Andrew Neil in heated row with SNP MP after saying he can now 'say what I think'

Photo of Andrew Neil (L) and the SNP's Alyn Smith on Politics Live

Andrew Neil (L) and the SNP's Alyn Smith on Politics Live - Credit: Twitter

Andrew Neil has said he is enjoying his "new-found freedom" since leaving the BBC and used his final appearance on the news channel to criticise the SNP.

Neil made the most of his presence on Politics Live to blast the SNP on the issue of poverty in Scotland.

The now ex-BBC broadcaster claimed that people being "left behind" in parts of Glasgow had increased under an SNP government as he took a swipe at one of its members, Alyn Smith.

Smith hit back, accusing Neil of being 'run down' from covering the US elections.

"Don't patronise me," Neil shot back.

"Well, you just patronised me terribly there," Smith responded, adding: "The SNP is winning the centre-ground in Scottish politics because we have made the case for more powers to deal with issues that we are dealing with.

"We have an election coming up in May. It'll be up to the people of Scotland to decide how best we are governed and how best our constitutional future is represented.

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"The problems Scotland has we don't shy away from but we do need all the tools we can get to fix them."

Neil searingly replied: "There's not a single tool you need to solve the problem of poverty in the east end of Glasgow that you don't already have."

He then slammed the widening attainment gap between rich and poor students in Scotland, a portfolio Holyrood has full responsibility for. 

"It's not a matter of power, it's a matter of policy and giving it a priority to make sure a country like Scotland, which has always prided itself on poor kids getting a decent education, lives up to its historic record and not what's happening now," said Neil.

When presenter Jo Coburn thanked the former veteran broadcaster for joining the show for what could be his last time, Neil blurted out: "And I'm enjoying my new-found freedom as well. I can finally say what I think."

Neil has left the BBC to launch a new news channel called GB News set for broadcast on Freeview in 2021. 

Twitter users had mixed reactions to the debate.

One user, by the name Linda for ScotIndy, wrote: "As someone’s home lives in the East of Glasgow I am disgusted that #andrewneil has compared it to the most poverty-stricken parts of Africa! What an auld fool spitting his venom at #SNP. No wonder he and his ilk aren’t liked in Scotland."

@Bighaireecoo added: "On the same programme, Caroline flint compared the SNP to Brexit and UKIP. Andrew Neil given opportunities to attack SNP without interruption. Alyn given chance to reply but Neil was given another shot to repeat his hate. It was a full-on attack on Scot govt."

@ItCorbyn wrote: "Anyone watching #PoliticsLive was just treated to Andrew Neil's 'impartiality', invited on to talk about the US election, he couldn't help himself but criticise the SNP guest, for being part of the SNP..."

@Humanistforindy posted: "Andrew Neil putting Scotland down on #PoliticsLive and blaming SNP for all problems in Scotland, no blame lies at the feet of Westminster govt, it's all SNP bad yet again. We need indy to wipe the floor with folk like him and show them what Scotland can achieve without being tied to Westminster."

@bossbhoy67 added: "@BBCPolitics @theSNP Andrew Neil is an absolute disgrace and showed his true colours on the BBC this afternoon. His hatred and unionist views were plain for all to see and how he can be given any supposedly independent mediator role at the BBC questions their true position."

Others were more sympathetic towards Neil.

One user wrote: "Nicely done. @afneil just gave @AlynSmith a piece of his mind."

"Proof yet again that the BBC screwed up letting the best political interviewer they have go," added another.

"The depressing thing about watching any of @afneil content is it highlights the chasm between what good political commentary should look like and what we actually get," added a third.

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