THE Ministry of Defence has been granted an appeal against a landmark tribunal judgement which determined that independence can be a “philosophical” belief on a par with religion.

A “reconsideration hearing” will take place as part of a discrimination case brought by SNP councillor Chris McEleny against the MoD.

In 2016, McEleny was an electrician at the MoD munitions site in Beith as well as SNP group leader on Inverclyde Council.

After announcing his candidacy to be depute leader of the Nationalists, his employer suspended him and revoked his security clearance.

In an interview with security service officials, he was asked about his mental health and for his views on Trident, independence and social media posts on Rangers.

Mr McEleny was allowed to return to work, but he quit and pursued a discrimination case against the UK Government department.

However, before his claim could proceed to a full hearing, the councillor had to persuade a judge that his independence convictions amounted to a “philosophical” belief under the 2010 Equality Act.

Representing himself, Mr McEleny said his belief had affected his “entire life, the choices and actions and decisions he takes” and he produced a written statement from former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Lawyers for the MoD accepted that support for independence was “worthy of respect”, but drew a distinction between political opinion or affiliation, and a philosophical belief:

Court documents summarised part of the MoD case: “Regardless of its importance to the electorate of Scotland ... Scottish independence and the SNP have no substantial impact on the lives of citizens in for example Tanzania, Peru or India.”

In her ruling earlier this year, Judge Eccles backed the councillor: “He does not believe in Scottish independence because it will necessarily lead to improved economic and social conditions for people living in Scotland. It is a fundamental belief in the right of Scotland to national sovereignty.”

The judge continued: “I also do not accept that because Scottish independence might not impact on someone living in Tanzania ... or that Scottish independence is not of concern to a Tanzanian prevents the claimant’s belief from being philosophical in nature.

“I am in no doubt that throughout a significant part of the last century national sovereignty and independence from British rule were weighty and substantial aspects of life in Tanzania, or Tanganyika as it then was.”

She added: “The claimant has persuaded me that his belief in Scottish independence has a sufficiently similar cogency to a religious belief as required by Justice Burton in Grainger to qualify as a philosophical belief.”

The MoD challenged the decision and the right to an appeal was granted recently.

Lawyer Aamer Anwar, who is Mr McEleny's legal adviser, said: "Why don’t the MOD just let the facts of this case come out at tribunal if they didn’t discriminate against him for his belief in Scottish independence, rather than continuing to fight against his right to bring the case? The treatment he alleges is a shocking abuse of power and discrimination."

Mr McEleny declined to comment.

An MOD spokesperson said: "It would be inappropriate to comment on the details of an ongoing employment tribunal."