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by Louise Wilson
17 August 2022
Nicola Sturgeon condemns abuse of journalist James Cook at Tory hustings

Protesters for a variety of causes gather outside Perth Concert Hall ahead of the Conservative Hustings | Alamy

Nicola Sturgeon condemns abuse of journalist James Cook at Tory hustings

Nicola Sturgeon has condemned the abuse of a journalist outside the Conservative leadership hustings in Perth last night.

The BBC’s James Cook was filmed speaking to protesters outside Perth Concert Hall, during which he was yelled at and repeatedly called “scum” and “traitor”.

A number of SNP politicians took to social media to criticise the actions of the unnamed protesters, including the education secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, and Europe minister Neil Gray.

The First Minister said abusing journalists was “never acceptable”.

In a Twitter post, she added: “Their job is vital to our democracy & it is to report & scrutinise, not support any viewpoint. [James Cook] is a journalist of the highest quality and a total pro – the behaviour he was subjected to last night was disgraceful.”

BBC Scotland's press team released a statement this morning also condeming the abuse.

It said: "James Cook is an exceptional correspondent and showed professionalism throughout the incident. It is never acceptable for journalists to suffer abuse of any nature while doing their job."

A sizeable protest had gathered outside the venue of the only Tory leadership hustings to take place in Scotland.

While most participants were standing peacefully, a small number were reportedly throwing eggs and spitting at people as they queued to get into the venue.

Scottish Conservative chief whip Stephen Kerr said the actions of protesters were “particularly foul”, later tweeting: “A flame burns brightest just before it dies out. Looking at the anger at the Perth hustings [yesterday], together with the increased Cybernat activity on here and increasingly hysteric contributions from SNP elected members – it’s hard to avoid the conclusion they know the game's up.”

Foreign secretary Liz Truss and former chancellor Rishi Sunak made their pitch to Conservative members before taking questions from STV’s political editor Colin Mackay and the audience.

Both candidates used the scenes outside to point to the “division” in Scottish politics, for which they both blamed the SNP.

But when Mackay attempted to ask the candidates questions about a second independence referendum, he was booed.

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