THE row over the suspension of an SNP councillor from his job at the Ministry of Defence has deepened after it emerged details of the case landed on the desk of a UK Government Minister.

A summary of Chris McEleny’s case was sent to the office of Mark Lancaster, at that point the Minister for Veterans, Reserves and Personnel, whose officials believed he could be grilled about it in the House of Commons.

Aamer Anwar, McEleny’s legal adviser, said: “These new revelations show that this case goes all the way to the top of the MoD at Whitehall and it now appears that the UK Government’s fingerprints are all over this case.”

In August 2016, McEleny was a site electrician at the MoD munitions plant in Beith, as well as SNP group leader on Inverclyde council.

In the same month he was confirmed as a candidate in the race to succeed MP Stewart Hosie as Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy.

However, as revealed by the Sunday Herald, within days of the campaign starting McEleny’s security clearance was revoked and he was suspended from his job.

The National Security Vetting body – a wing of the MoD – interviewed him and raised a range of subjects, such as his support for independence and opposition to Trident.

NSV also quizzed McEleny about a social media reference to Rangers as a “new club” – a jokey reference to the football giant’s financial problems – as well as Facebook activity on Irish politics. McEleny’s security clearance was reinstated, but the councillor believed he was the victim of discrimination and he is taking the MoD to a tribunal.

HeraldScotland: Lawyer Aamer Anwar

Picture: Aamer Anwar is McEleny's legal adviser

Documents obtained by this newspaper reveal that McEleny’s suspension reached the top of the MoD.

On August 19, 2016, days after the leadership contest started, a senior figure in personnel security at the MoD emailed a colleague on the “urgency of this matter”.

He wrote that it was “suitable” to suspend McEleny’s clearance with “immediate effect” and noted he would instruct the NSV.

On the same day a briefing note on the suspension was circulated widely within the MoD to senior figures in the department.

The accompanying email stated: “To see the attached news brief concerning the suspension of Mr Christopher McEleny at Defence Munitions Beith, as a result of concerns over his security clearance.

“Mr McEleny is an SNP councillor and has declared his candidacy for the position of SNP Deputy Leader, which will become vacant later this year.”

The actual briefing document noted: “[Mr McEleny] has been suspended pending the conclusion of enquiries into internal procedural issues associated with his employment. Not prepared to comment further.”

Weeks later, Lancaster’s assistant private secretary responded to the briefing: “Are you able to provide more information on why Mr McEleny was suspended? Just in case the Minister is approached in the House on this.” Lancaster is now Minister of State for the Armed Forces.

Under equalities legislation individuals cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of religious or philosophical belief, the latter of which is believed to form the basis of McEleny’s tribunal claim.

The councillor is understood to be arguing that he was discriminated against by the MoD over his views on independence.

Anwar said: “It is completely unacceptable that the UK Government and Whitehall officials had Cllr McEleny suspended as alleged because of his political affiliation and his belief in Scottish independence. People will rightly be asking serious questions of the UK Government and security services as to how they have justified these alleged discriminatory acts.”

A MOD spokesperson said: “Ministers are naturally informed of news reports relating to the MOD. It would be inappropriate to comment on the details of an ongoing employment tribunal.”

McEleny declined to comment.