London Kirk at centre of pre-election debate

Margret Curran MP
Margret Curran MP makes a point during the debate

Around 300 people packed St Columba's church in London for a pre-election debate featuring leading politicians.

Members of the congregation questioned the panel on subjects ranging from the health service to Trident and childcare.

Panellists included former Shadow Secretary of State Margaret Curran MP (Labour), Pete Wishart MP (SNP), Lord (Jeremy) Purvis Lib Dem, Scots born Conservative MP in Milton Keynes Ian Stewart and Jonathon Ian Bartley,a Green Party candidate.

The attention of TV and newspaper journalists was largely focused on David Coburn UKIP MEP, who compared Muslim SNP minister Humza Yousaf to a convicted terrorist.

Speaking to the Daily Mail at the weekend Mr Coburn referred to: "Humza Yousaf, or as I call him, Abu Hamza".

Challenged on his comments at the St Columba's debate, Mr Coburn said: "It was a very stupid joke which I made. Quite frankly I shouldn't have said it and I apologised immediately to Mr Yusuf.

"I am human, I make errors," he said. "People in Ukip - we are not professional politicians. We are human, we make errors."

Pete Wishart said he was disappointed Coburn was "still a feature of Scottish political life after his appalling, racist comment about our minister in Scotland".

Coburn said he would not take the criticism from a party that was "xenophobic against the English".

Labour's shadow Scotland secretary Margaret Curran said: "What David Coburn said is not acceptable. He is not a proper representative of Scotland."

Scottish Lib Dem peer Lord Purvis said there was a "racist edge" to Ukip.

The debate in the Pont Street church on Tuesday evening followed a high profile debate last year on the referendum.

During the event Mr Bartley won praise from the audience for highlighting the role of churches in lobbying for a reduction of debt in developing countries.

His call for spending on Trident to be diverted to the NHS and childcare was challenged by Mr Stewart who said:" I wish nuclear weapons had never been invented but they have and it is naive to think we can just get rid of them."

Mr Stewart urged the audience to vote for a majority Conservative government to ensure continuing economic recovery. "It is easy to forget how close to the brink we were five years ago."

Margaret Curran told the London congregation that voters were being misled by suggestions of a recovery. "It does not feel that way in Glasgow. So many of these new jobs are low paid."

Urging voters to consider the Green Party's objectives Mr Bartley said: "The trajectory we are on is just not sustainable."

Lord Purvis said a vote for the Liberal Democrats will lead to "continued growth, common sense and investment in public services."

Mr Wishart called on the audience to vote for any party other than UKip.

Challenging the call, Mr Coburn said his party promotes Britain: "Eighty per cent of our laws are made in Brussels. We need to get out to get our country back."

Rev Angus MacLeod closed the evening with a prayer.

The Knightsbridge church attracts around 300 from all over London on Sunday mornings. Most are Scots born.