HUMZA Yousaf has been urged to intervene in the SNP’s latest scandal and reinistate seven councillors punished for voicing concerns about a sex pest colleague.

The Scottish Tories said the SNP leader must live up to his claim to be a “fresh start” and address the injustice suffered by the whistleblowers on North Lanarkshire Council.

One of those punished - for allegedly bringing the party into disrepute - said the atmosphere was now “completely toxic”.

The council’s SNP group this week expelled two councillors and suspended five others who complained about a failure to investigate the authority’s former leader Jordan Linden.

Linden quit his £45,000 post within weeks of the SNP winning control of the council last year after multiple sexual misconduct claims were levelled against him.

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

His exit led to a change of control at the council, with Labour returning to power.

He quit as a councillor for Bellshill in March after more claims against him, which he denied.

The scandal led to calls for the SNP opposition’s new leader, Tracy Carragher, to be suspended for allegedly failing to investigate a complaint against Linden and “abuse of power”.

However the councillors who complained about her and Linden suffered instead.

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Cllr Carragher works part-time for both the SNP’s influential business convener Kirsten Oswald MP and for local MSP Fulton MacGregor.

Cllrs Paul Di Mascio and David Crichton were expelled from the SNP group at a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday night, while Beth Baudo, Gerry Brennan, Greg lennon, Barry McCluskey were suspended for six months, and Cameron McManus is awaiting a suspension sanction. 

All have now resigned from the SNP group or indicated they will do so.

Cllr Di Mascio last night released a 3,500-word personal statement detailing the background to the case, the group’s actions and complaints against local and national SNP leaders.

He said: “The atmosphere in North Lanarkshire SNP Group is completely toxic and there seems to be no room for individual reasoned thought.

“I have my integrity and I can hold my head high and sleep well at night. 

“I will always stand up against bullying, for what is right, for justice and, most importantly, for those reporting or affected by sexual abuse or harassment.”

He said attempts to discuss the allegations against Linden within the group were “quashed and aggressively obstructed” by Cllr Carragher and other SNP councillors. 

He said SNP HQ knew of the situation, but failed to investigate despite promising to do so.

In a letter to Mr Yousaf, Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher, a member of the council before becoming an MSP, wrote: “Once again, it appears that the SNP are failing to be transparent when impropriety emerges from within their own ranks, as shown by the treatment of these SNP Councillors.

“As party leader, you have the power to ensure that this wrong is put right and that those who stand up for victims of sexual harassment are protected and those who seek to cover up such allegations are the ones who are disciplined instead.

“Therefore, I am asking you to overturn the punishments that were handed out to these councillors who were seemingly disciplined for standing up for sexual harassment victims.

“Further, you should ensure these councillors who appear set to leave the SNP are welcomed back. Finally, you should ensure the investigation which was apparently promised by SNP HQ into this fiasco goes ahead.

“You recently claimed your leadership would provide a fresh start. You now have a chance to put that bold claim into action, rather than words.”

She added: “The SNP leadership group on North Lanarkshire is a moral vacuum.

“Humza Yousaf needs to show some leadership and stand up for integrity. 

“This problem extends beyond North Lanarkshire.

“We saw it when former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford shamefully sided with disgraced MP Patrick Grady, rather than his victim, in another sexual misconduct case.

“Humza Yousaf needs to stamp out the immoral culture that too often leads to senior SNP figures putting the party’s image ahead of doing the right thing.

“Sadly, I fear this ‘party first’ mentality is ingrained within the SNP.

“It’s telling that several of the leadership group in North Lanarkshire are party staffers employed by SNP MPs and MSPs, whose first instinct is party loyalty.

“This has to end, for the sake of future potential victims. The First Minister must act decisively and disown this shameful trait of deceit and cover-up within the SNP.”

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

Airdrie & Shotts MSP Neil Gray, who ran Mr Yousaf’s recent SNP leadership campaign, has admitted the situation in North Lanarkshire is “challenging” for the party, but has also defended the SNP’s group’s disciplinary process.

The SNP said earlier this week: "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."

Cllr Carragher said:  "The group has received resignations and, regrettably, we accept them. We do not however accept the revisionist view of events that is being claimed by those who left. Group members wanted to enforce standing orders for those who voted against group decisions, or who had allegations of bullying made against them. 

 “As councillors we all need to draw a line under this bickering and back-biting and move on to issues that impact on the people we serve."