A COUNCILLOR who made Islamophobic comments about SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has been re-elected as an independent.

Jim Dempster walked away after Labour in February after the party finally brought charges against him nearly four years after the scandal.

Mr Yousaf hit out at his resignation at the time: “Jim Dempster should never have been allowed to leave Scottish Labour on his terms.

"He is an elected Councillor who admitted his Islamophobic behaviour and had serious allegations of racism made about him. He has no place in public life, and local Government will be better off without him."

Dempster, a councillor in Dumfries and Galloway, made appalling comments about Yousaf at a ­transport meeting in 2018.

A note showed ­Government officials ­challenged Dempster’s claim that Mr Yousaf, who was transport minister at the time, did not have much regard for the south-west.

Dempster responded: “He may have been at Springholm but no one would have seen him under his burka.”

The councillor ­apologised and was suspended, but the case dragged on and became an embarrassment for successive Scottish Labour leaders.

Earlier this year he told the Dumfries and Galloway Standard: “After almost four years since the suspension of my membership of the Labour Party, the National Executive Committee (NEC) have brought charges against me, basically alleging that I am a racist.

"I have admitted making an ill devised attempt at humour against Humza Yousaf but deny the other charges against me.

"I am not a racist. The timing of the proceedings against me, with the local election imminent, conflict with my desire to continue as a councillor.

"A challenge to the charges would not allow me to stand for election as a Labour Party candidate, although I have the backing of the local party.

"I have therefore, with great sadness, resigned my membership of the Labour Party which I served diligently for 22 years. I will stand for election as an independent."

He concluded: “I will leave it to the electorate to decide whether I am a fit and proper person to continue to represent them."

Mr Yousaf added: “We must have zero tolerance for any instances of hatred in our society and political parties need to be setting the strongest possible examples.

“I hope Scottish Labour seriously reflect on this case and put in place better systems for tackling racism, Islamophobia and all others forms discrimination that may arise in the future.”

Mr Dempster's comments were made during a series of race rows involving Scottish Labour.

In February 2018, Anas Sarwar refused to sit next to then then party leader Richard Leonard in Holryrod over the failure to suspend an MP who admitted using "deeply offensive" language about gay people and the Chinese community.

Mr Sarwar had been supposed to flank Mr Leonard at First Minister's Questions session in the Scottish Parliament.

But sources close to the him said at the time it would have been a "token gesture" in the wake of a row which engulfed his Scottish Labour colleague Hugh Gaffney.

The former Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill MP was forced to apologise and agree to attend diversity training over remarks he made at a Robert Burns Supper.

Mr Gaffney told a joke about the poet not being “bent” and used a derogatory word to describe a Chinese meal at the Labour event in Edinburgh the previous weekend.

A Labour spokesman said his language had been "unacceptable", but the party resisted calls for Mr Gaffney to be suspended.

Mr Sarwar had previously revealed that he suffered racial abuse during the 2017 Scottish Labour leadership contest, won by Mr Leonard. Reports at the time said Mr Sarwar was among those who suggested Mr Gaffney should have been suspended.