FMQs: Sturgeon warns MSPs against "weaponising" anti-semitism

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Nicola Sturgeon has warned MSPs against "weaponising" issues like anti-semitism as she revealed an SNP councillor embroiled in a row over a blog which cited Hitler has written a letter of apology.

West Lothian councillor Frank Anderson was criticised for sharing a link on social media to the "Grouse Beater" blog which criticised the public sector strikes in Glasgow.

Nicola Sturgeon visited Auschwitz this week

Nicola Sturgeon visited Auschwitz this week

The article referenced Hitler and Mein Kampf during a wider attack on the role of the GMB in the strikes and its organiser Rhea Wolfson, who is Jewish.

The author, Gareth Wardell, has denied claims of anti-semitism and insists his family is half Jewish. He has now been suspended by the SNP.

Read more: SNP suspends member amid calls for police action over ‘anti-Semitic’ blog

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs at First Ministers Questions today she wanted to respond in a "serious and heartfelt" way to the issue after it was raised by Labour's Neil Findlay.

"The author of that blog has been suspended by the SNP earlier this week," Ms Sturgeon said.

"Obviously there will now be a process that has to be gone through, so I won't say any more about that at this stage.

"What I will say is that the IHRA ( International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definitions around anti-semitism will be used in consideration of that disciplinary complaint.

"The Councillor in question has written to the young woman mentioned today with an unreserved apology recognising - fully recognising - that he made a significant error of judgement and that that error of judgement arose out of a lack of understanding and knowledge."

Nicola Sturgeon urged to investigate claims SNP members promoted ‘vile anti-Semitic’ blog

Ms Sturgeon said she had discussed the issue with members of the Jewish community during a trip to Auschwitz earlier this week.

"When people do get things wrong through a lack of understanding or knowledge, it is sometimes important that we give them a chance to learn because education and learning is an important part of combating anti-semitism and intolerance and racism of all forms."

Cllr Anderson had initially defended the article against anti-semitism claims, but later issued an apology. It had also been shared on local party SNP social media accounts.

The First Minister revealed that she has consulted with SCOJEC (the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities) while formulating her response to this situation.

Ms Sturgeon said she could "run through" a list of instances where her political opponents had failed to act on similar issues.

But she added; "I'm not going to do that. In a democracy it's really important that we hold each other to account and call out unacceptable behaviour. That's a really important part of a democratic process.

"But I think it's equally important that we don't rush to weaponise these things against each other for petty party political reasons.

"On the fundamentals of this it is actually really important that we stand united to say that anti-semitism, racism, bigotry, intolerance in any form is completely unacceptable and the SNP will continue to treat it in that way and we'll continue to be responsible for the decision we make.

"But ultimately on these issues there's a lot more - on these issues - that unites all of us than divides us.

Mr Findlay raised on Ms Sturgeon to suspend SNP elected officials who shared "offensive, hate-filled material."