The families of three Scottish soldiers murdered by the IRA are seeking a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon in the hope she will help their campaign to bring the killers to justice.
The request for a meeting was made after the First Minster personally apologised to the families for views expressed by the SNP MSP John Mason on the killings.
Mr Mason sparked outrage when he suggested IRA terrorists could be considered “freedom fighters” when the executions of teenage brothers John and Joseph McCaig, aged 17 and 18, and Dougald McCaughey,23, were being discussed on Twitter. It took Mr Mason a week to apologise for his remarks, which were condemned by politicians in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as the victims’ families.
The Glasgow Shettleston MSP only made his apology after he was called to a meeting by SNP chief whip Bill Kidd who had warned him in an email that the row could cause Ms Sturgeon embarrassment.
The First Minister then sent a letter of apology to the families which revealed she had reprimanded Mr Mason.
Last night it appeared Mr Mason would escape formal disciplinary action from the SNP, despite the party’s opponents calling for action to be taken.
A SNP source told The Scotsman: “John has apologised and the First Minister has written to the families who have accepted his apology in good faith, drawing a line under the matter.”
Originally, the Three Scottish Soldiers Campaign for Justice, which involves both families, accepted Mr Mason’s apology.
But having seen the contents of Mr Kidd’s email, the campaign has said it finds it “difficult” to accept its sincerity.
Mr Kidd’s email to Mr Mason said their fellow SNP MSPs were being contacted by constituents about his views on the IRA.
It also said the government was also being approached which could “cause the First Minister embarrassment”.
Yesterday Kris McGurk, the Three Scottish Soldiers Campaign director, said it was clear there were “political motives and forcing of hands behind the apology and not because of hurt caused to the families”.
The campaign was more encouraged by the apology the families received from the First Minister and are seeking their meeting on the back of it. Ms Strugeon acknowledged that Mr Mason’s tweets had caused “understandable offence and upset”.
A statement issued by the campaign said: “The families are grateful for the First Minister’s intervention on this issue and her personal apology for the upset that was caused by John Mason’s offensive and unacceptable remarks.
“We are encouraged by her, what we believe to be, heartfelt letter of apology.
“We will be writing to Ms Sturgeon to ask for a private meeting between her, the campaign team and the families to discuss ways in which the Scottish Government may now support our campaign to secure justice for Dougald, John and Joe.
“Although we feel extremely frustrated and let down by John Mason MSP and with the motives behind his forced apology, we take some comfort that Nicola Sturgeon has reached out to us personally.”
Yesterday a Scottish Tory spokesman said: “Disciplinary action against Mason ought to be seriously considered.”
The row erupted when Mr Mason was asked on Twitter to support the justice campaign. In one of his tweets, he said: “You say Irish murderers. Others say freedom fighters. I support Scottish soldiers if they do good but not if they do bad.”
The three young Royal Highland Fusiliers were unarmed and in civilian dress when they were lured from a Belfast pub and shot in the back of the head.