Scotland politics

Ruth Davidson defends reinstatement of Tory councillors

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Media captionRuth Davidson says the councillors will be out of the party if they do not change their behaviour

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has defended the decision to reinstate two councillors who had been suspended over offensive Twitter posts.

Alastair Majury and Robert Davies were elected as Stirling councillors in May.

But it emerged that Mr Majury had posted anti-Catholic comments on Twitter in the past, while Mr Davies had made racist jokes.

Ms Davidson told BBC Scotland it was important to give people the opportunity to change.

And she revealed that Mr Majury and Mr Davies had agreed to undergo diversity training as part of the disciplinary action against them.

She had previously declined requests to be interviewed after it emerged earlier this week that Mr Majury and Mr Davies had both been reinstated after apologising for their posts.

But Ms Davidson spoke to journalists when she attended the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Thursday morning.

She was speaking as one of her MPs, Douglas Ross, faced criticism for saying he would impose "tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers" if he was prime minister for the day.

She said she could understand criticism of the decision to reinstate the two councillors, and that it had not been an easy decision to make.

The Tory leader stressed that the posts by Mr Majury and Mr Davies had been "utterly unacceptable", but insisted it was important to "give people the opportunity to change" if they say they want to.

'Full disciplinary'

Ms Davidson added: "I've been very strong in the past about wanting to change behaviour on social media and online.

"As well as a full disciplinary, as well as the sanction of being suspended, as well as a full and unreserved apology, both of the individuals indicated that they had a genuine wish to change their behaviour, and I've got a decision to make, then. Do I allow for that to happen, or not?

"I fully understand the criticism that's come in, but both have undertaken not only to do diversity training, but on top of that sitting down with Nil By Mouth, the anti-sectarian organisation."

Ms Davidson also said the councillors would be "out" if their behaviour did not change.

Image caption The offensive tweets by Alastair Majury and Robert Davies emerged just days after they were elected

Mr Majury used his Mulder1981 account on Twitter to make derogatory remarks about Catholics, attack benefit claimants, liken the SNP to Nazis and claim the Scottish government was too busy talking about gay marriage.

He also boasted about the size of his penis on an online dating site.

The pair, who had been elected on 4 May, were suspended by the Scottish Conservatives a fortnight later.

But a spokesman for the party confirmed on Monday that they had both now been readmitted.

'Unreserved apologies'

The spokesman said: "Having served a suspension, both councillors have been readmitted to the party after offering unreserved apologies for any offence caused.

"It has been made abundantly clear that behaviour like this will not be tolerated in future."

The revelation sparked fury from the other parties at Holyrood, with rival politicians accusing Ms Davidson of hypocrisy.

Responding to Ms Davidson's comments, SNP MSP James Dornan said: "She claims it was 'not easy' letting these two councillors back into the party - but not allowing racists and bigots back into her party should have been the easiest decision she's ever had to make.

"This pitiful explanation from Ruth Davidson does not shed any light on why people with such bigoted views are allowed in the Scottish Tories.

"Disgracefully, given the latest offensive remarks towards Gypsy Travellers from one of her MPs, it seems that anyone with bigoted and prejudiced views is more than welcome within her party."