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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 17:20 GMT
MSP sorry over 'dump' town jibe
Christopher Harvie MSP
Mr Harvie made the comments in the Scottish Parliament

A Nationalist MSP who branded a south west Scottish town a "dump" has apologised for his comments.

Christopher Harvie made the comments about Lockerbie, the scene of the UK's worst terrorist atrocity.

Mr Harvie, a Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, has now been invited on a guided tour of the Dumfries and Galloway town.

Speaking to a Scottish Parliament committee, the history professor had also described a major street in Carlisle as a "booze canyon".

Environment Minister and South of Scotland SNP MSP Mike Russell said the comments were "over the top" but added that the calls for an apology were a knee-jerk reaction.

Chris is a colourful figure and we live in a society where freedom of speech is paramount
Mike Russell

Mr Harvie made the controversial claims at a previous meeting of the Scottish Parliament's economy committee, which is carrying out an inquiry into boosting tourism.

But he told BBC Scotland: "I do apologise for certain comments. I certainly was wrong, I think, to use Lockerbie as an example."

"On the other hand, in some of the other areas there is the general problem of town centre dereliction, the problems of direction with kids, the problems with a booze culture."

Mr Harvie had described a recent trip through Lockerbie, which was devastated by a plane crash terror attack in which 270 people died in 1988.

"On getting to Lockerbie, I discovered that the place is a dump - it was Tescotown," he told MSPs at the committee.

"It should really have a certain attraction, of a rather sombre kind, as a place where something terrible happened.

"There are, after all, places on the Western Front and that sort of thing that have such an attraction for families who have lost people there."

Referring to the dress-sense of young Scots, Mr Harvie also suggested Sports Division founder, turned philanthropist, Sir Tom Hunter, made his fortune from selling "what must be the ugliest clothes worn by anyone on the entire continent".

Lockerbie town centre - Undiscovered Scotland
Mr Harvie described Lockerbie town centre as a "dump"

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale Tory MP David Mundell said: "Mr Harvie's remarks demonstrate a remarkable ignorance of the situation of the events of 1988 - particularly his comparison of the situation in Lockerbie to WWI battlefields."

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie added: "These comments by Chris Harvie take the breath away. They are positively barmy.

"He represents a supposedly pro-European party but displays the worst kind of euro-phobia."

Jim Hume, a South of Scotland Liberal Democrat MSP, said: "I have written to Prof Harvie inviting him to join me in a guided tour of Lockerbie.

"He quite clearly needs to spend more time in the town to realise what a jewel in Dumfriesshire it actually is."

Defending the comments, Mr Russell said: "Chris is a colourful figure and we live in a society where freedom of speech is paramount.

"Demanding 'apologies', as some over-sensitive MSPs have done, is a knee jerk reaction."

But the environment minister added: "It is unfortunate that, in the case of Lockerbie, the language used was a bit over the top.

"That is not fair to the people of Lockerbie. As I know from personal experience, they have a lot to be proud of - and I will continue to champion the town's virtues."

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