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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 12:57 GMT
Foulkes attack draws SNP rebuff
George Foulkes
George Foulkes made his remark during BBC One's Question Time
One of Scottish Labour's most senior figures has reignited a row with the SNP over alleged xenophobia.

Former Scotland Office minister Lord Foulkes' attack drew a rebuff from Alex Salmond and came days after a Lib Dem MSP apologised for a similar attack.

Also during the debate on BBC One's Question Time, First Minister Jack McConnell was accused of ducking an appearance alongside the SNP leader.

Mr McConnell was the only main Scottish party leader absent from the show.

A member of the audience asked why Mr McConnell had not appeared on the programme, which featured Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen, the Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie, SNP leader Mr Salmond and Lord Foulkes, representing Labour.

The Nationalist leader insisted that the first minister had turned down seven invitations this year to debate issues publicly with him.

He said: "I think Mr McConnell should come out and debate and not cower wherever he is cowering."

Alex Salmond
All I ever said about Gordon was that I didn't think that Paul Gascoigne's goal against Scotland was your greatest football moment
Alex Salmond
SNP leader

Lord Foulkes said that Mr Salmond, an MP, could have debated every week with Mr McConnell if he had stayed at Holyrood.

A source close to the first minister said Mr McConnell was heavily committed and he was only approached by the BBC two weeks ago.

The xenophobia claim by Lord Foulkes came following the question "would Scotland be better off as a fully independent country?"

In the heat of the debate, the Labour peer said: "There are Scots, Gordon (Brown) is a Scot. Alex calls him London Labour in this xenophobic kind of way.

Mr Salmond interjected and said: "All I ever said about Gordon was that I didn't think that Paul Gascoigne's goal against Scotland was your greatest football moment."

He added: "To argue for and seek independence for your country is something that people have done the world over.

"It is entirely legitimate and it is honourable. Some of the greatest figures in history have done it and we should not belittle that debate by throwing about names like xenophobic."

The SNP strongly denied a previous claim of xenophobia when it was accused of it at the weekend by Lib Dem MSP Jamie Stone, who has since apologised.




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