East Lothian Council candidate defends her decision to stand for election after creating anti-refugee petition in 2015

Judy Lockhart-Hunter, a Tory candidate who started a petition banning Syrian refugees from Scotland, has defended her decision to stand for election and said she received threats and abuse through her letterbox.

The Conservative candidate for the North Berwick Coastal ward of East Lothian Council, started the petition, entitled '#WeHaveNoRoom in Scotland', in 2015 during the Syrian refugee crisis.

The petition, intended for then Prime Minister David Cameron, displayed a large image of a Union flag with the slogan 'Veterans Before Migrants' and argued that Syrian refugees would be "far better placed going to another Islamic country" and that "we need to fix our own country before we start letting others in".

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It speculated on dangers refugees could pose - but has been forgiven by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross who claimed the candidate is now hoping to take a Ukrainian refugee into her home.

Mrs Lockhart-Hunter said: "I deeply regret the remarks that I made a number of years ago.

"These in no way reflect my views now.

"They were made at a time when I was a lot less worldly wise than I am today.

"I believe I have greatly matured since then and I have a far greater understanding of the world.

Judy Lockhart-Hunter, a Tory candidate for East Lothian Council, has defended her decision to stand, after receiving backlash over a petition she started in 2015. At the time, she argued that Syrian refugees would be "far better placed going to another Islamic country"

"The comments came from a position of naivety and were not malicious or said out of hatred."

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Mrs Lockhart-Hunter said she has been forced to delete her social media after receiving "distressing and frightening" direct messages and defaced leaflets posted back through her letterbox.

Despite her apologies, there have been calls for her to withdraw her candidacy.

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Liz Allan, an SNP candidate for the North Berwick Coastal ward, has worked with refugees in countries like Iraq and thought that Mrs Lockhart-Hunter's apology did not go far enough and she should remove herself as a candidate.

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She said: "She apologised because people found it offensive, is that apologising?

"It's with great regret that I think she should stand down.

"I don't like the idea of pushing it to that level, but I think it's such a wildly ill-advised action."

Stuart Currie, SNP Group leader on East Lothian Council, said on Twitter that the Conservatives should "disown" Mrs Lockhart-Hunter.

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He said: "This Tory candidate in East Lothian should be disowned and sacked by the Scottish Conservatives now!

"Our county has a proud record of welcoming those fleeing war and persecution, and for any potential councillor to have these views is shocking."

However, Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader, accepted her apology and maintaining that she was a viable candidate for the May 5 elections.

Mr Ross said: "Judy has apologised for that, it's completely the wrong wording, language and the wrong sentiment to be making.

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"People make mistakes when they are younger and people can make up for that, she's absolutely doing that now, offering to take in a Ukrainian refugee family at this time."

Mrs Lockhart-Hunter, who is also chairman of North Berwick Community Council, said that she still intended to stand for election, pointing to the community campaigning she had conducted over the last few years.

She said: "I am extremely proud of North Berwick and all it has to offer.

"It would truly be an honour to represent the ward and all its residents as local councillor.

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"I was born and brought up here and my family has strong links to the town, stretching back generations.

"I believe my record over recent years shows that I am a dedicated community campaigner and that would absolutely continue if I were to be elected next month.

"I have been part of the community council for five years, including three as chairman, and I play a key role in the campaign to re-open Edington Hospital. This has included helping to arrange the parade scheduled for this coming Sunday.

"I am acutely aware of the challenges facing the North Berwick Coastal ward and will put the needs of all local people first."

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The other candidates standing for election in North Berwick Coastal are: Liz Allan (SNP), Alison Carter (Scottish Family Party), Jacq Cottrell (Greens), George Henry Cowen (UKIP), Jeremy Findlay (Conservative), Carol McFarlane (Labour) and Stuart Smith (Liberal Democrats).

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