SNP MP accuses Scottish Labour of 'failing to take action on racism'

The SNP has accused Scottish Labour of "failing to take action on racism" after a former MP who was suspended by the party over allegations of anti-Semitism was handed a senior local council position.

Jim Sheridan has his party suspension lifted by Labour in January

Jim Sheridan, who represented Paisley and Renfrewshire North until 2015, was this week appointed depute leader of the Labour group on Renfrewshire Council.

Mr Sheridan was suspended from the party in August last year for a social media post which suggested that Jewish Labour members were acting in concert with “Blairite plotters” to undermine the leadership.

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“For almost all my adult life I have had the utmost respect and empathy for the Jewish community and their historic suffering,” a post since removed from his Facebook page said. “No longer due to what they and their Blairite plotters are doing to my party and the long suffering people of Britain who need a radical Labour government.”

Following an internal party investigation, the ex-MP had his suspension lifted in January - a decision one former Labour MP described as "disgusting".

Sheridan claimed his accusers "were misguided and overreacted to what was intended to highlight my personal frustration and criticism of those intent on undermining our leadership in Scotland and the UK".

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He was elected a councillor for the second time in his career in 2017. Speaking yesterday about the allegations of anti-Semitism, following his promotion to depute leader, Mr Sheridan told the BBC's Local Democracy Reporting service: “I was cleared, so what people’s opinions are is entirely up to them. i can’t influence them, nor do I want to influence their opinions.”

Gavin Newlands, the SNP MP who won the Renfrewshire North constituency in 2015, slammed the decision.

“It seems that as a reward for harbouring hateful views, the Labour party will hand you a promotion," he said.

“Only a few months ago, Jim Sheridan was placed under investigation for making antisemitic comments – using extremely questionable language just weeks after his dubious reinstatement. Now they’ve chosen to promote this disgraced politician as the party deputy in Renfrewshire – Labour need to explain themselves.

“Richard Leonard has failed to take any action on the issue of racism that runs right through his party. Let’s not forget that Labour are yet to take any disciplinary action after a Dumfries councillor launched an Islamophobic attack on Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, well over a year ago.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “The elections of group positions are a matter for individual local council groups.”