A former SNP candidate suspended after appearing to make abusive comments online about two Catholic midwives who refused to carry out abortions has been allowed to rejoin the party.
The comments about “money grabbing old witches” attributed to Lyall Duff, who was a candidate in North Lanarkshire, were an attack on Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood, who lost a legal bid against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde over their refusal to delegate, supervise and support staff taking part in abortions.
Mr Duff has been re-admitted as a member after being suspended by the SNP following the allegations in 2012 and subsequently quitting the party. He was photographed with social justice secretary Alex Neil at this month’s SNP conference in Aberdeen. His reinstatement came after Nicola Sturgeon warned supporters of independence not to “hurl abuse” on the internet at their opponents after Harry Potter author JK Rowling was singled out online. Ms Sturgeon spoke out after an independence-supporter tweeting as Wings Over Scotland questioned the right of Rowling to support the Scotland rugby team because she helped fund the pro-Union Better Together campaign ahead of least year’s referendum.
The First Minister has said that party members who “cross the line” will face disciplinary action.
Mr Duff, was readmitted to the SNP despite his online comments about Ms Doogan and Ms Wood in 2012, saying: “The news reckons this case will affect the NHS UK wide, too f****** right it should.
“Sack the money grabbing old witches and make them pay back every penny they earned in disgust doing their career choice.”
Labour said the decision to let Mr Duff back into the SNP was at odds with the remarks made by Ms Sturgeon after Rowling was targeted.
Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly said: “Three years ago the SNP decided that Lyle Duff wasn’t fit to be a candidate, and less than a week ago Nicola Sturgeon was forced to tell her supporters not to indulge in online abuse, but here we see Mr Duff’s back in the fold and posing with a senior nationalist minister.”
An SNP spokeswoman, responding to the criticism, said: “Mr Duff is well aware of the expectations we place on members, and must abide by our code of conduct.”