A HOLYROOD candidate who boasts he will be a “stronger voice” for constituents has refused a dozen times to explain his part in the Monklands McMafia row gripping the SNP. Coatbridge & Chryston hopeful Fulton MacGregor repeatedly ducked questions about his part in the bitter internal feud when confronted by the Sunday Herald last week.

The North Lanarkshire councillor was previously recorded saying he felt physically “sick” because of feuding in his local constituency branch, which was suspended by SNP HQ. The party's national secretary Patrick Grady took the action in February, saying “a culture of mistrust” had created a “toxic” environment in which “the level of discord is intolerable”.

Despite being the candidate directly affected by the move, MacGregor has repeatedly failed to return calls on the subject. So the Sunday Herald approached him for comment outside the SNP’s election launch at Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth on Wednesday.

Although claiming a vote for him in May would “give Coatbridge & Chryston a stronger voice”, MacGregor tried to say nothing at all, before being hurried away by an SNP press officer.

The Coatbridge row has led to a wave of negative headlines about the Lanarkshire SNP and the so-called Monklands McMafia, a party old guard tied to Uddingston & Bellshill candidate Richard Lyle, and their power struggle with a group linked to new Coatbridge MP Phil Boswell.

Lyle, a list MSP in the last parliament and ally of MacGregor, has been the subject of numerous, unanswered complaints to SNP HQ about his activity.

At the height of the row, one of his staff accused North Lanarkshire councillor Julie McAnulty, who works for Boswell, of racism, resulting in her suspension and removal from the Central Scotland candidate list for May –McAnulty’s supporters say she is the victim of a smear.

Asked about the origins of the problem, MacGregor said: “I don’t want to comment on it.”

Asked what he would say to potential SNP voters worried about the dysfunctional state of the party in the constituency, he said: “I don’t want to comment on it right now.”

Asked if he was ground down by the infighting, he said: “I’m not going to comment on it.”

Asked if he agreed with the many local members who blamed Lyle for the problems, he said: “I’m not going to comment. I’m not going to comment. You can speak to somebody [at HQ].”

When it was pointed out that only he could speak as the candidate, an SNP press officer interrupted the conversation and offered to arrange a party statement.

Asked why he couldn’t speak for himself, MacGregor said: “What I’m doing is asking you to speak to people at headquarters, OK?”

A second press officer then interrupted and said MacGregor was needed inside the venue. The Sunday Herald then approached Lyle, who was smoking nearby, and asked for his response to accusations that he was a “Monklands McMafia Henchman”.

Managing to say “no comment” seven times in 17 seconds, Lyle crunched out his half-finished cigarette then briskly walked indoors.

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "If the SNP candidate in Coatbridge really was a strong voice for the area he wouldn't allow himself to be silenced by party bosses. The SNP need to take these issues seriously and not allow them to be brushed under the carpet."