HAMILTON Academical football club is co-owned by a former candidate of the far-right British National Party, the Sunday Herald has uncovered.

Walter Hamilton, who was also the BNP's organiser in Glasgow, has a 25% shareholding in a company that ultimately owns the club and its stadium. However, club chief executive Colin McGowan defended his colleague, saying: "You couldn't meet a nicer guy."

The Lanarkshire team, known as the Accies, were promoted to the Scottish Premiership this year after beating Hibs in a play-off. The Accies are in second place in the top flight, ahead of champions Celtic, and have won five of their first eight fixtures.

Hamilton, who stood for the BNP in 2010, is the club's stadium manager with responsibility for New Douglas Park.

However, his reach goes deeper than a job at the team's ground.

According to Companies House, the Accies are owned by Hamilton Academical Football Club Ltd.

The club has four directors - Les Gray, Allan Maitland, McGowan and David MacDonald - while its biggest shareholder is Glasgow-based Edencrest Ltd. Edencrest, which Hamilton has been a director of since 2012, holds over 95% of the club's shares.

The former BNP member is one of four shareholders with a quarter stake in Edencrest, the others being McGowan, a firm co-owned by Gray and the children of previous owner, Ronnie MacDonald.

According to its 2013 accounts, the company has fixed assets of £552,750.

Ownership of New Douglas Park is similarly structured.

HAFC Stadium Ltd is the holding company for the ground and is owned by Deeka Ltd, which is registered at an address in Hamilton.

The majority stake in Deeka is held by Edencrest, the same firm that owns the club.

It is understood the club leases the ground from HAFC Stadium Ltd, for a sum that was £60,000 a year in 2009.

Hamilton, nicknamed "Hammy", was one of the BNP's key figures in Glasgow and was a party candidate in Glasgow in the 2005 and 2010 General Elections.

His 2010 election literature included a picture of the then BNP leader Nick Griffin and called for an end to immigration. He wrote: "We are being swamped and being made foreigners in our own country. Together we can shut the floodgates for good." His flyer also contained a picture of a white family, next to the words: "We're NOT Second Class Citizens!"

It also contained a testimonial from an unnamed woman, who informed local voters: "I'm voting BNP because I'm sick of seeing asylum seekers coming here and being sent to the front of the queue!"

Hamilton, who is 53 tomorrow, left the BNP and now focuses on his business interests.

He is also involved with Soldiers Off The Street, a veterans' charity that was criticised for its links to BNP members and which gives its address as New Douglas Park.

The charity's website is registered to a house in Larkhall owned by Hamilton, which he bought for just over £200,000. There is no mortgage listed on the property.

The businessman's Facebook account describes him as "owner/shareholder" at the club and it "likes" several right-wing sites.

These include pages such as "Defend The Traditions And Culture Of The Grand Orange Lodge Of Scotland", "Scottish Loyalists" and "Immigration, Enough is Enough".

Local Labour MSP Michael McMahon said: "We are proud to have this great football club at the heart of our community and we know that the overwhelming majority of its supporters would not share this man's extreme political views.

"While it is surprise and a source of regret that a high-ranking member of the BNP holds such a prominent role in the community, his egregious personal views should not be allowed to damage the good name of Hamilton Accies."

John Wilson, an independent MSP for Central Scotland, said: "The Scottish Football Association should carry out an investigation into the relationship Mr Hamilton has with Hamilton Accies. The Scottish Government has stated its objectives of eradicating sectarianism from Scottish football, yet individuals like Mr Hamilton still hold key positions directly linked to football."

McGowan confirmed Hamilton's ownership stake and his position as stadium manager, adding: "People's past political beliefs are none of my business. It is a very well-run club."

Asked what he would say to critics who do not believe Hamilton should be co-owner of a football club, he said: "I love him dearly. He has been a close friend for nearly 30 years. You couldn't meet a nicer guy."

Former Accies owner Ronnie MacDonald said Hamilton's best friend was an Asian restaurant owner, adding: "What's in the past is most definitely in the past."

Hamilton said his BNP membership was "totally in the past". Asked whether he regretted ever being in the party, he said: "Yes."