DISTURBING photographs have emerged of a former Labour MSP apparently manhandling an independence supporter during the General Election.

David Whitton is seen grappling with outspoken independence protester Sean Clerkin in Glasgow city centre.

Labour official David Ross casually looks on during the altercation, while his colleague Gregor Poynton seems to grins as Clerkin cries out.

The photographs were taken on May 4, 2015 at an election stunt featuring the then Scottish labour leader Jim Murphy and comedian Eddie Izzard.

The event generated some of the ugliest scenes of the campaign, with a now famous photo taken of Clerkin screaming in Murphy’s face. Murphy used the protests to attack “the ugly face of aggressive nationalism”.

But the latest photos show that Whitton, who was running Murphy’s press operation, appeared to grab Clerkin’s clothes, push his head down and manhandle him away.

Clerkin’s solicitor last night called Labour’s criticism hypocritical.

After Labour trailed the event outside St Enoch’s Square Underground, a crowd of pro-independence and anti-Labour protesters were waiting for Murphy and Izzard to arrive at 11am. They included Clerkin, who used a loudhailer to chant “Red Tories Out”.

BBC footage shows Labour supporters trying to cover the loudhailer with placards. Some suspect Labour privately hoped for trouble in order to smear the SNP.

Glasgow-based freelance photographer Alan Dodd said that when Murphy and Izzard were speaking, Whitton appeared to target Clerkin in order to shut him up.

Dodd said: “Photographs can be interpreted in more than one way. Sean was being vocal. But as far as I was concerned, David Whitton took exception to Sean and he went beyond the call of duty... David Whitton is no policeman. He was a press officer for the Labour party. He was not there to tell people what they can and cannot say. It’s a free country.”

Barely two hours after the scuffle, Scottish Labour issued a press statement denouncing the “ugly face of street nationalism”, complaining Murphy and Izzard had been “jostled”.

Murphy said: “These people are not prepared to engage in debate. Scotland’s streets… belong to no one party.” The media contact on the release was Whitton himself.

Dodd has never released his pictures until now. But after a chance encounter with Clerkin, he offered them to his solicitor in case they were relevant to an ongoing legal action involving Clerkin and Labour. Ross, who worked for Better Together during the referendum, was made recently acting director of policy by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

Poynton, who appears to be laughing in the pictures, was Labour’s director of external engagement in Scotland when the photographs were taken. The husband of former Labour MP Gemma Doyle, he is now a partner at PR firm Portland Communications.

Clerkin’s solicitor John Flanagan said: “I am shocked at the outrageous behaviour of David Whitton, who is seen clearly trying to prevent my client from participating in a political protest.

"Yet in a statement given shortly afterwards, Jim Murphy said ‘Scotland’s streets and Scotland’s flag belong to no one political party’.”

A former adviser to First Minister Donald Dewar, Whitton was Labour MSP for East Dunbartonshire from 2007-11 and now runs a PR business. He no longer works for the Labour party.

He said: “Sean Clerkin is a well known troublemaker and that day showed him at his worst. For him to complain about Labour staff trying to stop him disrupting this event is the real hypocrisy.”

Labour declined to comment.