Labelling Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar, and Alex-Cole Hamilton as behaving like Donald Trump who claimed – without basis – that the 2020 US presidential election was stolen, the spokesperson, who speaks directly for the First Minister, said the major opposition parties were “trying to pretend they won an election they lost”.
Pressed on what exactly the opposition had done beyond “bumping their gums” to deny the election result, the spokesperson said “they are trying to deny the reality of an election result in a free and fair democracy”. Asked to clarify whether he was saying they were “denying the result of 2021”, he said: “well they appear to be”.
The comments continue an escalation in rhetoric around Scottish independence from the SNP following the Scottish Government’s defeat at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Nicola Sturgeon told reporters Scotland was now a “prisoner of Westminster”, language attacked by senior SNP figures.
Critics said the SNP have resorted to dialling up the “inflammatory rhetoric” and that the response to the defeat was becoming an “embarrassing spectacle”. Scottish Labour demanded an apology for the “absurd” comments.
In 2020, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol building following weeks of baseless claims that the election which saw Democrat candidate Joe Biden become President had been “rigged”. No party in Holyrood has made similar allegations about the 2021 election.
In response to questions about opposition criticism of rhetoric, the official spokesperson said: “The only people behaving like Donald Trump are the unionist politicians who are trying to pretend they won an election they lost.
He added: “There is a clear denial of democracy at play. They are throwing around the Trump jibes, I’m merely saying that the only people behaving like Donald Trump are people who try and deny the reality of election results.
"They are trying to deny the reality of an election result in a free and fair democracy.”
The spokesperson labelled criticism of the “denial of democracy” rhetoric from the First Minister as “ludicrous”, and that opposition were standing in the way of a referendum by “everything they say about it”.
He also criticised the suggestion from opposition parties that votes for the SNP at the Holyrood 2021 election were not in favour of an independence referendum and were instead about Ms Sturgeon’s leadership during Covid-19.
He said: “It is beyond absurd to say, you guys wrote about it and broadcasted about it day in day out for the entire election campaign, indyref, indyref, indyref, indyref. It is beyond absurd for you or anyone else...for anyone to suggest that people didn’t know that a vote for the SNP or indeed the Greens because they included it in their manifesto as well at the last election wasn’t a vote for an independence referendum.
"The Tory rhetoric and the opposition rhetoric, principally the Tory rhetoric on their election material as the FM said in the Chamber made it clear as well. They couldn’t have been any clearer.
"Let’s dispense with this rewriting of history because its tedious.”
The comment came after the SNP’s defence spokesperson in Westminster, Stewart McDonald, attacked the the use of “prisoner” or “shackled” rhetoric. The First Minister has used these words in responses to questions since the Supreme Court defeat.
He said: “So although the court has made clear the consent aspect of the union lies with Westminster, we must shun talk of being imprisoned or shackled. Our campaign is not a liberation struggle, but one of democratic, social and economic renewal and empowerment.”
He also cast doubt over the efficacy of a “de facto referendum”, pleading with colleagues to ensure any route was “legal, democratic and sound” and “must do what it says on the tin: it must be able to lead to independence”.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Liberal Democrats said the SNP had resorted to “dial[ling] up the inflammatory rhetoric”. They said: “This is turning into an embarrassing spectacle for the nationalists. It sounds like the First Minister's spokesperson needs a camomile tea and a lie down. Perhaps after that he could advise his boss to get back to work on ending the schools strikes and tackling long waits for NHS treatments."
A Scottish Labour spokesperson demanded an apology. They said: “This is a truly stupid statement. No credible person could think the First Minister sincerely believes this. Her spokesperson should retract these absurd comments and apologise.”
Donald Cameron, the Scottish Tory constitution spokesperson, said Scots do not want another independence referendum and the SNP was “denying democracy” by “refus[ing] to accept the result” of the 2014 referendum.
He said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s spokesman’s provocative language and absurd claims about opposition parties reflect poorly on her.
“These wild comments are a reminder of what we could expect if there was another referendum – and they explain why so many Scots dread another ugly, divisive campaign that would split families and friends again.”