THE SNP has been dealt a blow in one of its core target areas ahead of May's election as two of its councillors quit the party.

 

Alan Beveridge and John Taggart, who both represent areas in North Lanarkshire, have resigned from the party amid ongoing fall-out from the selection of candidates for May's Westminster election.

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Mr Taggart walked following a row with party headquarters over his failure to be selected as candidate for Motherwell and Wishaw, accusing party headquarters of casting "a dark veil of secrecy over the democratic process".

In his letter of resignation Mr Beveridge states he has "been alarmed by the climate of fear, intimidation and false allegations which operates within the SNP locally".

A supporter of another candidate, Tommy Montgomery, who failed to get selected to stand in Airdrie, Mr Beveridge, a former police officer, is understood to have long-standing grievances with SNP powerbrokers in Lanarkshire.

The departures come as the Labour administration in North Lanarkshire Council continues to be riven with internal feuding, sparked by a controversial housing contract but with origins stretching back decades,

After the Labour heartland voted Yes in September's independence referendum, North Lanarkshire has become a key target for the SNP which hopes to unseat sitting MPs Frank Roy, Tom Clarke, Gregg McClymont and Pamela Nash.

The exits are also the latest in a line of departures from the SNP in North Lanarkshire in the last few years. Alan O'Brien, a Cumbernauld councillor, quit during the last term and was re-elected with a massive majority in 2012.

Frances McGlinchey quit in 2012, citing the SNP's decision to overturn its opposition to Nato. Her husband, MSP John Wilson, also left last year, claiming Nato was the reason. The pair are known to have had turbulent relationships with several pivotal figures in their former party.

Claiming he has "agonised" over whether or not to speak publicly on his resignation, Mr Beveridge said in his resignation letter: "It has become very clear to me that the SNP no longer represents the values and principles that I campaigned for at my election and during the recent referendum.

"It's with deep regret that I must inform my constituents that in the past few months I have been alarmed by the climate of fear, intimidation and false allegations which operates within the SNP locally. I have raised these matters directly with SNP headquarters but much to their shame and my disappointment they have totally failed to address any of my concerns. Therefore I feel I have no alternative but to resign from the party.

"In the past few months I have been shocked at the way some members of the local branch have been treated and by the failure of SNP headquarters to respond to the concerns which I have raised. This is not the party I thought I had joined and I cannot continue to be a member of such an organisation."

In his resignation letter Mr Taggart said: "The reason behind my resignation is that I feel that democracy within our party is under serious threat, when HQ in Edinburgh decided to refuse to reveal the breakdown of the votes cast for each candidate involved in the Westminster ballot for the Motherwell and Wishaw Westminster candidacy.

"I am a committed democrat and I believe that when an election is carried out, people expect to see full and proper disclosure of the results, this is one of the fundamental tenets of a democratic society, and we all should all be extremely concerned of decisions taken at HQ in Edinburgh which allows the dark veil of secrecy to descend on our democratic processes."

An SNP spokesman said: "We'd like to thank the two councillors for their public service to date, and wish them well in the future. The North Lanarkshire SNP council group will continue to work hard to serve their constituents and local communities."