no right to vote on matters relating to NHS Scotland. It is therefore reasonable that Scottish MPs cannot vote on bills that only affect NHS England. The SNP knows this. It is obvious that their attempt to vote was a cheap stunt.

“If the SNP government in Edinburgh put as much time and effort into funding the NHS in the Highlands as they do to political stunts, people in my constituency might see their services improve.”

But one of the SNP MPs in the picture, Drew Hendry, who represents Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, hit back.

He said: “These comments from Jamie Stone are true to form for the Lib Dems, still sticking up for their Tory coalition partners while Scotland's needs are sidelined.

“Mr Stone might be happy to see Scotland's budget sold short again but we aren't and I doubt these comments will attract much support from his constituents, who would rightly expect their Member of Parliament to be holding the UK Government to account on spending on the NHS, given the consequent effects on Scotland's budget which has already been drastically cut through the Lib Dem/Tory austerity obsession.

“My SNP colleagues and I will continue to stick up for the people of the Highlands and Scotland at every opportunity and to always seek the best for our NHS and people.”

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