IAN Blackford furiously shot back at heckling Tory MPs as they debated “endemic cronyism” at Westminster during the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking during the SNP’s Opposition Day in the Parliament, the SNP Westminster leader argued: “The pandemic has led to opportunism, for greed and for Covid profits above accountability, because this Tory Government is guilty of funnelling Covid cash from the frontline into the pockets of its rich friends.

“We are talking about endemic cronyism during a global pandemic. The misuse of funds, Covid profiteers raking in billions of pounds for services which have often been too sub standard or irrelevant to the fight against this virus.”

His attacks on the UK Government prompted a Conservative MP to stand up and poke fun at Scotland’s infection rates in return. He asked who is responsible for several areas in Scotland having some of the highest Covid-19 rates in Europe.

Blackford told the Chamber they shouldn’t be playing political football with infection rates – which led to laughter and heckling on the Tory benches.

“You know, Mr Speaker, I have to say. That says it all. That says it all.

“Well just keep going. Because friends, we’re talking about people who are getting a serious illness. We’re talking about people that are getting long Covid. We’re talking about people that are going on ventilators. We’re talking about people that are losing their lives. And that’s the behaviour that we get from the Conservatives? They ought to be utterly, utterly ashamed.

“But you know, when it comes to the Covid numbers in Scotland, and let me give them a reality check. Because the reason that Covid numbers are rising so dramatically right across the United Kingdom, and we’ve seen the projections this morning of what’s going to happen here over the coming weeks, is largely down to what’s happened with the Delta variant. And my government in Edinburgh told the Government in London that we had to lock the door on the Delta variant coming in. And it’s the UK Government that’s been asleep at the wheel.

“So don’t lecture us about our responsibilities, when you have a Prime Minister that talks about letting the bodies pile high, we know where the blame lies and the blame lies at the door of Number 10 Downing Street.”

As heckles continued and MPs shouted over each other, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle urged those present in the Chamber to “just calm down”.

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“With so few numbers in it’s amazing how much noise is being generated,” he joked.

Later, the Speaker intervened again after a Tory health minister called Blackford by his name – which is not the convention in the House.

Jo Churchill accused the MP of spreading “smear” in his opening Opposition Day remarks.

Hoyle interjected: “Can I just say, we don’t call members by their names normally, we use their constituency. What I would say is we need to take the tension out, we need to take the heat out, everybody should be quite rightly listened to, the same that I expect for the leader of the SNP I certainly expect of the minister.”