THE Speaker of the House of Commons demonstrated the “institutional racism” that people of colour in the UK face when he refused to allow Diane Abbott to speak at PMQs, the First Minister has said.

In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with The National contributor Owen Jones, Humza Yousaf said Lindsay Hoyle’s position as Speaker had become “untenable” after he declined to let Abbott contribute to a discussion which centrally involved her.

Video from PMQs on Wednesday showed Abbott had risen to try to speak on 46 separate occasions as other MPs debated “racist” comments made about her by top Tory donor Frank Hester. However, Hoyle ignored her every time.

In a special interview for The National, set to be published in full next week, Jones raised the issue with the First Minister.

Yousaf said: “I don't think his position is tenable. I don't think he should be the Speaker of the House of Commons for what he did previously [allowing Labour to table an amendment on SNP opposition day, breaking precedent and letting Keir Starmer avoid a rebellion].

“But also, I have to say his most recent actions, in relation to PMQs, not picking Diane Abbott, to me that was a demonstration of the fact that we continue to face, as people of colour, institutional racism.

“The fact that a black female MP is not able to speak for herself, but other people are able to speak for her, and the Speaker of the House of Commons ignores her but is willing to take others that are not the order paper, to me that is a demonstration of institutional racism.”

READ MORE: 'Unforgivable': Stephen Flynn tells Speaker to quit after Diane Abbott snub

Amid the backlash on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Hoyle said: “During PMQs, the Speaker must select MPs from either side of the House on an alternating basis for fairness.

"This takes place within a limited time frame, with the chair prioritising members who are already listed on the order paper.

"This week – as is often the case – there was not enough time to call all members who wanted to ask a question.”

However, the excuse has been given short shrift. PMQs is expected to run for 30 minutes, but under former speaker John Bercow it was known to pass the 50-minute mark.

Wednesday business in the House of Commons usually runs until 7.30pm, with an adjournment debate running for the final 30 minutes. The session on March 13 finished at 6.54pm.

Speaking to Jones in the exclusive interview, Yousaf questioned why Hoyle (below) had seen fit to change the rules to suit Starmer during the SNP’s opposition day, but not for Abbott at PMQs.

The National: Sir Lindsay Hoyle (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

The First Minister said: “There was definitely, I think, harassment [of the Speaker from Starmer].

“There was definitely intimidation. I suspect bullying as well. That is certainly the suspicion. That is certainly the worry and the concern that we've got.

“Why else would the Speaker take the unprecedented action of effectively bending or breaking rules unilaterally in order to take the action that he took?

“He said: ‘I was concerned about MPs’ safety’ … “Well, if he was going to do that for MPs’ safety, I thought he would have taken Diane Abbott at PMQs, who has been threatened with being shot for being a black female MP.

“He didn't decide to break the rules then, in order to hear her concerns about her safety.”

Responding, a spokesperson for the Speaker's office said: "We are disappointed that Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday have been interpreted in this way.

"The Speaker is dedicated to supporting backbenchers of all backgrounds."

Yousaf’s comments come after Abbott herself led criticism of the Speaker for failing to call on her to speak.

The MP, who currently does not have the Labour whip, wrote on social media: “I don't know whose interests the Speaker thinks he is serving. But it is not the interests of the Commons or democracy.”

Stephen Flynn, the SNP Westminster leader, was seen going to speak to Abbott after PMQs. Asked what had been said on LBC, Flynn replied: “I won't necessarily go into specifics because it was very fleeting, but I just wanted to express to her my shock that she hadn't been taken.

“I expected her to be able to use her voice today. Everyone knew that she was ready to do that.

“It's just very disappointing but maybe typical of Westminster that Diane Abbott wasn't able to express her own views on a matter that is obviously so pertinent to her as an individual.”