TORY attempts to undermine Alex Salmond by pointing to his absence in the Commons yesterday for David Cameron’s statement on Syria backfired when it emerged the former First Minister was in Holyrood in part to host a key reception for veterans and serving armed forces personnel.

A SNP spokesman said Salmond, who now speaks on foreign affairs, attended a Privy Council meeting on the crisis and had also received a full briefing from the security services and military bosses on Wednesday night.

He added Salmond would be contributing to the debate when it came to the House for the crucial vote, expected next week.

“The Tory attack is both crass and ridiculous,” he said.

“Firstly, Alex attended a full briefing on Privy Council terms and received a full briefing last night in the Cabinet Office from the security services and the joint chiefs. Therefore, there was nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement which is a surprise or new information to him.

“Secondly, prime ministerial statements are always answered by Angus Robertson as SNP leader in Westminster. When the issue comes to debate and vote, Alex will be contributing to the debate as foreign affairs spokesperson on the issue of peace and war in Syria.”

The comments from the SNP were issued after Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson criticised Salmond for not attending the Prime Minister’s statement, which she claimed, he had not attended because he was unveiling a portrait of himself in Edinburgh.

But the SNP pointed out Salmond was, in fact, in Edinburgh to host a reception for veterans and services personnel as well as representing his constituents as a MSP.

“Alex was representing his constituents today in the Scottish Parliament as an MSP, and where after watching the Commons statement he attended First Minister’s Questions. “After voting, Alex hosted a Scottish Parliamentary reception for veterans, serving armed forces personnel and local community representatives at an event in conjunction with the War Memorials Trust to mark the success of the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund.

“In that light and given the nature of that event the Tories’ statement is simply crass.”

He added: “Finally, Alex is taking part this evening with MSPs in a briefing on the SNP position on Syria which is an issue that deserves a great a deal more than this childish nonsense from the Scottish Tories. In contrast to all of that parliamentary activity the portrait unveiling was a short lunchtime engagement.”

Earlier, Davidson said: “The fact the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman would apparently prefer to unveil a portrait of himself in Edinburgh than take his seat in the Commons during the Prime Minister’s statement on UK actions in Syria speaks volumes.

“Alex Salmond has form in unveiling vanity projects to himself but he needs to remember he’s paid – twice over – to be a parliamentarian, not an art critic.”