SNP HQ has been accused of acting like Boris Johnson by riding roughshod over the party’s own constitution and denying activists a voice.

Its top official has been singled out after imposing an online ballot in a branch, instead of letting members pick officer bearers in person.

National Secretary Angus MacLeod, who is supposed to police the party’s constitution, is said to have disregarded it in Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill, causing division in a seat where the SNP hope to oust a Labour MP at the coming election.

The branch, which is already synonymous with bitter internal feuding, is due to hold its annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday.

According to the SNP’s constitution, it is at the AGM that branches elect their convener, secretary and other positions based on a vote of the people attending on the night.

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The format allows questions to be put to those standing for key roles.

However, on Friday, Mr MacLeod ordered a debate-free online ballot to be held before the AGM instead.

Besides anger over the reduced scrutiny, there are fears this will deny votes to members not online and to families sharing one email address.

In a branch-wide letter, one senior local member likened it to the Prime Minister proroguing parliament, writing: “This is wrong... I would urge any SNP member to completely reject the results of an illegal online vote.

HeraldScotland:

“By having our constitutional rights removed from our branch without a proper explanation we are having our democratic rights removed. As paying members this is an unacceptable way for any organisation to treat their members.”

“This decision sets a very dangerous precedent. One that takes power from the ordinary members of the party. Considering the current situation surrounding our Prime Minister and Brexit there are some parallels that we need to be aware of.”

The author then cited the parts of the SNP constitution about electing office bearers at AGMs, which say nothing about online ballots.

Critics also see the move as favouring a clique of candidates close to the party hierarchy and Coatbridge SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor.

These include Mr MacGregor’s office worker, North Lanarkshire Councillor Allan Stubbs, who is standing for the convener’s position.

Last year, Mr Stubbs admitted in evidence to a civil court that he may once have called a colleague a “twisted bitch” at an SNP meeting.

One local activist said: “It’s outrageous they think they can do this. There are no online ballots in the SNP constitution. No other branch in the country is having this. If you pay your money you’re entitled to a vote.”

Another said: “The National Secretary has taken away the opportunity to vote on the night and is forcing the branch to vote via an online poll which provides no accountability of the results.

“The branch has no democracy and HQ are determined to rule this like a dictatorship.”

A Scottish Labour source said: “This is nothing short of a full-blown civil war inside the SNP.

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“Members are accusing the party’s National Secretary of behaving like Boris Johnson. This is not the first time SNP HQ has been lampooned for its dictatorial practices by members.

“The SNP are a mess across Lanarkshire, and that’s one of the reasons Labour’s victory in the Thorniewood by-election last week will be the first of many across the region.”

The SNP said: “The ballot has been opened up to all 900 local members - it’s odd any democrat would object.”

Asked which section of the SNP constitution Mr MacLeod was relying on for the online ballot, the party offered no answer.