By Martin Kelly
A Westminster debate on an independent Scotland’s place in the European Union has had to be cancelled after the Scottish Labour MP who called for it, failed to appear.
The Private Members’ Debate had been arranged by Labour MP Pamela Nash and was designed to allow MPs to debate the EU membership of an independent Scotland.
However, with members waiting in the chamber, there was no sign of the Airdrie and Shotts MP and a decision was taken to cancel. Reports on BBC Scotland put the non-appearance down to a “technical malfunction” and an explanation was broadcast saying Ms Nash had been unable to print her speech.
Speaking to STV news, Ms Nash insisted she had in fact turned up but had been late for the debate which had been scheduled for 2:30 pm, but that rules meant that the debate could not go ahead.
Accepting responsibility, she said: "It was completely my fault. For the last few days I've been in bed with the flu, and I came in and printed everything at the last minute and the printer crashed.
"It's a shame, because the place was absolutely packed. I'm really disappointed because there are a lot of important points to make on this."
Reports suggest that Nash’s Labour colleagues were clearly angry at her non-appearance and there were some angry exchanges in the chamber.
According to Scotsman reporter, David Maddox: “Margaret Curran looked pretty angry as did Pamela Nash's many colleagues who turned up for the debate . .words were clearly had in the corner.”
However, questions will be asked as to how the 28 year old Labour MP, apparently in bed with flu “for the last few days”, managed to find time to travel to Glasgow yesterday with the Scottish Affairs Committee.
On 5th November, a bitterly cold day in Glasgow, Ms Nash posted a photograph of herself smiling in front of the 11,000 tonne section of the Queen Elizabeth Class carrier at Govan Shipyard.
Commenting on the Labour MP’s blunder, SNP MP Pete Wishart said:
“Pamela Nash’s failure to attend her own debate, which was cancelled as a result, speaks volumes about the low priority Labour places on Scotland’s interests.
“At present Westminster Europhobes are threatening Scotland’s position with the European Union with the Coalition government and now even Labour MPs undermining UK membership of the EU. This is the biggest danger and uncertainty confronting Scotland and relations with our key trading partners.”
Ms Nash’s failure to turn up on time is a trait not restricted to Westminster politicians. In May this year, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine apologised to the Holyrood chamber after failing to turn up in time to ask a scheduled parliamentary question.
Ms McAlpine, whose apology was widely reported in the Scottish media and the BBC, said she had simply lost track of time, and added: "I realise I have no excuse for not being present in the chamber when required. I apologise for showing such disrespect not only to yourself, Presiding Officer, but also to Parliament and my fellow MSPs."
The MSP was heavily criticised by opposition party MSPs, with Labour's Claudia Beamish claiming that, “representing her constituents is clearly low down Joan McAlpine's list of priorities.”
It is not yet known if Labour MP Pamela Nash will be required to offer a similar apology to the House of Commons.