Debate is marred by sexism claims

Jim Fullarton
Jim Fullarton
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An independence debate 
has been overshadowed by claims a Scottish Borders Councillor used demeaning and “misogynistic” language.

Speaking from the floor during the debate, it has been alleged that East Berwickshire councillor Jim Fullarton described the ‘Yes We Can’ campaign slogan as being: “Better than a woman closing her legs and saying no.”

Kirsty Boyle works for South of Scotland MSP Paul Wheelhouse, who also took part in the debate. She told The Berwickshire News that “a hush” descended on the NFUS meeting at Carfraemill on Monday after councillor Fullarton’s comments.

“Most people were just completely shocked, but of course some were laughing, and I think that made the situation even worse,” she said.

“Up until that point it had been a good debate. It was very intense, but both sides had been able to get their points across and hear the other side out. I was really upset, not just about the comments, but the fact that there was a bit of laughter like that, it really got to me.”

Councillor Fullarton, she added, had been chatting throughout the debate, and Ms Boyle said she was also disappointed by his later comments, when she said he addressed MSP Joan McAlpine, sitting on the panel, as “honey”.

She expressed disappointment that the debate continued without Conservative councillor Fullarton being taken to task. Boyle said in a letter to The Berwickshire News that she hoped to “highlight the misogynistic and offensive attitude” Councillor Fullarton displayed at the event.

She continued: “I appreciate the independence referendum has got people from both sides into a state of passionate activism and I admire their enthusiasm for wanting to make their case for either outcome – but does that case really need to be made while channelling such Jurassic attitudes?

“Regardless of the outcome of the vote, surely we all want Scotland to be a progressive, equal and just society?

“Surely it would be appropriate for Councillor Fullarton to apologise for the offence he has caused in making such outdated and derogatory remarks in a public forum?”

She continued: “I would encourage him to engage with women who have suffered abuse – mental, physical and sexual – to find out exactly why his comments are unacceptable, because I don’t for a minute think he will fully understand why his ideas are so misplaced in modern society.”

A spokesperson from Scottish Conservatives provided the following statement: “We believe both sides of the independence argument should use appropriate language and keep the quality of debate as high as possible at all times.”

Meanwhile an NFUS spokesperson said: “It was a robust debate with quite a lot of interventions from the floor.

“There has been no negative feedback to either the chair of the event Stuart McNicol, or the organisers.”

Despite attempts to contact him, Councillor Fullarton was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.