Scotland politics

Scottish MSPs in dispute over Fidel Castro legacy

Cuban President Fidel Castro gestures during a speech Monday June 21,2004 Image copyright AP
Image caption Fidel Castro died on November 26 aged 90

Scottish parliamentarians have clashed over the legacy of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

The former president of Cuba died, aged 90, on 26 November.

Labour's Elaine Smith lodged a Holyrood motion hailing Mr Castro as "a champion of global social justice", calling Cuba an "inspiring" example of socialism.

But Conservative Ross Thomson submitted an amendment, calling the Cuban leader a dictator and slamming his human rights record.

Mr Castro led the Communist revolution which toppled the Cuban government in 1959, and became one of the world's longest-serving and most iconic leaders - but his legacy is a divisive one.

Ms Smith, who has lodged a number of Scottish Parliament motions praising Mr Castro over the years, put forward a glowing tribute which won support from Labour and SNP members.

'International solidarity'

She asked parliament to send its condolences for the loss of Mr Castro to his family and the people of Cuba, claiming that under his leadership the country "built world-class health and education systems and decreased poverty, respite suffering economically for decades under a United States blockade".

She also noted "Cuba's impressive record of international solidarity abroad" and "Fidel Castro's individual contribution as a champion of global social justice and his maxim of 'not an inch to imperialism'".

The motion closes by saying "his legacy and spirit will live on in the great many achievements of the small socialist state of Cuba, teaching and inspiring future generations and showing that another world is possible".

The motion was backed by Scottish Labour's deputy leader Alex Rowley and fellow MSPs Neil Findlay and David Stewart, and SNP members Colin Beattie and Richard Lyle.

Image caption Labour's Elaine Smith and Tory member Ross Thomson clashed over Mr Castro's legacy

An amendment was lodged by Scottish Conservative member Ross Thomson, who proposed replacing almost the entire text.

In it he said Cuba "became a one-party dictatorship" under Mr Castro, and pointed out that "Castro banned Christmas from 1969 to 1998".

He said a million Cubans had gone into exile since the resolution while "many others have been shot in their attempts to flee", before criticising Mr Castro's human rights record.

He wrote that homosexuality was declared a "deviation incompatible with the revolution' by Castro's regime", and said LGBT people were forcefully sent to "prison work camps".

Mr Thomson's amendment ended by saying that "admirers of Fidel Castro around the world have one thing in common, that they never had to live under his dictatorship".

He was backed by fellow Tory MSP Annie Wells, who said it was "appalling" to see left-wing politicians "lionise a man who jailed and murdered his opponents and put gay people in concentration camps".

Neither the motion or amendment have yet been selected for debate.

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