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Two MSPs have clashed over an election leaflet as the parties jockey for position ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
SNP stalwart Michael Russell, the Argyll and Bute MSP who steps down this time, has accused the Scottish Conservatives’ challenger for the seat, Donald Cameron MSP, of ‘airbrushing’ Holyrood out of a leaflet delivered to every home in the constituency.
Mr Cameron, the current MSP for the Highlands and Islands, was accused by Mr Russell of underplaying the significant contribution of the Scottish Government in the recent rural growth deal for Argyll and Bute.
But Mr Cameron said growth deals, such as Argyll and Bute’s, had always been ‘spearheaded and led’ by the UK Government.
Mr Russell said: ‘Mr Cameron is standing to be a member of the Scottish Parliament yet he is trying to airbrush out anything Scottish about the largest investment ever in Argyll and Bute and its future. The Scottish Tories need to decide who they are working for – Boris Johnson in London or the people of Scotland.’
Mr Russell said the rural growth deal is a joint project involving £25 million from the Scottish Government and a matched sum from the UK Government with more than £20 million coming from other sources to being the total to £70 million.
He said the deal origins dated back to discussions between himself, then Scottish Government finance secretary John Swinney and former leader of Argyll and Bute Council Dick Walsh in February 2016. The UK Government, said Mr Russell, became involved ‘some years later’.
However, Mr Cameron said: ‘It’s good to see Michael Russell has managed to spare a few minutes from plotting another independence referendum to comment on my leaflet.
‘I welcome the funding from the Scottish Government, but it doesn’t make up for more than a decade of SNP cuts to local councils, something which Michael Russell has turned a blind eye to during his time in office.’
Mr Cameron added: ‘The UK Government has contributed almost £10 billion to Scotland during the pandemic and it is clear we are stronger together within the United Kingdom. That is the case I will be taking to the people of Argyll and Bute at this election.’
Islay resident Jenni Minto has been selected as the SNP candidate for Argyll and Bute after Mr Russell announced his decision to stand down, having first been elected in 1999.