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Roseanna Cunningham had ‘a meltdown’ over Holyrood’s suspension in the wake of the London attack
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham berated Tory MSPs after the decision was taken to halt a vote on Nicola Sturgeon's demand for another independence referendum following the atrocity outside the UK Parliament.
The Perthshire South MSP was heard branding the decision a "disgrace" and said to have had to be calmed by colleagues after jabbing her fingertowards their benches.
Sources said Ms Cunningham accused Conservative rivals of "giving into terrorists" and that "they didn’t want to talk about independence" when the debate over the First Minister's call for a section 30 order from Westminster to hold a legally-binding poll was halted.
The acrimonious scenes unfolded after questions were raised over why it took Scottish Parliamentary authorities one hour and 15 minutes to suspend today's sitting.
Scottish Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw tonight said: “She started shouting it was a disgrace that it was suspended. She started pointing.
"Everyone just walked away from it and some of her own colleagues calmed her down.
She berated TORY MSPs after a decision to halt a vote on Ms Sturgeon’s demand for another referendum London Terror Attack: LIVE PICTURES Wed, March 22, 2017
Two dead, 12 injured as knifeman mows into crowd in Westminster
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Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood (centre) helps emergency services attend to a police officer outside the Palace of Westminster, London
"But for a moment it looked like something quite serious was potentially going to kick off and fortunately didn’t.
She started shouting it was a disgrace that it was suspended. She started pointing
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"I thought it was a very odd way for her to behave. Some of our people were really quite shocked.
"I hope it was because she was not fully aware of events elsewhere and will realise it was not her best moment."
Ms Sturgeon's minority administration was expected to win the ballot of MSPs with the help of pro-independence Greens despite opposition from the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems.
Sources said Ms Cunningham accused Conservative rivals of ‘giving into terrorists’
She wants a re-run of the 2014 vote to take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, but Theresa May has flatly rejected the timing.
One witness to Ms Cunnigham's outburst last night said: She was having a bit of a meltdown.
"I heard her say: 'You are giving into terrorists, even the Tories at Westminster carried on in the face of the IRA."
Other sources said he was also heard telling Tories: "This is because you didn’t want to talk about independence."
Asked about her remarks a spokesman for Ms Cunningham said: “Roseanna’s first thoughts are with all of those affected, and while she did initially take the view – shared by some from other parties – that business should not be suspended in the face of terrorism, she fully supports the decision, given the seriousness of events.”
Scottish Parliament officials initially ruled that the debate should continue as planned, before Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh decided it should be halted following talks with party business managers.
Several MSPs had earlier walked out of the chamber with Tory leader Ruth Davidson among those calling for the session to be suspended.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale had instructed her members to leave as Mr Macintosh said the London attack was affecting the contributions.
In a statement tonight he said: "Members of all parties represented in this Parliament will want to join me in expressing our heartfelt sympathy for all those affected by the tragic events at Westminster.
"As the true seriousness of the incident emerged, and as an expression of our support for our sister Parliament, parliamentary business at Holyroodwas suspended this afternoon for the remainder of the day.
Kezia Dugdale told her members to leave as Ken Macintosh said the attack was affecting the debate
"No matter how significant our debate might be, to have continued further would not have been appropriate. It was increasingly apparent from the chair as reports emerged that the thoughts and concerns of members lay elsewhere.
"While there is no intelligence to suggest a specific threat to Scotland, Edinburgh or Holyrood, security at the Scottish Parliament has been heightened with immediate effect as a precautionary measure."
Talks will be held tomorrow morning to decide when to reschedule the vote.
Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon said her ministers had been liaising with Police Scotland and officials held a Scottish Government resilience meeting with the force "to ensure that any potential implications for Scotland are considered."
She said she "fully" backed the decision to suspend Holyrood and added: "My thoughts are with everyone caught up in the dreadful incident at Westminster today, including the emergency services who responded bravely to ensure the safety of the many people nearby."