THE SNP’s Westminster leader has sent a strong signal to a Nationalist council to dump an Islamophobic politician from the administration.

Ian Blackford suggested independent councillor Jim Dempster, who made a racist comment about Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf but is still close to the SNP/Labour coalition in Dumfries and Galloway, should not be in a “position of authority”.

Dempster was suspended from Labour last year over comments he made about Yousaf when the SNP figure was Transport Minister.

After being informed by officials that Yousaf had taken an interest in transport issues in the south west of Scotland, Dempster replied:

"He may have been at Springholm but no-one would have seen him under his burka."

Dempster apologised but, nearly eighteen months after the scandal, Labour has still not disposed of the case.

It has since emerged that the independent councillor remains a vital component of the coalition, despite him admitting the racist comment.

SNP and Labour form the ruling administration and Dempster, who is still chair of the planning applications committee, votes with the coalition and attends joint group meetings. Labour councillor Elaine Murray is the local authority leader, while SNP councillor Rob Davidson is depute leader.

As part of its inquiry into Islamophobia, Westminster’s Home Affairs committee has been taking evidence from party leaders on how their organisations have tackled religious-based hate.

Blackford said he was “very concerned” about anti-Muslim sentiment in Scotland and the UK, adding: “All of us in public life have got a responsibility to call out these hate crimes.”

Douglas Ross, a Scottish Tory MP who sits on the committee, asked Blackford about why Dempster still has a prominent role in the SNP-led council.

Blackford replied: “That’s a matter obviously for the circumstances in the local authority.”

Pushed by Ross on the same subject, Blackford said:

“The individuals that have been responsible for outrageous remarks have to be tackled. There is a different issue in terms of the political power in the local authority that they are in. The individual has to be held accountable for his actions. And I think the parent political party has a strong part to play in that.

“But in terms of actually of then saying that that should bring down the administration in the local authority, I think that’s quite a different matter.”

Questioned by Ross about this statement, Blackford said: “I am certainly not happy about any individual that has been guilty of using language which is Islamophobic is still in a position of authority.”

Asked by Ross to provide a “yes or no” response to whether SNP colleagues should remove Dempster, Blackford said:

“Anyone that has behaved in a way which is unacceptable should not be in a position of authority.”

He also said: “Anyone who is guilty of Islamophobic activity should be held accountable. And I would argue that anyone in such a position should not be in a position of authority.”

Davidson did not return this newspaper's call.