West Lothian SNP councillor suspended for three months after sharing 'anti-semitic' blog

An SNP councillor from West Lothian has been suspended for three months after sharing an "anti-semitic" article online.

Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 7:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 7:04 pm

Frank Anderson was sanctioned for "disrespectful conduct" after a hearing by an ethics watchdog in Livingston on Wednesday, after he shared a controversial blog on social media in October last year.

The blog, called 'Grouse Beater,' was critical of GMB Scotland's Rhea Wolfson, who is Jewish, over her role in the Glasgow City Council two-day equal pay dispute.

A Standards Commission for Scotland panel said the article inferred that Rhea Wolfson represented a stereotype of 'the Jew' as referred to by Hitler.

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In one section called 'Hitler's view,' the blog claimed that Hitler had alleged that Jews gradually had assumed leadership of the trade union movement.

The panel said that, while the article did not specifically refer to her as being Jewish, that information was in the public domain and they were satisfied the article was anti-semitic.

The article was written by Gareth Wardell who was suspended by the SNP after publishing it and was subsequently expelled from the party.

The panel heard councillor Anderson's position was that he hadn't read the article properly at the time and had not realised Wolfson was Jewish. However, he now accepted it could be perceived as anti-semitic.

But the councillor had initially defended the article in comments published in The National newspaper on October 30th last year and was quoted as stating he did not accept it was anti-semitic.

The panel noted Anderson had sent Wolfson an email apology, while a separate apology had been published in the media.

It was determined that councillor Anderson had caused a "great deal of distress" to Wolfson and had breached the Councillors' Code of Conduct by failing to behave in a respectful manner towards the GMB member.

The watchdog suspended councillor Anderson for a period of three months.

Paul Walker, Standards Commission member and chair of the Hearing Panel, said: "Councillors have a duty under the Code to treat others with courtesy and respect and cannot, therefore, indulge in offensive personal abuse.

"While the Panel was pleased to note that Cllr Anderson apologised to the individual concerned, it nevertheless considered that his conduct, in sharing and subsequently defending an offensive and antisemitic article, went well beyond that which is acceptable."

The Standards Commission for Scotland is an independent public body, responsible for encouraging high standards of behaviour by councillors and those appointed to boards of devolved public bodies.