SNP activists have vowed to spoil their ballot papers rather than vote for their own party's candidate at the Holyrood election as an internal war hit new heights.

An active member of the SNP's Uddingston and Bellshill branch and another former office bearer who quit the party said dozens of local members would not vote for Richard Lyle, who is hoping to claim the constituency from Labour.

Scores of SNP members in Lanarkshire have been left outraged at what they see as a smear campaign against local councillor Julie McAnulty, who has been suspended after she was accused of telling another activist she wanted to "get the Pakis out of the party". The complaint, made months after the alleged incident and quickly leaked to the press, was made by Sheena McCulloch, a staff member of Mr Lyle's.

Allies of Ms McAnulty have said they believe Mr Lyle's position as branch convenor and candidate in the Uddingston and Bellshill constituency is now untenable and that party headquarters, which suspended branch meetings in neighbouring Coatbridge and Chryston, must step in.

Others claim Mr Lyle, the Central Scotland MSP who defeated Ms McAnutly to become the candidate in Uddingston and Bellshill, has been victim of an unjustified “hate campaign” and that the SNP in Lanarkshire was fighting off efforts at infiltration from Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity Party.

Members who oppose Mr Lyle were further angered at a branch meeting on Monday night, which he chaired, believing he used delay tactics to run down the clock and prevent discussion of the recent controversy.

They claim he read aloud an upcoming conference agenda and party rules almost verbatim before abruptly announcing time had run out and closing the meeting. Members said they had planned to call for a vote of no confidence in Mr Lyle and question him over his role in a party cabal known as the 'Monklands McMafia' but were thwarted by the filibuster.

One activist said: "If party HQ want the branch to recover, they have to act. Meetings are a disgrace, I know of people attending them then going home and cutting up membership cards in disgust.

"As long as Lyle stays, people will continue speaking out and this will not go away. The claims about Julie are the final straw. I have never heard any racism within the SNP. We're not going to sit back and see a good person have their life and career completely destroyed."

It is understood a series of complaints about Mr Lyle have been submitted to the SNP in recent months. They include warnings that Michael McMahon, the Labour MSP defending a majority of just 714, could hold on to his seat with activists refusing to campaign for the MSP. One complaint dated last August was signed by 10 members.

Internal financial reports reveal that the branch ran up a deficit of £1,697 last year.

A 'Tramp's Ball' cost £240 to stage and raised just £340, which insiders claim is evidence of disenchantment among the rank and file.

Another complaint to SNP National Secretary Patrick Grady insisted that the "vast majority" had no confidence in Mr Lyle. It added: "We have the appalling prospect of having him run amok for another six years since he managed to get himself nominated as our candidate for the forthcoming Holyrood elections.

"I played an active role in the recent General Election campaign... Looking ahead to Holyrood 2016, I know I will be unable to play any such role regarding Richard Lyle. I am ashamed to have this man represent our party."

A former office bearer in the branch said many had been ready to quit but are now organising against Mr Lyle after being disgusted by the alleged dirty tricks campaign against Ms McAnulty.

The source said: "Julie is one of the good guys. This is a smear campaign and for many the straw that broke the camel's back."

An SNP spokesman said Mr Lyle had been selected by local members in a three-way contest. He added: "The National Secretary and party staff have offered guidance to members about best practice in relation to branch meetings, and will continue to offer that support."

Mr Lyle could not be reached for comment.