A COUNCILLOR who was suspended by the SNP in a race row has launched a six-figure defamation action against her accuser.

Julie McAnulty is suing a former colleague who claimed she referred to “Pakis” in the party.

Ms McAnulty, who now sits as an independent councillor in North Lanarkshire, is understood to be seeking more than £100,000 in damages from activist Sheena McCulloch.

Read more: Election Unspun - Code of silence for the Monklands McMafia

Official notice of the case appeared on the calling list of the Court of Session this week.

The legal action is the most dramatic twist so far in the so-called 'Monklands McMafia' feud that has bedevilled the SNP in Lanarkshire.

The power struggle involves an old guard associated with Richard Lyle, the MSP for Uddingston & Bellshill, pitted against a new intake of activists close to Phil Boswell, the MP for Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill.

Ms McAnulty previously worked for Mr Boswell, while her accuser works for Mr Lyle.

Read more: SNP members to refuse to vote for party MSP as 'Monklands McMafia' row escalates

The turf war between the two factions became so intense, with accusations of bullying, intimidation and dirty tricks, that the SNP recently commissioned a former private detective to investigate it.

SNP National Secretary Patrick Grady also suspended the Coatbridge & Chryston branch, saying “a culture of mistrust” had created a “toxic” environment in which “the level of discord is intolerable”.

Ms McAnulty was suspended in February after Ms McCulloch complained to SNP headquarters about an alleged conversation in a car in July 2015.

The complaint, which was leaked to the press, read: “Julie was asking me about the trouble and in-fighting in the Bellshill branch and asked for my view on the trouble in Coatbridge.

“During this discussion Julie made a comment which I found to be unacceptable.

Read more: SNP Coatbridge & Chryston candidate Fulton MacGregor refuses a dozen times to discuss McMafia row

“She asked if I agreed with her that it was, in her words, the ‘Pakis’ that were causing the problems locally and that we needed to get rid of them out of the party.

“I outlined immediately that I was not happy with her comment as I know and respect many Muslim members locally.”

Ms McAnulty’s suspension led to her removal from the SNP’s Holyrood candidate list in Central Scotland, and means she cannot currently stand for re-election as an SNP councillor in 2017.

Supporters of the 45-year-old music teacher and church organist claim she is the victim of a smear campaign that has damaged her reputation and derailed her political career.

She has since spoken to Police Scotland's Counter Corruption Unit about alleged criminality within the SNP.

In a statement issued on behalf of Ms McAnulty, solicitor advocate Paul Motion of BTO Solicitors LLP said: “It is with regret that my client, Julie McAnulty, confirms she has now lodged a summons against Sheena McCulloch, seeking damages for defamation.

“Ms McAnulty has tried for some months to resolve this matter but without success.

“The seriousness of the allegation against my client has left her with no option but to pursue the matter through the courts to defend her reputation and clear her name.

“My client will not be making any further public comment on the matter.”

Judy Williamson, senior associate at lawyers Shoosmiths LLP, said: “I can confirm that Ms McCulloch is defending the action. She will not be making any further public comment at this point.”

The SNP declined to comment, saying it was an ongoing legal matter.