Growing number of Scottish election candidates dropped over social media posts

The scandal of politicians who share alleged antisemitic or Islamophobic views on social media deepened last night after a third election candidate in Scotland was dropped in the space of two days.

Neale Hanvey, who was chosen to contest the key marginal seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath for the SNP, became the latest name in a growing list of candidates at next month’s poll to be disowned over messages shared on Facebook.

The former Dunfermline councillor had been widely tipped to take the seat from Labour, where Shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird is defending a majority of just 259.

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Mr Hanvey is alleged to have shared an article from the Kremlin-backed news agency Sputnik from 2016 concerning the Hungarian financier George Soros, illustrated with an image showing him holding puppets of world leaders.

Flora Scarabello was dropped by the Scottish Conservatives as a candidate this week. Meanwhile, Safia Ali, incert, was dropped by Labour. Image: Michael Gillen
Flora Scarabello was dropped by the Scottish Conservatives as a candidate this week. Meanwhile, Safia Ali, incert, was dropped by Labour. Image: Michael Gillen

Kirsten Oswald, SNP Business Convener, said: “Antisemitism has no place in Scotland, and no place in the SNP. All political parties have a duty to show leadership, and to take tough action.

“Neale Hanvey is no longer an SNP candidate, and his membership has been suspended pending disciplinary action. All support for his campaign has been withdrawn.”

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In line with its procedures, the party said it had consulted with representatives of the Jewish community in Scotland, who agreed that the action taken was appropriate.

The SNP’s decision came just hours after it was revealed that Scottish Labour had dropped its candidate in the Falkirk constituency - also over allegations of antisemitic messages posted on Facebook.

Safia Ali was suspended late on Wednesday after posts on an old account were brought to light.

Michael Sharpe, Scottish Labour’s general secretary, said: “I deeply regret the people of the Falkirk constituency will no longer have a Labour candidate to campaign and vote for on 12 December. 
“There is no place for antisemitism, or any form of racism and bigotry, in our party. That is why Labour is taking robust action to root it out of our movement and wider society.”
Ms Ali stood as an independent candidate in Scotland’s council elections in 2017, getting the lowest number of first-preference votes in her Falkirk ward.

Having no endorsed candidate in what was until recently viewed as one of its heartlands is a major embarrassment for Labour.

Falkirk was formerly home to one of the party’s biggest and most active branches. Former Falkirk MPs include such Scottish Labour heavyweights as Dennis Canavan and Harry Ewing.

As both Mr Hanvey and Ms Ali’s names were registered with polling authorities before the cut-off for nominations, they will still appear on ballot papers on December 12.

Their suspensions followed a similar move by the Scottish Conservatives, who on Wednesday dropped the party’s Glasgow Central candidate after she was accused of using “anti-Muslim language”.

The party has withdrawn support for Flora Scarabello while it investigates a complaint made to central office.

A spokesman said the party takes such allegations “extremely seriously”.

He said: “There is no place in the Scottish Conservatives for anti-Muslim language, or any other form of racial or religious discrimination.

“As such, we have immediately suspended the candidate and the complaint will be thoroughly investigated.”

The move comes the week after the Conservatives also suspended their candidate for Aberdeen North, Ryan Houghton, over allegations he had made anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and homophobic comments seven years previously.

Mr Houghton claimed that a newspaper had taken a “selective look” at comments he made in discussions about terrorism, LGBT rights and anti-Semitism and vowed to clear his name.

He said that in the discussions seven years ago, when he was 20, he referenced the views of discredited historian and Holocaust denier David Irving but had made clear in subsequent posts that he was not defending them.

Mr Houghton said in a statement last week: “I apologise unreservedly for any hurt now caused by these comments and have been in contact with members of the Jewish Community in Aberdeen.”

Earlier this month Labour was forced to suspend its candidate in Aberdeenshire following another row over antisemitism.

Kate Ramsden stood down in the Gordon constituency after an old blog post was uncovered by journalists.