AN SNP MSP has been reported to Nicola Sturgeon and party officials over alleged “dirty tricks” in a battleground seat at the coming election.

Richard Lyle is accused of improperly using a membership database to promote a political ally in the SNP’s Westminster candidate selection for Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill.

According to the SNP’s rules for the process, members “should not use access to membership data to contact members on behalf of a nominee”.

However on Saturday, Mr Lyle, the MSP for Uddingston & Bellshill, emailed members asking them to support North Lanarkshire Councillor Tracy Carragher as the candidate.

He wrote: “Shortly you will receive an email from HQ asking you to cast your vote for a candidate to go forward as our nominee for this seat.

“I have been asked by numerous members who I would vote for if I stayed in that constituency and I now ask you to vote for Tracy Carragher

“I would highly recommend her for your vote at this time. It is time for a woman candidate in this seat and I hope that you will vote Tracy Carragher when you receive your nomination email vote. Yours for Scotland, Richard Lyle MSP.”

The email included Mr Lyle’s personal email address for replies.

Mr Lyle has long been linked to factionalism and feuding in the local SNP, and last year he was quizzed about it in court during a defamation case brought against his office worker.

Complaints about Mr Lyle’s email have now been made to SNP HQ.

One accused him of “flagrantly breaching the rules” by using a branch contact email to back his candidate, dragging the process into disrepute.

Another local activist said members were “outraged” by the email, and the branch’s Westminster Liaison committee collectively submitted a complaint to “all key figures at HQ”, with Ms Sturgeon copied in.

A third activist called it “dirty tricks” and “typically low class”.

The result of the internal selection is due to be announced on Friday.

Coatbridge is one of just seven Labour-held Westminster seats in Scotland and a top SNP target.

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Labour’s Hugh Gaffney won it with a majority of just 1,586 votes in 2017.

Mr Lyle denied wrongdoing, and insisted he had not used any parliamentary resources to send the email.

But he repeatedly refused to say which database he had accessed.

He said: “I can contact members through my system if I wish.”

Asked which system he had used, he said: “That’s for me to know. I was contacting members to tell them that people have been reselected, because I was being asked who’s the candidates, what’s happening, what’s doing.

“I was asked by members. So basically I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Told of a complaint, he said: “That’s for headquarters to deal with it.”

Pressed again on which contact database he had used, he said: “I’m not going to say which system I used. I used my own system. I’m not going to say which system I used.”

Asked if he was a registered data controller with the Information Commissioner’s Office, he said: “I’m not going to say. I don’t need to answer to you, Tom Gordon. I don’t need to answer to you. You’ve been fed too much rubbish over the years. It’s got to the point where, where in a situation I don’t need to answer to you. So thank you, bye.”

He then hung up his phone.

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Ms Carragher was asked for comment. The SNP declined to comment.

Mr Lyle gave evidence in court last year about infighting in the Lanarkshire SNP centred on a faction dubbed the Monklands McMafia to which he and other MSPs and MPs have been linked.

He denied giving “incredible” evidence after saying he knew nothing about his office worker claiming one of his political rivals was a racist until it was reported in the press.

The false claim of racism ultimately led to a £40,000 defamation award against his aide, Sheena McCulloch.

READ MORE: Toxic SNP feud ends in £40,000 defamation award

Mr Lyle, 69, is expected to retire at the 2021 Holyrood election, with his protegee, Coatbridge councillor Jordan James Linden, a possible replacement.