Galloway Labour MP Russell Brown has accused Galloway Tory MSP Alex Fergusson of criticising his own party in this paper over the decision to withdraw UK Border Agency officers from the ferry ports of Wigtownshire after statistics showed that illegal immigration rose by 65 per cent in a year.
In reply Mr Fergusson called the Labour MP’s words ”ill chosen” adding that he had a duty to raise concerns about decisions that affected his constituents.
As the row raged, Russell Brown called on Scottish Office Minister David Mundell to say whether he backs the comments made by his Tory Party colleague that the “UKBA should have a rethink” of the decision to axe funding for seconded police officers at Stranraer and Cairnryan ports.
Mr Fergusson’s statement to The Galloway Gazette last week said that he “criticised the decision at the time” to withdraw the police officers from the Galloway Ports and “remains critical of it now”. He added that the increasing numbers of immigration offenders coming through the port was the “very outcome that I feared when the UK Government announced the reduction in its dedicated police resource at the Ports Unit last year” and that he had taken the matter up with the Scottish Office when the funding was axed last year.
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “This is an extraordinary attack on Tory Government policy by Alex Fergusson. Not only does he fiercely criticise their decision to axe the ports police, but he says he made this clear to David Mundell at the time. I know Mr Mundell didn’t listen to my concerns, but Mr Fergusson is now accusing him of ignoring those coming from within the Tory Party too.
“This damming condemnation of the Government by Alex Fergusson makes David Mundell’s continued silence on the ports police cuts untenable. We urgently need to know if David Mundell shares Alex Fergusson’s view that scrapping the ports police was a mistake. Mr Fergusson’s outburst shows that the Government’s decision isn’t even supported by the other Tory politicians and blows out of the water any justification of the Government’s reckless actions. I hope his view that the ports police should be reinstated represents a shift in Tory Party policy, and I’m looking for David Mundell to confirm that.
“While I’m pleased Alex Fergusson seems to have finally woken up to the scale of the problem at the ports, he is 12 months too late and I think he will struggle to convince people that his words are any more than political opportunism. Alex Fergusson says he spoke to David Mundell at the Scottish Office at the time to make his criticism clear, but clearly he didn’t do a good enough job. Perhaps if he had been more vocal in his objection at the time the funding for police at the ports would still be in place today. It’s pretty clear to me this is nothing more than crocodile tears from Mr Fergusson. He can’t wash his hands of the fact that the blame for these cuts lie squarely at the door of his Tory-led government.”
Responding to Russell Brown, Alex Fergusson said: “Russell Brown’s ill-chosen words would have more impact on me if I had ever remembered him being critical of some of the disastrous decisions made by the former Labour Government, especially when the impact of those decisions were nothing but detrimental to his constituents. The incoming UK Government has had to take a series of incredibly difficult decisions in order to try to regain control over the economic disaster area that Labour left behind.
“I believe it is my duty as the Constituency MSP to raise concerns with the UK Government when my constituents are affected, as has been the case with this particular decision. Mr Brown’s politically opportunistic attack on myself and David Mundell MP serves no purpose whatsoever other than to make rather cheap party political points. I prefer to engage in sensible debate and discussion that might result in a resolution to the problem. Russell Brown’s intervention will do nothing in that regard”.