Nicola Sturgeon defends SNP MPs over 'boozy' Gibraltar trip

11 November 2021, 19:25

Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

Nicola Sturgeon has defended two SNP MPs who were accused of drinking too much on a trip to Gibraltar declaring the allegations to be "false".

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The First Minister said the accusations about Drew Hendry and David Linden were possibly an attempt by the Conservatives to distract from other issues.

The allegations came to light after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he was writing to SNP and Labour following claims three MPs - including Labour’s Charlotte Nichols - were "worse for wear" after drinking on a flight to visit the armed forces in Gibraltar.

Speaking to journalists at the Cop26 summit, Ms Sturgeon said: "I think there have been allegations made against two of my MPs that they say are completely false and unfounded, and some may say is an attempt by Conservatives to distract attention from their own travails.

"I know Drew and David well, they say these allegations are unfounded and that is something I've got confidence in."

She said she had not spoken directly to the MPs, but added: "The allegations are false, Drew and David have made that clear.

"I think the question is perhaps for Conservatives why they are choosing to make allegations like this on Remembrance Day, given the nature of what Drew and David have been doing.

"I know both Drew and David extremely well and if they say these allegations are false I have confidence in that."

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Mr Wallace has written to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Tory MP James Gray, who chairs the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.

The MPs at the centre of the row were flying as part of a group to the British overseas territory to mark Armistice Day.

Mr Gray said that he had heard those named in reports had "imbibed too much", but stated that he was not with them on the flight.

Read more: SNP MP sends formal complaint to Met over PM and Tory 'corruption'

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "The armed forces scheme is an opportunity for both parliamentarians and the military to understand each other.

"This behaviour puts military personnel in a difficult position and risks undermining respect for Parliament."

Mr Hendry and Mr Linden have both denied the allegations, accusing the Conservative Party of whipping up a "smear campaign" to distract from the sleaze row it has become embroiled in since news of former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson's paid-for lobbying broke.

The pair, along with a Labour MP, Warrington North's Charlotte Nichols, were said to have been drinking before and during a flight from Heathrow to Gibraltar on Tuesday.

Posting a picture with troops in Gibraltar, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Mr Hendry said on social media: "It's deeply disappointing that Tory MPs have made false claims in a shameless attempt to divert attention from the Tory corruption scandal engulfing Westminster.

"That is a matter for their conscience. I'll focus on doing my job and respecting our troops as we mark Armistice Day."

Ms Nichols returned to the UK early after what has been described as a "mental health episode".

It was announced in September that Ms Nichols was taking a leave of absence from her Labour front bench role as shadow equalities minister for personal reasons.

Labour said at the time that she was expected to return to the frontbench in the future.

The party said it would not be commenting on the allegations surrounding the Gibraltar trip.