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MPs furious after SNP force votes during England game

Votes on motions linked to public spending could only take place from kick-off time at 7pm.

Ian Blackford: Pointed out Government was responsible for timetable (file pic).
Ian Blackford: Pointed out Government was responsible for timetable (file pic). PA

MPs wishing to leave parliament to watch England's World Cup knock-out clash with Colombia have attacked the SNP for forcing five late votes in the chamber.

Culture minister Margot James confronted SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford in the Commons while Tory MP Douglas Ross, who skipped a vote in 2017 to referee a Champions League game, claimed the SNP's "pathetic theatrics" affected staff in the chamber.

Conservative Sir Bernard Jenkin also questioned if so many votes would have taken place if Scotland were in action.

Votes on motions linked to public spending could only take place from 7pm - the kick-off time for England's second round tie.

Five votes occurred, including one regarding devolution.

Mr Blackford pointed out the government was responsible for the timetable and the votes represented the SNP's only opportunity to speak out against continued austerity.

He also highlighted his party were acting on their vow to use parliamentary procedure to oppose the Government "every inch of the way" following a row last month over the lack of time to discuss Brexit matters linked to the Scottish Parliament, branded a "power grab" by the SNP.

The Government won all five votes with the number of MPs voting in favour falling steadily from 312 to 175 as the England game progressed.

Four Plaid Cymru MPs, 28 SNP MPs and Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse were among the 33 voting against, with Labour not taking part.

During one of the votes, Tory frontbencher Ms James approached Mr Blackford and SNP Commons leader Pete Wishart as they chatted on their frontbench with Tory business minister Richard Harrington.

She was heard to say: "What about the people who work here?"

Sir Bernard (Harwich and North Essex) earlier raised a point of order to express his frustration as MPs marched through the division lobbies for a second vote triggered by the SNP.

He asked: "Do you suppose that the Scottish National Party would be calling so many divisions this evening if it were Scotland playing an important football match this evening?"

Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing replied: "I appreciate (Sir Bernard's) point of order which although it relates to the division is not of course a point of order.

"And I just have a fervent hope that one day Scotland will be playing an important football match."

One MP could be heard saying: "I wouldn't hold your breath."

Several of the 35 SNP MPs were not present for much of the 90-minute debate linked to devolution, with numbers growing as it neared its conclusion.

The SNP's Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) earlier joked: "I understand there are hordes of people around London this evening looking for 90 minutes of entertainment on a green playing field.

"Where better to look than the House of Commons? I think we've been thoroughly entertained and I'm sure there's nothing else on this evening's line-up that could be as interesting for people."

Replying for the Government, Treasury minister Liz Truss said: "(Douglas Ross, Tory MP for Moray) asked where were the SNP during the debate.

"I think they were no doubt getting seats for the England versus Colombia match that we're all looking forward to later on."

The bell to end proceedings for the day sounded shortly after Harry Kane put England 1-0 up from the penalty spot.

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