AN SNP MSP had denied giving “incredible” evidence and helping to create the complaint of racism at the heart of a £100,000 defamation case.

Richard Lyle, MSP for Uddingston & Bellshill, told the Court of Session he didn’t know his assistant, Sheena McCulloch, had sent the complaint to SNP HQ on 5 February 2016.

Ms McCulloch’s email, sent from Mr Lyle’s Motherwell office, alleged then SNP North Lanarkshire councillor Julie McAnulty referred to “P***s” on a car trip in 2015.

Ms McAnulty is suing Ms McCulloch, who is defending the action on the basis of accuracy, fair comment and qualified privilege.

The court had previously heard the Lanarkshire SNP was split by faction fighting, with Mr Lyle and Ms McCulloch in one faction, and Ms McAnulty in another.

Ms McAnulty claims Ms McCulloch accused her of racism as part of a “smear campaign”.

Ms McAnulty and SNP councillor Steven Bonnar have denied the word “P***s” was used on the return leg of a canvassing trip for a council by election on 20 June 2015.

READ MORE: Former SNP councillor denies racism in £100,000 court case

On Thursday, Ms McCulloch said Ms McAnulty had used the racist term, but it had been on a different canvassing trip in late May when Mr Bonnar was not present.

However the court heard both sides now agreed Mr Bonnar was not a candidate until June 7.

Mr Lyle, 67, who gave his address as “care of the Scottish Parliament”, reluctantly agreed there had been division in local party, calling it “sad”, but denied being aligned to any faction.

“I’m aligned to my party. That’s all I’m aligned to,” he said

He said he had known Ms McCulloch since they were at school and hired her in April 2015.

He said he did not know she made a complaint of racism against Ms McAnulty on Friday, February 5, until he was phoned about it by SNP councillor Dr Imtiaz Majid the following Monday, when it was in the Daily Record.

He said he didn't know if he had been in his office when Ms McCulloch sent the email at 1058am.

He denied Dr Majid or anyone else who got a copy of the complaint mentioned it to him over the weekend.

Kenny McBrearty QC, for Ms McAnulty, said: “What I’m suggesting to you is that it’s not credible that you didn’t know about this email.”

Mr Lyle said: “I did not know it had been written. On that Friday I was possibly not in the office. I don’t recall. The first I knew was on Monday morning.”

READ MORE: Racism claim challenged in £100,000 SNP defamation case

Mr McBrearty said the email dealt with a matter of the utmost gravity, and had been written by a member of Mr Lyle’s staff in Mr Lyle’s office.

He said: “It’s incredible that a member of your staff would not have discussed this with you.”

Mr Lyle replied: “I can tell you she did not discuss it with me.”

Mr McBrearty suggested Ms McCulloch wrote the email with “input”.

Mr Lyle said: “I totally and utterly reject that comment.”

Mr McBrearty said: “You had plenty of reasons you wanted to damage Ms McAnulty.”

Mr Lyle said: “No, I did not. At the end of the day Julie McAnulty was a colleague. I don’t go out to do people down. Unfortunately people have tried to do it to me, but that’s politics.”

Mr McBrearty said Mr Lyle “must have known” Ms McCulloch had sent the email to HQ.

Mr Lyle said: “No, I didn’t.”

Mr Lyle also said he could not remember blocking Ms McAnulty's nomination on 8 June 2015 when she tried to stand as a Holyrood candidate.

“Honestly, I don’t recollect that,” he said.

The candidacy later went to Fulton MacGregor, an ally of Mr Lyle.

Mr Lyle laughed when Roddy Dunlop QC, for Ms McCulloch, said it had been alleged that she was his “political assassin”, undermining Ms McAnulty to help Mr Lyle’s election.

He said: “I don’t need anyone. I’ve been in politics long enough to defend myself.”

READ MORE: Defender in £100,000 SNP defamation case had theft conviction

Mr Lyle was also asked about a deal with the Mears building company that added £25m to a bill for North Lanarkshire Council, where his daughter Marina Lyle was a councillor.

Asked about the financial controversy, Mr Lyle said it was a matter for councillors.

Mr McBrearty said it was reported in the press. Mr Lyle said: “I don’t read newspapers now.”

Mr McBrearty said: “You are a member of the Scottish Parliament. You don’t read newspapers?” Mr Lyle said: “I’m not au fait with what you’re asking about.”

Earlier, SNP North Lanarkshire councillor Allan Stubbs, 33, admitted he may have called Ms McAnulty a “twisted bitch” at an SNP meeting.

Mr Stubbs said he regarded a remark made by Ms McAnulty at an SNP meeting in 2012 as “blatantly racist”, and had asked her to apologise for it, and that she had done so.

Mr Stubbs said he had objected to Ms McAnulty referring to then SNP councillor Dr Imtiaz Majid directing the votes of people in the room.

The vote was about giving Dr Majid a bigger portion of a council ward to campaign in.

When Mr Majid disputed this, Mr Stubbs said Ms McAnulty “responded something along the lines of ‘you only have to look around the room to see that you can’.”

Mr Stubbs said he took that as a “racist comment” referring to Asian members in the room.

He said he had made a handwritten note about the remark later that night, which he used to inform SNP HQ about the matter the following day, then years later photographed it in a notepad.

Asked by Mr Dunlop whether the note was a “fabrication”, Mr Stubbs replied: “It certainly is not.”

Asked whether he was part of a conspiracy to do Ms McAnulty down, he replied: “No.”

Mr McBrearty suggested Ms McAnulty had referred to the floor being directed, a benign reference to concerns about “entryism” in the local party.

Ms Stubbs said the context led many members to believe the remark had been racist.

He denied disliking Ms McAnulty or bullying her in 2015, when she was part of a move to remove him as a branch officer, but admitted he may have called her a “twisted bitch”.

He said: “I can’t say either way whether or not I said those words. I can’t recall saying it.”

Mr MacGregor, the SNP MSP for Coatbridge & Chryston, admitted there had been division in the local party and he had been in a rival faction to Ms McAnulty.

He denied “bullying and harrying” former MSP John Wilson and his wife out the SNP.

“Absolutely not,” he said, when the suggestion was put to him by Mr Dunlop.

Mr MacGregor said he regarded Ms McAnulty’s remark at the 2012 meeting as referring to Asian members of the party in the room, and denied there had been entryism.

But he said: “I can’t comment whether that was a racist remark or not.”

After four days of evidence, Lord Uist adjourned the proof until June 12.