The SNP group on West Dunbartonshire Council celebrate following their election victory.
By Bill Heaney
The row simmering away behind the scenes of the SNP selection process to become prospective candidate for Dumbarton at the election next May has exploded into the open following the rejection of women’s rights campaigner Cllr Caroline McAllister from the short list of six to stand against Labour’s Jackie Baillie MSP.
Fears are being expressed that the campaign was being fought on matters of religious affiliation and that it was turning into a Christian versus secular battle.
The Catholic Church in Scotland and the Church of Scotland are both pro-life and their MSPs would be expected by their churches – and their congregations – to support that stance if abortion came up at Holyrood in regard to a woman’s right to choose or the length of time after which a termination was acceptable in law.
One of the prospective candidates in Dumbarton is Cllr Karen Conaghan, the education convener, whose father Ian Murray, retired from the council at the last election and is a prominent pro lifer, having been a director of SPUC, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child.
Candidates’ views on gay and trans rights, including same sex marriage, have been in the news in recent days since Pope Francis said the Catholic Church should recognise civil unions in order to give gay couples the same rights as others in matters of civil law. This would not extend to marriage though.
However, the woke movement in the SNP are being aggressive when on behalf of trans and gay people.
And anyone with reservations about proposals to extend their their rights – such as Cllr McAllister, pictured left – are being given a hard time at interviews for the candidacy – and even banned from selection to the list of approved prospective candidates.
Onlookers find it remarkable that Vale of Leven Cllr McAllister, who is deputy leader of the SNP group on West Dunbartonshire Council and vice convener of the Education Committee, has been rejected from the selection process and have been wondering exactly why.
Some people believed it was because her views on how far males who have embraced becoming trans should be allowed access to spaces normally reserved for women, bathrooms and toilets for example.
Anyway, the National Executive of the SNP – the Chief Executive is Peter Murrell, husband of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, have taken the matter out of the hands of the SNP Constituency Association in Dumbarton and they will decide who will go forward to meet Jackie Baillie next May.
This behind the scenes brouhaha comes as no surprise to local people with an interest in politics.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church told me this was not the first time the SNP had become involved in in such matters.
Catholic media office director Peter Kearney said: “There have been a number of attempts to de-select candidates who don’t support abortion.”
They made this statement last month: “In July last year, as preparations were being made for December’s UK General Election, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert wrote to the leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon.
“His letter was sent amidst claims of unfairness in the process of selecting SNP candidates and of open and vicious hostility towards party members who held pro-life views.
Dr Lisa Cameron, MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, was on the receiving end of a significant degree of virtual and actual hostility for her belief in the right to life of the unborn, including calls by some of her fellow nationalists for her deselection.
“Bishop Gilbert sought reassurance from Ms Sturgeon that the SNP supported freedom of conscience within the public square.
“Happily, Ms Sturgeon was pleased to give that assurance, stating that she was ‘proud of our diversity as a party’ and declaring that ‘a number of faith groups are represented amongst SNP parliamentarians and in the Scottish Cabinet’.
“The First Minister’s words were reassuring and welcomed. Alarmingly, recent evidence from within her party suggests, that they may have been premature.”
Mr Kearney added: “Potential SNP candidates have contacted the Catholic Church in recent days highlighting growing concerns, that their pro-life beliefs are leading to them being excluded from the candidate selection process.
“If true, this would amount to the most insidious discrimination imaginable. It would also appear to undermine entirely Ms Sturgeon’s claim that diversity of belief was something the SNP was ‘proud of’.
“It may be that in SNP branches across the country officials are prepared to discriminate against and disadvantage their party colleagues solely on the basis of their belief in the right to life of every human being.
“They may not be aware that they are acting in direct conflict with the position of their party, as expressed by their party leader.
“If this is the case, I would urge Nicola Sturgeon to contact every branch of her party and remind every office bearer that the fact that ‘a number of faith groups are represented amongst SNP parliamentarians and in the Scottish Cabinet’
“It Is a strength of the SNP not a weakness and should that religious plurality, present in the parliamentary party diminish or reduce at the next election, there will be many people of faith who will reasonably concluded that the SNP has become a hostile place for anyone with religious convictions.
“Next May, people in Scotland will go to the polls to elect a new Scottish Parliament. It is of paramount importance that all parties respect the right to freedom of conscience in their candidate selection process and that a diversity of views is not simply tolerated, but welcomed, including the belief in the dignity of human life in the womb.
“It is not for political parties to dictate how their parliamentary candidates should think.
“By all means ensure they are committed to the policies of the parties they seek to represent, but on matters of conscience, they must be free to act in accordance with their beliefs.
“Failure to respect this fundamental right would be a retrograde and dangerous step for our democracy.”
The SNP have banned and boycotted The Dumbarton Democrat at every level – locally and nationally – and their highly paid public representatives, their MPs and councillors, refuse to discuss what they are doing with public money in the public’s name.