SCOTTISH Labour has suspended one of its rising stars “with immediate effect” after he appeared in court over alleged indecent child images.

Moray councillor Sean Morton, 35, is facing four charges, including one related to "distributing or showing" images.

The former youth worker appeared in private at Elgin Sheriff Court on Christmas Eve, when he made no plea or declaration, but did not inform his party bosses, according to Scottish Labour.

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He was charged under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, made no plea or declaration and was released on bail

He posted a message on his Facebook page the same day saying: “There have been moments of unbelievable highs and devastating lows this year - for me personally and for many of you. But the sun rises in the morning, however dark the night. It always will.”

It was reported one charge related to taking, permitting to be taken, or making indecent images of a child; a second concerned possession of such images; and a third related to “distributing or showing” images.

The final charge related to the councillor allegedly being in possession of “extreme pornography”, a term applied to “extreme acts” such as taking or threatening a person’s life, someone being severely injured, rape, or sexual activity between a person and an animal.

Mr Morton was first elected as a councillor for the Fochabers Lhanbryde ward in Moray in 2012, and hopes to stand for re-election this May.

He also stood for Labour at last year’s Holyrood election both in the Moray constituency - where he came third - and on the party’s Highlands and Islands regional list.

Speaking from Portugal as he returned from holiday, Mr Morton told The Herald he was “shocked and surprised” by the charges, and would fight to clear his name.

He added: “I cooperated with the police fully. I handed over everything willingly.”

Scottish Labour said: "Sean Morton has been suspended with immediate effect."

A Moray Council spokesman said: "As soon as we were made aware of formal proceedings, and pending the outcome of the case, we took appropriate steps in terms of the councillor's activities in accordance with the bail conditions set by the sheriff."