Scotland politics

Scottish Labour councillor denies Anas Sarwar racism claim

Anas Sarwar and Davie McLachlan

A Scottish Labour councillor has "categorically denied" making racist remarks to the party's former leadership candidate Anas Sarwar.

Davie McLachlan had been leader of the Labour group on South Lanarkshire Council.

But he was suspended by the party on Tuesday after Mr Sarwar said a councillor had told him "Scotland wouldn't vote for a brown Muslim Paki".

In a statement, Mr McLachlan said he was "stunned" by the claims.

Mr McLachlan said: "I categorically deny these deeply hurtful allegations.

"I'm stunned and dismayed at the claims that I would say such things, and I will defend myself robustly in the party's investigation and in any actions that follow.

"Early in the campaign I pledged my support to Anas but later decided to support Mr Leonard. Anas will know this and would understandably be disappointed."

Mr Sarwar said he had not spoken about the comments during last autumn's Scottish leadership contest as he did not want to be accused of "playing the so-called race card".

The Glasgow MSP lost the leadership contest to left-winger Richard Leonard.

He did not initially name the councillor when he described the alleged incident for the first time on Tuesday.

But he met party bosses later in the day and provided them with details in writing, as well as disclosing the identity of the councillor.

Going public with the claims was the "most difficult" thing he had done, the MSP added, but he stressed it was also the "right thing to do".

'Higher standard'

Mr Sarwar has just launched a cross-party group on tackling racism and Islamophobia at the Scottish Parliament.

He insisted that elected politicians "should be held to a higher standard" than the public on such issues.

Speaking about his own experiences on BBC Scotland's Kaye Adams Programme, he said: "In 1997 I was assaulted because of the colour of my skin.

"In the early 2000s when I was out with my friends on a Saturday night in Glasgow glass bottles were thrown at me because of the colour of our skin.

"That is happening less and that is to be welcomed, we have seen a difference in terms of tolerance and understanding in our communities.

"What my fear is is it now becoming a much more insidious and much more institutionalised form of everyday racism and Islamophobia, and that's what needs to be challenged."

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