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SNP members urged not to campaign for axed candidate


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SNP members urged not to campaign for axed candidate

Image caption Neale Hanvey will still appear on the ballot paper, but the SNP has pulled support from his campaign SNP members have been warned against campaigning for the party’s former candidate in a key marginal seat.Neale Hanvey was suspended as the SNP’s candidate in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath after accepting that he had used anti-Semitic…

Neale Hanvey

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Neale Hanvey will still appear on the ballot paper, but the SNP has pulled support from his campaign

SNP members have been warned against campaigning for the party’s former candidate in a key marginal seat.

Neale Hanvey was suspended as the SNP’s candidate in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath after accepting that he had used anti-Semitic language on social media.

However, Labour has complained that he is still using SNP branding and is being backed by local party activists.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said party members should instead go to other local constituencies to campaign there.

She said the party would “deal with anything that is brought to us in terms of the conduct of any member” and that complaints would be dealt with “fairly and robustly”.

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath is a key marginal seat, with Labour retaking it from the SNP in 2017 by just 259 votes.

Mr Hanvey, a former leader of the SNP group on Fife council, was selected to contest the seat – but was later suspended by the party after scrutiny of posts he had previously shared on Facebook.

One contained a link which included a cartoon of billionaire George Soros as a puppet master controlling world leaders, and another drew parallels between the contemporary treatment of Palestinians and that of the Jews in World War Two – something Mr Hanvey accepted was “insensitive, upsetting and deeply offensive”.

He will still appear on the ballot paper next to the party’s name as his suspension came too late for any changes to be made, but if elected he would initially sit as an independent MP.

The same is true of the former Conservative, Labour and Brexit Party candidates who have been dropped by their parties since nominations for the election closed.

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Getty Images

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Labour’s Lesley Laird said local SNP members were still backing Mr Hanvey

The SNP said it had withdrawn all support for Mr Hanvey’s campaign after consultation with Jewish community leaders.

However Labour’s candidate Lesley Laird, the shadow Scottish secretary, said she would “question whether that really is the case” based on “what’s happening on the ground locally”.

She said: “There are huge numbers of SNP candidates campaigning with this non-candidate. His Facebook account is pinned with senior SNP figures.

“He still seems to be using SNP colours and there’s an implication on the doors that he might be taken back into the fold when the dust dies down.”

Disciplinary process

Mr Hanvey told BBC Scotland that “of course” he would like to be readmitted to the party, saying: “The SNP is an incredibly important part of my life.”

He said he was “very sorry for any offence that’s been caused” and said his future membership of the SNP was “a matter for the party to decide”.

Ms Sturgeon told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme that the party had made “the right decision” to suspend Mr Hanvey, but said it would be wrong of her to say anything to prejudice the disciplinary process.

The party leader added: “He’s not the SNP candidate in that constituency, but what happens after that is for a disciplinary process that is independent of me and I think it’s right that that’s allowed to take its course.”

A member of the party’s conduct committee who was expected to investigate Mr Hanvey’s case resigned from the SNP after she was also accused of anti-Semitism.

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Getty Images

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Nicola Sturgeon said SNP members in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath should go campaign elsewhere

When asked about Labour’s claims, Ms Sturgeon said: “I’ve been very clear, I’ve said it publicly, I’ll say it again – SNP members in that constituency should not be supporting his campaign, they should be going to other neighbouring constituencies to campaign for candidates there.

“The SNP could not have been clearer here, these are not easy situations for any party to find themselves in but you have to do the right thing.

“We’ve done the right thing here, I regret that we were in this position but he’s not an SNP candidate, he shouldn’t be using SNP materials, I haven’t seen any evidence of that, and that’s very clear.

“We’ve taken that [decision] because we have zero tolerance to anti-Semitism and that’s the right and important decision and position we took.”

‘Real leadership’

The Scottish Conservatives have called on Ms Sturgeon to show “real leadership” and take disciplinary action against activists who continue to work alongside Mr Hanvey.

Interim leader Jackson Carlaw said the Tories had cut off support for candidates in Glasgow Central and Aberdeen North for anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic language, and said he was “dismayed” that SNP activists were still campaigning for Mr Hanvey and contributing to his crowdfunding.

Ms Sturgeon said the SNP would “deal with anything that is brought to us in terms of the conduct of any member and we will do that fairly and robustly.”

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The Scottish Greens have said they are “the only pro-independence party still running in this constituency”.

Candidate Scott Rutherford said: “I think if Neale doesn’t resign, Lesley might well keep her seat. If the pro-Yes movement coalesces behind the Greens and tactically vote, we can take this seat from Lesley Laird.”

However,the local pro-independence group – Yes2 Kirkcaldy – said they had thrown their backing behind Mr Hanvey after realising he would still be on the ballot paper, saying he has “the best chance of winning the seat”.

The other parties in the constituency – the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Brexit Party – all oppose Scottish independence.

Tory candidate Kathleen Leslie said backing for her party would “send a strong message to the SNP that we said ‘no’ in 2014 and we meant it”.

The Lib Dems said their candidate, Gill Cole-Hamilton, was “campaigning to stop Brexit and independence”.

And the Brexit Party candidate Mitch William wants the UK to leave the EU, and for Scotland to stay part of the UK.

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