VETTING for SNP candidates ahead of the general election was "frustrated" by an MP at the centre of bullying allegations at the time, several party members claim.

Senior figures within the SNP spoke to the Herald on Sunday after Neale Hanvey was suspended earlier this week over alleged anti-Semitism.

One nationalist said that the vetting process was "not strong enough" after Joanna Cherry QC attempted to have it revised earlier this year.

In May, Cherry had raised concerns about the vetting process in a letter to the SNP's ruling national executive committee, saying that the current system would leave them open to accusations of "acting unfairly and unlawfully".

Cherry said those who were rejected for candidacy could take legal action against the party and added that this would " involve reputational damage to the party and considerable costs."

It was also reported that Cherry suggested that she lead an investigation into the vetting rules, and said three "prominent" members said there were "significant shortcomings in the arrangements employed for vetting."

At the time Cherry was at the centre of claims about bullying taking place in her office involving her friend and office manager Fraser Thompson, and had not put herself forward for vetting at the time she wrote the letter.

Allegations had been made by several of the former MP's ex-office staff against Thompson, and alleged the politician had condoned the behaviour.

The complaints were later not upheld by the House of Commons following its investigation.

One senior party official told the Herald on Sunday: "One MP repeatedly said that pushing people to be re-vetted, as everyone was, would open the party up to legal action.

"It delayed everything so much that the candidate assessment panel did not have time to properly vet candidates.

"Nobody really understood why she kept going on about legal action. She kept throwing these dark warnings around."

Another SNP member said:"It just frustrated the whole process and caused delays. We've now got a process that isn't strong enough.

"One of the more stringent vetters also left the panel which then weakened the process. No wonder we've had a situation like that with Neale Hanvey. I hope there are not any more.

"This is disappointing for everyone but also extremely damaging for the party. We had the opportunity of unseating a significant opposition party member, which we've now lost."

It is understood that the convener of the selection panel quit their post after a disagreement with a prominent party member while the re-vetting of candidates for the general election was taking place.

Sources said this had a detrimental impact on the vetting process.

Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath candidate Hanvey was stripped of his SNP support this week after allegations of anti-Semitism emerged against him.

Hanvey was to compete for the seat against Lesley Laird - a key figure in Labour's shadow cabinet - until social media posts from several years ago were discovered to contain anti-Semitic material.

In a statement on social media, Hanvey wrote: "One message I posted was a news article....relating to Mr George Soros, which, I have since been advised, contained an image which is considered an anti-Semitic trope...

"On this occasion I did not give any thought to Mr Soros' faith and did not consider connotations of the image in that context. I fully accept that this was wrong and I apologise unreservedly....

"In another message I drew parallels between the treatment of Palestinians and the unconscionable treatment of Jews during WW2. This was insensitive, upsetting and deeply offensive..."

An SNP spokesman did not respond to requests for comment when contacted by the Herald on Sunday.