A SCOTTISH Labour MSP joked about having shares in a major weapons firm in the wake of UK airstrikes in the Middle East, The National can reveal.

Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney has come in for criticism for making “callous and self-interested” comments he made in 2015 about Britain’s bombing campaign against Daesh in Syria, in newly unearthed tweets.

It comes after the former Glasgow North East MP ended his sponsorship of a weapons industry event, linked to Israel, at the Scottish Parliament after he was challenged on it by The Ferret.

Now The National has learned that Sweeney spoke about selling shares in BAE Systems – his former employer – before their value rocketed after Britain authorised airstrikes in Syria.

Responding to a tweet highlighting the firm’s soaring share price after action was approved by MPs, Sweeney said: “Damn. I sold all my BAE Systems shares two months ago. I still got a nice return on my investment though. [smiley face emoji]"

READ MORE: Labour MSP Paul Sweeney pulls out of Israel-linked arms trade event in Holyrood after challenge

Sweeney’s comments were made in December 2015, two months before he was revealed to be Labour’s last-placed candidate on the West of Scotland list ahead of the Scottish Parliament election.

Sweeney has denied having shares in BAE Systems and said his comments were a “crass and failed attempt at humour”.

The National:

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade, an anti-war group, said: “The comments from Paul Sweeney MSP were not only insensitive and distasteful but highlight a fundamental problem – the cosy relationship between the arms industry and the Scottish Parliament.

“This pipeline of elected representatives holding open doors within parliament for their arms dealer ex-colleagues happens across the UK, allowing undue influence over policy and public funds.”

READ MORE: 'Put smuggler gangs on barge and send them to Scotland', says key Labour figure

They also called on the ADS Group event, formerly sponsored by Sweeney, to be cancelled, calling the weapons sector reception a gathering of “warmongers”.

They added: “At a time when Israel is committing genocide with the help of the UK arms industry, and shareholders are lining their pockets with Palestinian suffering, it is more important than ever that this close relationship between parliament and the arms industry is ended – from breaking the constant flow of public funds to cancelling the warmongers’ reception by the ADS Group next week.”

'Callous and self-interested' 

The Scottish Greens said Sweeney’s comments showed that “the lives lost, families devastated and homes destroyed” by war were “secondary to share prices and profit margins for British arms dealers” in Labour’s eyes.

The National: Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer in the Scottish Parliament

Greens MSP Ross Greer (above) said: “A callous and self-interested approach to war in the Middle East is unfortunately what we’ve come to expect from Labour. The lives lost, families devastated and homes destroyed are considered secondary to share prices and profit margins for British arms dealers.

“This was true in 2015, just as it was true earlier this month when Scottish Labour were caught sponsoring a reception for arms companies involved in the genocide in Gaza.

“No one with a moral compass should need to see embarrassing headlines before recognizing that that these things are wrong.”

The National: Christopher McEleny Chris McEleny.

Chris McEleny (above), general secretary of the Alba Party said that Sweeney’s “first thoughts were of the economic benefits of the industrial military complex” when MPs voted to authorise airstrikes in Syria, noting that Alba leader Alex Salmond, then an MP, had voted against.

The vote exposed splits in Labour under then-leader Jeremy Corbyn, who voted against airstrikes. Meanwhile, his shadow foreign secretary Hillary Benn delivered a forceful speech from the Labour frontbench in favour of UK intervention.

Sweeney said: “I have never owned shares in BAE Systems. It was a crass and failed attempt at humour for which I apologise.”

An ADS Group spokesperson said: “Our sectors are vital contributors to Scottish prosperity and security. We are dedicated to supporting industry, civil society and our armed forces in navigating an increasingly challenging geopolitical environment.

“Scotland boasts a thriving advanced manufacturing ecosystem, with very clear routes to highly paid roles in our aerospace and space sectors in particular.

“The aerospace, space, security and defence sectors, with a turnover of more than £7 billion, contributed £3.2bn in value add to the Scottish economy in 2022.

"In 2022, the ADS sectors directly employed 33,500 people in Scotland, including 1,500 apprentices. With £95,000 output per worker, sector productivity in Scotland is 47% higher than the economy average.”

BAE Systems was approached for comment.