The SNP’s Westminster leader has been accused of “trying to stir up hatred” after publicly challenging a photographer who moved from England to Scotland over a supposed lockdown breach.
Aurora photographer Ollie Taylor had posted a picture on Twitter of a spectacular lightshow in the north, a picture that was promptly retweeted by a seemingly outraged Ian Blackford.
The photographer had moved up to Caithness from England in September to work on location for a book he is putting together.
But Mr Blackford appeared to believe he may have flouted the strict lockdown restrictions imposed on England to take the snaps of the glowing night sky.
— Kevin Hague (@kevverage) November 23, 2020
The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP said: “As you live in the south of England and travel to Scotland is only for permitted reasons I am sure there will be a valid reason as to why you are posting a photo from the north of Scotland last night?”
The MP’s line of questioning was met with scores of responses claiming it equated to little more than public bullying.
What an utter embarrassment.
The SNP's leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, having to apologise to a member of the public after bullying him on Twitter.
He really is the clown's clown. pic.twitter.com/XczcPWQtzW
— Agent P 🏴🇬🇧 (@AgentP22) November 23, 2020
He has since apologised and removed the offending message.
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser tweeted a photograph of the League of Gentlemen characters Tubbs and Edward, famous for their dislike of people who are not “local”, with the caption “Ian Blackford and assistant get ready to welcome visitors to the Highlands”.
Ian Blackford & assistant get ready to welcome visitors to the Highlands pic.twitter.com/CnyBUP3r01
— Murdo Fraser (@murdo_fraser) November 23, 2020
Mr Taylor has said Mr Blackford could have spared his blushes by simply messaging him privately about the matter instead of making the public declaration online.
He said: “I think if I was in a public position like Mr Blackford I would have at least messaged to ask about the situation, he could have saved himself a bit of embarrassment to be fair.
“The picture is taken about five minutes from my house up here, after I moved in the summer.
“I really think he was trying to stir up public hatred with this, I have friends in each of the countries across the UK and some of the stuff going around on social media makes me feel like it is every man for themselves.”
As the local MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber I know my constituents feel very strongly about the breaking of travel restrictions that we see across the highlands and islands, which puts people's lives and our public services at risk.
— Ian Blackford (@Ianblackford_MP) November 23, 2020
Posting a public apology to Mr Taylor on Twitter, Mr Blackford said: “As the local MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber I know my constituents feel very strongly about the breaking of travel restrictions that we see across the Highlands and islands, which puts people’s lives and our public services at risk.
“I will continue to stand up for my constituents who frequently raise these concerns with me but I recognise that it was wrong to query an individual on Twitter and I apologise to @OllieTPhoto for my earlier post, which I have deleted.”