Scotland politics

SNP expels blogger over 'anti-Semitic' claim

Grouse Beater blog post
Image caption The post was condemned by the SNP after it was shared by some of its local branches and councillors last month

A pro-independence blogger who was accused of writing an "anti-semitic" post about a Jewish union official has been expelled from the SNP.

The post written by Gareth Wardell on his Grousebeater blog attacked Rhea Wolfson over her role in the Glasgow City Council equal pay dispute.

It referred to Hitler "accusing 'the Jew' of gradually assuming leadership of the trade union movement".

Mr Wardell denied it was anti-semitic, and said it was an attack on fascism.

He also argued that it was "quite a stretch for me to be anti-Semitic" as he had been "brought up in Jewish family".

Mr Wardell was suspended by the SNP last month after a complaint was passed to its disciplinary committee - with the party now confirming his membership has been terminated with immediate effect.

'Right to appeal'

A spokesman said: "The decision of the Member Conduct Committee has been reported to Mr Wardell. As he has a right to appeal, we'll make no further comment until the process is complete."

Responding to the decision on Twitter, Mr Wardell criticised the SNP for its "clumsy authoritarian solution" and claimed the committee was "bereft of decency and dignity".

He added: "I gave the SNP £1,000 some time ago. I wonder if I should ask for it back? I could do with that money now to help take the wee unionist fascists to court."

Image caption Much of the post focused on attacking Ms Wolfson for her role in the strike

He has been backed by several other independence supporters on social media, who have called on the SNP to reverse its decision and reinstate Mr Wardell to the party.

In a joint letter to the SNP that has been published on the Grousebeater site, a group of nationalist bloggers and activists say they do not believe the post was "anti-Semitic or racist or discriminatory in the least".

The letter has been signed by Craig Murray, David Hooks (PoliticsScot), Jason Michael (Jeggit), MacAlba, Mr Malky, Tommy Sheridan, Tradasro, WeeDetour, and iScot managing editor Ken McDonald.

It adds: "It is our firm belief that his words were deliberately and opportunistically taken out of context and weaponised against him and the entire movement in a concerted attack by the union, members of the Scottish Labour Party - to which the GMB is affiliated, and elements of the anti-independence tabloid press."

The letter also singles out Fiona Robertson, the SNP's national women's and equalities convener, for criticism over an article she wrote on her own blog about Mr Wardell's post.

Mr Wardell has called for Ms Robertson to resign, claiming she "does not have the acumen or the experience to command the post".

What is the row about?

Mr Wardell's blog post was headlined "GMB - a Cockney Clique", and was promoted by the SNP Edinburgh East Twitter page, Livingston East Facebook page and the campaign page of two West Lothian councillors.

It criticised Ms Wolfson and the GMB union for organising the recent two-day strike by council workers in Glasgow over a "lack of progress" on equal pay claims from thousands of female workers.

The council is currently run by the SNP, but the equal pay dispute dates back to the previous Labour administration - which had challenged the women's pay claims in court.

This has led to claims from some SNP supporters that the strike was engineered by the Labour-backing GMB to attack the nationalists.

'GMB male colleagues'

The Grouse Beater blog post argued that it was "no surprise to learn the GMB was born in East London", and accused it of being "another wing of the campaign to Bring Back the Great British Empire".

Ms Wolfson, a former Scottish Labour election candidate, was singled out - with Mr Wardell claiming that she had ignored "her GMB male colleagues" in calling the strike.

In a section headed "Hitler's view", the blog said the Nazi leader had claimed Jews were gradually assuming leadership of the trade union movement.

"Whether or not Wolfson is intellectually aware of Hitler's outlook is unknown, but she certainly knows how to make the most of it."

The blog also said: "The people of Glasgow voted for independence without caveat. They did not invite fifth column English unionists to come to their city to divert that just ambition."

What has the reaction been?

When the post started circulating online at the end of last month, Ms Wolfson tweeted that she had "honestly never expected to see such outright support for such obviously anti-Semitic views".

The SNP immediately condemned it and suspended Mr Wardell, saying it should not have been shared by any member of the party and that Ms Wolfson deserved a "full apology from the author for the clear offence that has been caused".

But Mr Wardell defended his post, saying in a statement that: "The only sinister aspect to my essay is the way political opponents tried to make it sound sinister. They use the fascist language it warns about, anti-intellectual, portraying everything in terms of 'them and us'.

"Ms Wolfson has been grievously misled. When advised what they were up to I strengthened the praise of her anti-Semitic stance in relation to Labour's troubles."