A TORY MSP was challenged on his “moral compass” as he defended the UK Government’s plans to crack down on asylum seekers.

Scottish Tories faced accusations they had “demonised the desperate” by defending the bill during a debate in Holyrood on Tuesday as MSPs from across political parties slammed the “inhumane” bill.

Donald Cameron, the Scottish Conservatives’ external affairs spokesperson, defended the Illegal Migration Bill while attacking the Government for debating what he said was a matter “entirely reserved to the UK Parliament”.

Speakers from all other parties argued the bill would affect devolved matters and the Social Justice Secretary said the parliament had “the right to debate any subject it so chooses in the interests of the people of Scotland”.

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Cameron faced questions about his “moral compass” when mounting a defence of the proposed law in the Scottish Parliament and insisted he would have voted for the legislation along with his Tory colleagues in Westminster were he an MP.

Scottish Tory MSP Brian Whittle hit out at the debate as “posturing” while Cameron said the Government had a “brass neck” to accuse other parties of “disrespecting devolution”, arguing the matter was one for Westminster.

He said: “We could instead be debating why A&E waiting times hit their worst level on record, or why cancer waiting times are the longest on record. We could be debating why the education attainment gap has widened not narrowed, or why after 16 years of SNP rule there are now fewer teachers in our schools compared to 2007-08.”

His contribution was interrupted by Scottish LibDems leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, who asked him: “I’ve listened to his contributions many times in this chamber, I’m aware of his values and his moral compass. Personally, would he support this bill if he was an MP in the House of Commons?”.

Critics of the bill said the bill criminalised vulnerable people and the Scottish Government described it as both “cruel and unnecessary”.

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the Government was attempting to “confuse” the public on the particulars of immigration and asylum.

She said: “The narrative that this is giving on this entire issue around immigration, migration, refugees is something which is deeply concerning.

“I think there’s a deliberate attempt to misuse terms, confuse terms and therefore confuse the British public on our responsibilities.”

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She went on to attack the bill’s proposed handling of child migrants, claiming it would deny them “the right to feel safe and the right to live a full and happy childhood”.

The proposed law, she claimed, “effectively reverses” the ban on child detention and would see young people whose age is disputed considered adults if they refuse to undergo age assessments she said are “contentious”.

She concluded: “Scotland is stronger for our multiculturalism and non-UK citizens are an important part of our country’s future.

“That’s why we condemn unreservedly the UK Government’s Illegal Migration Bill as cruel and unnecessary, and we will continue to urge the UK Government not to progress this bill but instead deliver a humane, flexible asylum and immigration system.”

Cameron defended the bill, saying it aimed to tackle “growing instances of people smuggling” and “reduce unsafe migrant crossings” in small boats.

He added: “It aims to break the people smuggling networks and stop the criminal gangs who exploit the most vulnerable, and ultimately ensure lives can be saved.”