A FORMER SNP councillor has repeatedly denied being racist and said the day she was suspended by the party after being accused of prejudice was the worst of her life.

On the opening day of a £100,000 defamation case at the Court of Session, Julie McAnulty said her reputation had been permanently damaged by the allegation.

Ms McAnulty, 47, a music teacher and church organist, is suing SNP activist Sheena McCulloch after she alleged she used the word “P***s” during a car trip in 2015.

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Ms McCulloch, a caseworker for the Uddingston & Bellshill MSP Richard Lyle, is defending the action on the grounds of accuracy, fair comment and qualified privilege.

Ms McAnulty told the court infighting had been rife in her former SNP branch in Coatbridge, with two rival factions vying for dominance.

Ms McAnulty, a North Lanarkshire councillor from 2012 to 2017, said she, former Coatbridge MP Phil Boswell and former councillor Paul Welsh were among those in one faction, and wanted to reform the branch.

She said Mr Lyle, Ms McCulloch, Coatbridge MSP Fulton MacGregor, former North Lanarkshire councillor Dr Imtiaz Majid and current councillor Allan Stubbs were in the other, and wanted to keep control of the local party apparatus.

Asked by her advocate Kenny McBrearty QC to describe the atmosphere between 2012 and 2016, she replied: “Toxic”.

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She went on: “It was just absolutely dreadful. There were people always people getting picked on. There was bullying going on. There was all kinds of horrible things going on."

Ms McCulloch’s complaint to SNP HQ claimed Ms McAnulty told her “P***” were causing problems in the local party and there was a need to get rid of them.

The comments were allegedly made during a car journey on 20 June 2015.

However Ms McCulloch did not complain to SNP HQ until 5 February 2016, shortly after two stories about Ms McAnulty and race appeared in the Daily Record.

Three days after the complaint, the paper ran a front page story about it after obtaining a copy, and Ms McAnulty was suspended by SNP that day pending an investigation.

Asked by Mr McBrearty if she had said the comments attributed to her by Ms McCulloch, Ms McAnulty replied: “No”.

Asked if she had ever used or would ever use the word “P***s”, she said: “No.”

Ms McAnulty said that 12 days before the car trip she had been blocked from seeking the Holyrood candidacy for Coatbridge by Ms McCulloch’s boss, Mr Lyle, and was “very wary” of her and would “absolutely not” have been inclined to share her views about the party.

She said: “I saw her as part of the problem. She was connected to Richard Lyle.”

She said Steven Bonnar, now an SNP councillor, had also been with them on the car trip and that Ms McCulloch’s contention that he was not was “a lie”.

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Ms McAnulty said she had concluded Ms McCulloch’s complaint and the Record stories were part of a “smear campaign” by the rival faction in the local party.

“It was an attempt to destroy me and my political career,” she said.

The court heard Ms McCulloch emailed her complaint to SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, SNP compliance manager Ian McCann, then National Secretary Patrick Grady, and the head of the SNP group on North Lanarkshire Council, all of whom had a reason to receive it.

However she also emailed it to a series of other figures in the party, including Mr Stubbs, Dr Majid, and the MSPs Fulton Macgregor, Mr Lyle and Alex Neil, none of whom would have any a role in determining the complaint, according to Ms McAnulty.

Asked by Mr McBrearty about the impact of the Record article of 8 February 2016, she said: “It was the worst day of my life. It was really humiliating and embarrassing.

“It was absolutely terrible. I felt sick. I had been accused of being a racist."

She said she had removed herself from teaching at the East Glasgow music school as she had Asian and African pupils and “I knew it was going to cause problems”.

Asked how she felt about the complaint circulated by Ms McCulloch, she replied: “I was absolutely furious. It was clear to me that it had been done with malice.”

She said that if she Googled her name, the results invariably related to racism, and that she had even been included in the report of an all-party parliamentary inquiry into electoral conduct that she had made racist remarks, rather than it being an allegation.

She said: “It has done me permanent damage. I don’t think I will ever lose this tag.”

Asked how she felt about Ms McCulloch still insisting she made the “p***s” remark, she said: “It’s beyond my comprehension. I don’t know how someone can lie like that.”

She said she had been removed the list of SNP Holyrood candidates in 2016, and after her suspension was lifted in August 2016, she was deselected as an SNP council candidate,

“It had been all over the press and mud sticks,” she said. She is no longer an SNP member.

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Roddy Dunlop QC, for Ms McCulloch, said Ms McAnulty had made a number of “not very definite statements” criticising various people.

He asked how she concluded a number of Asian members at an SNP meeting in 2012 had been relatives, tenants or shopworkers connected to Dr Majid.

Ms McAnulty said she visited a land registry office in Glasgow to search for properties linked to Mr Majid and cross-referenced addresses with an SNP membership list.

The proof before Lord Uist is due to continue until Friday.