THE mass punishment of SNP councillors who complained about a sex pest colleague has created a headache for the party, one of Humza Yousaf’s key allies has admitted.

“It’s a challenging situation. I don’t doubt that,” cabinet secretary Neil Gray told the Herald. 

However Mr Gray, the MSP for Airdrie & Shotts, said he respected the internal disciplinary process that saw seven councillors in North Lanarkshire sanctioned yesterday. 

The group had voiced concerns about the party’s handling of a sexual misconduct complaint against former SNP council leader Jordan Linden. 

Beth Baudo, Gerry Brennan, David Crichton, Paul Di Mascio, Greg Lennon, Barry McCluskey and Cameron McManus wrote to SNP National Secretary Lorna Finn in March.

They alleged there had been “continual failings by the North Lanarkshire SNP leadership team”, including a failure to investigate sexual misconduct and “abuse of power”.

Specific concerns about current SNP group leader Tracy Carragher, and the SNP’s local government convener Kelly Parry, leader of Midlothian council, were also raised in April.

On Tuesday, the SNP opposition group expelled Cllrs Crichton and Di Mascio and suspended Cllrs Baudo, Brennan, Lennon and McCluskey for six months.

Cllr McManus’s case has yet to be decided as he left the meeting after feeling unwell.

It is understood an eighth SNP councillor, Jim Hume, was given a written warning.

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Some of those suspended are now considering resigning from the SNP altogether.

The expulsion of Cllr Di Mascio means the four-member Airdrie South ward in Mr Gray’s constituency now has no SNP representation, as another councillor elected for the SNP last year, Michael Coyle, quit the party in August.

Party sources described the SNP group on the council a being in “meltdown”.

READ MORE: SNP councillors who complained about sex pest 'punished by party'

Asked for his reaction, Mr Gray, who was Mr Yousaf's leadership campaign manager, said: “Obviously, where there are internal matters for council groups, that’s for council groups to determine.

“I’m not fully across all the details of what’s happened with regards to that.

“Obviously the decisions that are taken are for them.”

Reminded the SNP had lost all its councillors in Airdrie South, he said: “It’s a challenging situation. I don’t doubt that. 

“There are difficult decisions that are having to be taken by council groups. 

“I respect the decision that’s been taken by the entire council group to come forward with these disciplinary processes, but it’s for the council groups to take that decisions not for me.

“Hopefully we will see a very strong SNP in North Lanarkshire Council group going forward.”

Linden became the council’s £45,000-a-year leader after last year’s local elections, but resigned within weeks over multiple sexual misconduct allegations.

He accepted his behaviour at a party in 2019 caused a teenage boy “a sense of discomfort which I entirely regret”.

His resignation led to a change of control at the council, with Labour replacing the SNP.

Linden quit as a councillor for Bellshill in March this year after more sex pest claims against him, which he denied.

"My resignation is due to the extreme impact all of this is having on my life,” he said. 

The scandal led to calls for Cllr Carragher to be suspended for allegedly failing to investigate a complaint against Linden.

Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher, a former North Lanarkshire councillor, said it was “utterly shameful” of the SNP to punish those who raised concerns about Linden. 

“That sends out an appalling message to any potential future victims who want to speak out about how their misconduct complaints will be handled by the SNP,” she said.

“The SNP are mired in scandal nationally and their group in North Lanarkshire have serious questions to answer as to why this disgusting decision has been taken.”

Labour councillor Paul Kelly, the depute leader of North Lanarkshire Council, claimed the SNP was “in disarray” locally, just as it was nationally.

An SNP spokesperson said: "We understand that the SNP Group undertook a disciplinary process against members who had voted contrary to a Group decision.

"If a member refuses to accept a sanction from their peers then, regrettably, that’s their decision to make."