A FEMINIST charity has quit the Scottish Women's Aid network after being threatened with expulsion for appointing a man to its board.

The group, called Moray Women's Aid, had accepted Graham Leadbitter onto their committee eight years ago but it was after his role was discussed at a national training day that umbrella charity Scottish Women's Aid (SWA) warned they had breached conditions of their women-only membership.

The Elgin-based group has now disaffiliated itself from the SWA, which leads the anti-domestic violence network, after rejecting its “discriminatory” policy.

Read more: David Coburn: We want one culture - British culture

In the resignation letter, Elle Johnston, services manager for Moray Women’s Aid said the appointment of Mr Leadbitter, a local councillor and a member of the White Ribbon campaign which works to stamp out violence against women, was based on merit.

She added: “It is whether you have the necessary skills and passion that is the most important, not whether or not someone has a beard.

“We have 10 members on our board, all the others are very strong females working alongside men to achieve equality for all. Not all men are abusers, there are good decent men out there and we should be working alongside them to achieve mutual equality and respect.”

But she said quitting the organisation had been a wrench.

Read more: David Coburn: We want one culture - British culture

“We disaffiliated ourselves because we were not prepared to discriminate blatantly,” she said. “We didn’t take this decision lightly, it was tough, but the board completely backed me.”

Scottish Women’s Aid provides training and support for 37 groups around the country while campaigning nationally against domestic abuse.

In a letter this week to network members, SWA Chief Executive Marsha Scott said: “It recently came to our attention that Moray Women’s Aid has appointed a man to their Board of Directors.

“Moray Women's Aid management team and board have confirmed they will not change their stated position… we are sorry that Moray has left our network”.

Read more: David Coburn: We want one culture - British culture

The letter, sent to all remaining members of the network, says the departing group has been “offered support” to change their position, adding “SWA appreciates that as feminists we will not always agree”.

While acknowledging that SWA’s articles include a commitment to reflect the diversity of Society, Ms Scott said they were also clear that membership is only open to groups staffed and managed by women.

In a statement a SWA spokeswoman said she was "sorry" the Moray group were no longer members but that women-only boards were important because they "recognise that in Scotland, historically and currently, women are not equal". She added: "We believe Scotland aspires to be equal, but we are not there yet, and the reality is unless we take action, the playing field will never be levelled."

Graham Leadbitter said he had “huge respect” for (SWA). He said: “If this creates some debate about equalities, that is all well and good but I wouldn’t want to detract from that vital work".