MANY column inches have been expanded over the last 24 hours on the chaos that unfolded in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

National readers should be in no doubt that what we saw was a very clear indication that at Westminster, when it suits the establishment, the rules and precedent will be set aside, whether to save political skins or blushes, even when what is at stake is of the gravest importance.

What happened was a very clear example of Britannia waiving the rules.

None of us who believe in an independent Scotland will be shocked by this and for most Yessers the whole farce makes Westminster look even more out of touch than usual.

Indeed, as Alex Salmond tweeted it was a very strong illustration that Westminster is not capable of representing Scotland on the international stage.

For our friends and neighbours who are not yet fully convinced that Scotland should be an independent country, it was another clear example of how their personal views about national and international issues are out of kilter with the prevailing political establishment in England, both Labour and Conservative.

A Labour government at Westminster will not change that one iota. If Scots continue to remain part of a political union with England these are the implications soft No/wavering Yes voters must continue to weigh up.

Some people will argue that we should be pleased the Commons eventually voted for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. That is true. However, the impact of that vote has been lost in the chaos generated by the chicanery that went on behind the scenes and the nonsense that was played out on television screens across the globe.

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That is not just my view but that of the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot, as reported in this newspaper yesterday. Furthermore, unless the UK Government act upon the motion, which seems unlikely, Israel will not be dissuaded from continuing its violations of international law and the slaughter of innocent civilians in what is left of Gaza.

Accusations of playing politics against the SNP are spurious. We’ve been consistent in our support for a ceasefire and the observance of international law. The Labour Party have not. Instead, they have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to support a ceasefire and are still not prepared to call out the enormity of what Israel has done to innocent civilians in its legitimate quest to wipe out Hamas.

It seems that it’s OK for the Labour Party in Scotland to call out the collective punishment of people in Gaza as they did in their recent conference motion but beyond the pale for the SNP to have it clearly and unequivocally in a parliamentary motion.

Labour have had ample opportunity to bring forward a motion for a ceasefire. Since October 7, 2023, the Labour Party have had four Opposition days with eight opposition motions. On none of these occasions did they seek to debate the situation in Israel or Gaza. Instead, they equivocated and dragged their feet on the question of a ceasefire.

Then when they faced being put on the spot by an SNP motion, they nobbled the Speaker and hijacked the debate to have their own heavily watered-down ceasefire motion take precedence. What they did was all about getting Keir Starmer and Labour off the hook rather than focusing on the obvious suffering in Gaza and the appalling breaches of international law.

At Westminster as at Holyrood and indeed in most parliaments, government business dominates the agenda. Opposition days exist to give opposition parties the opportunity to hold debates and votes on the issues that matter to them. Labour get these very regularly. The SNP get a handful in every parliamentary session.

How these debates are conducted is governed by longstanding convention and under Standing Order 31 of the House of Commons. Normally what happens is that the opposition party move their motion first and if the Government have an amendment they move that in reply. Then at the end of the debate the opposition party’s motion is voted on.

If it is not passed then there is a vote on the Government amendment. The procedures were introduced in 1979 with the specific purpose of allowing a vote to take place on the motion laid down by the Opposition party on their allocated day.

On Wednesday there were three amendments to the SNP motion, a Labour one, a Government one and a LibDem one. What the Speaker allowed to happen was for the first vote to be on Labour’s amendment to the SNP motion with the inevitable result that if it was passed there would be no vote at all on the SNP motion.

When the Speaker announced his decision to upend the rules and prevent a clear vote on the SNP motion, he said that there was precedent for approaching matters this way. When he said that I believe he misled the Commons.

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The Clerk of the House’s letter of advice to him which has been published and which you can read on my Twitter feed explains that there have only been two occasions in the last 25 years where an amendment has been moved by an opposition party other than the one to which the day had been allocated, but, crucially, in those circumstances no government amendment had been tabled.

So, if precedent and the rules had been followed, the first vote that occurred should have been on the stronger SNP motion.

A story is now being spun that Starmer asked the Speaker to upend the rule book because of threats that were being brought to bear on his MPs.

However, journalists with very well-placed sources say there were multiple conversations with the Speaker which included messages being passed to him by Labour Party MPs that if he didn’t do their bidding they would not support him for Speaker on the other side of the General Election. If the Speaker gave in to such threats then he has fatally compromised his impartiality.

I fear that the threats narrative is being used to detract from the shabby reality of what occurred on Wednesday and to let Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party off the hook. However, if it is true that threats of violence influenced the Speaker’s decision then that is also a very serious matter. It should not have been allowed to happen.

It is a sad fact of our modern democracy that politicians do sometimes face threats to their personal safety for doing what they believe to be right. I have personal experience of this because of my support for women’s and LGB rights.

I have even faced criminal threats from within my own party and at times my professional life has been made close to intolerable, but I have never let it stop me speaking out for what I believed to be right or from doing my job.

Nor have I sought to bend the rules or to nobble those who are supposed to be impartial in order to get off the hook of following my conscience.

I am in no doubt that the Speaker of the House of Commons should resign or be removed from office over what he did on Wednesday. However, it is not only his integrity that is an issue. Starmer looks like being the future prime minister of the United Kingdom. If this is an indication of how he and his party intend to handle matters, then we should be very concerned.

I know that many of my constituents who might otherwise think about voting Labour are already concerned about Labour’s equivocation on a ceasefire. I suspect they will be equally concerned about the dirty dealing that went on behind the scenes on Wednesday.

It certainly strengthens my offer to them and that of any other SNP MP who is prepared to follow their conscience and do the right thing rather than indulge in party-political stitch-ups.