Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 15:33 UK

Kalashnikov councillor sparks row

Exchanges at FMQs over Jahangir Hanif's suspension

The suspension of an SNP councillor who appeared on video firing a Kalashnikov rifle has caused a row at Holyrood.

Acting Labour leader Cathy Jamieson criticised comments by the SNP's newest MP, John Mason, that repeated attacks against Jahangir Hanif were racist.

Mr Hanif fired the gun on a family holiday to Pakistan in 2005, before he became a Glasgow councillor.

At question time, First Minister Alex Salmond suggested the forum was the wrong place to raise party issues.

In the wake of Mr Hanif's two-month suspension from the SNP, Glasgow East MP Mr Mason told the Glasgow Evening Times newspaper that repeated attacks against him were coming across as "thinly disguised criticism".

Tax cuts

"I also think this is something the people of Scotland are concerned about," Ms Jamieson told MSPs.

Mr Salmond said the whole chamber should deplore racism wherever it emerged, and suggested Labour was trying to seek party advantage through "what somebody might have said about somebody".

"I don't accept that the matter has been taken lightly by the SNP," he added.

"Suspension from a political party is a serious matter."

Taking a different line, Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie urged Mr Salmond to use the 281m needed to bring in local income tax to cut 150 off council tax bills.

She added: "In these rough economic times, real help is needed as soon as possible."

Mr Salmond said the Scottish council tax freeze was a good start towards cutting bills.

Fuel poverty

The local income tax proposals, he added, were for "a fair and equitable tax based on income" while the council tax was "a tax based on property with little relationship to the ability to pay".

The first minister went on to say that the UK Government's 1bn package to help people struggling with soaring energy charges was "not enough".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced pensioners and those on a low income would get free loft and cavity wall insulation, while everybody else would be entitled to half-price energy saving measures.

Mr Salmond's comments came after Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Tavish Scott, demanded to know what the Holyrood administration was doing to help Scots feeling the pain of high energy costs.

Mr Scott added: "For many this winter, the decision will be 'boiler on or boiler off'."

The first minister assured him that preparations to address fuel poverty had been "extensive".


SEE ALSO
SNP suspends firearm councillor
31 Aug 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Kalashnikov councillor suspended
07 Aug 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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