Scottish Tory chairman silent as media BANNED from party’s spring conference
Craig Hoy, who serves as the Scottish Conservatives’ deputy chairman and sits in Holyrood as an MSP, slammed the SNP’s initial media ban from hustings last month as “cowardly”.
Now reporters have been banned from attending the Conservatives’ annual spring conference – with the party billing the event as being focused on “internal training”.
Typically the event is a major date in the UK’s political calendar, with party leaders giving significant speeches.
Last year, Boris Johnson caused controversy after using his speech to seemingly compare Ukraine’s struggle amid Russia’s invasion to the UK leaving the EU.
Reacting as media were blocked from attending, Steve Goodrich of Transparency International UK said: “Journalists are crucial to informing the public about how our democracy works. Closing the door to them keeps us all in the dark about access and potential influence in UK politics.”
But a spokesperson for the party insisted: “Spring Forum 2023 is a training event specifically focused on 80:20 seats. It would be highly unusual for a political party to invite the press to an internal training event.”
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Last month the SNP announced a series of in-person hustings for the party’s leadership race – initially stating that media would not be allowed to attend.
When the decision sparked outrage the party U-turned and chose to provide a free-to-access livestream from each event.
Hoy was furious about the plan to block media, telling the Express just weeks ago: “The SNP are desperate for their internal civil war to be conducted in private, rather than airing their dirty linen in public, which explains this cowardly and paranoid media blackout.
“The SNP are famed for their lack of transparency but this really takes the biscuit. They have laughably said by excluding the media that these events will be a safe space for members. What do they think the media are going to do to them? This is a misguided decision that the SNP should rethink urgently.”
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Other MSPs also attacked the party at the time, with Tess White saying the decision showed the “wheels really have come off” and Murdo Fraser asking what the SNP were “afraid of”.
Russell Findlay called for the “silly and craven decision” to be reversed, while Labour shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray wrote to the SNP’s chief executive demanding a change of plan.
Despite the furore taking place just weeks ago, none of the MSPs have publicly challenged their own party’s decision to ban journalists from attending the spring conference.
Hoy has been contacted for comment.