TWO of the councillors suspended from the SNP for setting fire to a copy of the Smith Commission report on new powers for Holyrood have been kept on the party’s list of approved candidates for future elections, Scotland on Sunday has learned.
Mags MacLaren and Will Mylet, who were part of a group that placed a blazing copy of the Smith report in a bin, will still be eligible to seek selection as nationalist candidates in forthcoming elections after their two-month suspension from the party is lifted on 3 February.
MacLaren and Mylet conducted the stunt, which was filmed, along with fellow SNP councillors from Renfewshire, Brian Lawson and Kenny MacLaren. All four were suspended for two months by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who said the stunt was “not acceptable behaviour”.
However, the SNP hierarchy has decided not to remove Mylet and Mags MacLaren from its approved panel of candidates for Westminster, Holyrood and European elections. Mags MacLaren stood for the SNP in the Labour-held constituency of Paisley and Renfrewshire North in 2010.
A meeting of the SNP’s ruling national executive at the end of last week, days after the announcement of the pair’s suspension which was backdated to early December, made no move to take their names off the list.
The executive’s inaction is in stark contrast to a recent decision to block former UK ambassador Craig Murray, who was removed from his post by Tony Blair’s government a decade ago, from being an SNP candidate at the next general election due to a “lack of a commitment to group discipline”.
Last night, opposition politicians accused the SNP of potentially placing candidates before the Scottish electorate whom the party leadership had deemed temporarily unfit as councillors.
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: “This latest news about the Renfrewshire councillors shows that the action by the SNP last week was a superficial slap in the face. It seems that those with a history of loyalty to the SNP and who will take the party line are excused any outrageous behaviour, while those like Craig Murray, who are more independent minded, are frozen out.”
Murray has confirmed that he did not survive SNP vetting after an interview in which he was asked if he would accept the party whip at Westminster, including backing measures like the Bedroom Tax – a policy he said he would always oppose.
Labour MSP Richard Baker called on Sturgeon to remove Mylet and Mags MacLaren from the party’s approved list. The other two councillors Lawson and Kenny MacLaren are not on the panel. He said: “The SNP leadership has got to say why councillors who are deemed worthy of suspension are still considered suitable by the party to go forward for selection for Westminster.”
Although Mylet and Mags MacLaren are presently ineligible to stand as candidates, the restriction will be lifted on 3 Feburary. SNP national secretary Patrick Grady said: “As a result of the suspension none of the individuals are eligible for nomination as candidates.”