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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Finnie apologises for 'prat' remark
Environment Minister Ross Finnie and CBI Director General Digby Jones
Digby Jones was "very surprised" by the comment
Scotland's Environment Minister Ross Finnie has apologised to one of the UK's most senior business leaders after calling him "an English prat".

It is believed Mr Finnie made the comment to Digby Jones, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), after the latter had made a keynote speech in Glasgow on Friday to address CBI Scotland's annual dinner.

Mr Jones used his address to warn Scottish Executive ministers to guard against alienating business leaders.

He said ministers should be aiming to improve wealth creation rather than concentrating on the redistribution of wealth.

The CBI leader then caused controversy when he suggested that people living in Scotland had "an enormous chip on their shoulder".

Environment Minister Ross Finnie
Ross Finnie apologised for the remark

Mr Finnie, who had been introduced to the business leader by Iain McMillan, CBI Scotland's director, said he had written to Mr Jones to apologise.

The minister said that he could not recall using those exact words and his comment had been taken out of context.

Mr Jones told Scotland on Sunday newspaper that he was "very surprised" by the remark.

"In public life these things happen, but hey, that is what I am paid for. Now I think that people should draw a line under this and move on," he said.

The Scottish National Party said the environment minister should resign over the affair, while the Scottish Tories welcomed the fact Mr Finnie had apologised for "intemperate and irrelevant language".

'He should resign'

SNP MSP Andrew Wilson claimed the comment was "rude, crude and verging on bigoted".

He said: "Ross Finnie's comments may have been intended to be private, but he is a senior member of the Cabinet and he knows that he is an ambassador for Scotland whether he is speaking publicly or privately.

"He may not like Mr Jones but to use his national identity as a personal slur is no better than the worst form of prejudice.

"It is time that he realised that all patience with him has now run out. He should resign and save himself and the nation any further embarrassment."

A spokesman for the Tory party said the executive should encourage debate about Scotland's economic future.

See also:

30 Aug 02 | Scotland
10 Dec 01 | Scotland
06 Nov 01 | Business
27 Jul 01 | Scotland
06 Apr 00 | Scotland
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