THE SNP operation in the Yes heartland of North Lanarkshire has become so dysfunctional it is now effectively beyond repair, according to a party whistleblower.

Councillor Cammie McManus, who quit the SNP after raising concerns about a sex pest only to be punished by the party himself, said the situation was irredeemably “toxic”.

He said the SNP hierarchy had ignored multiple sexual misconduct complaints about former council Jordan Linden, attributing it to “a sense of protectionism” in Linden’s favour.

He said the party had avoided dealing with the issue and others in North Lanarkshire for years, and seemed more concerned about bad headlines than doing the right thing.

He also said the party nationally had failed to follow its own policies on safeguarding.

The Scottish Tories said his comment exposed a "shocking failure" to deal with sexual misconduct allegations.

North Lanarkshire was one of just four of 32 councils to vote for Yes in the 2014 independence referendum, alongside Glasgow, Dundee and West Dunbartonshire.

At last year’s local elections, the SNP gained control of North Lanarkshire from Labour and Cllr Linden was installed as its £45,000-a-year leader.

However he quit within weeks after allegations of sexual misconduct were made against him.

He admitted causing a teenage boy “a sense of discomfort which I entirely regret” in 2019.

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His resignation led to Labour retaking control of the council, and in March this year Linden quit as a councillor for Bellshill 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 at the time. 

There will now be a byelection in the ward on June 15.

In the wake of Linden resigning as council leader, a group of other SNP councillors raised concerns about the party’s handling of complaints against him.

Last week, two were expelled and five were suspended for allegedly “bringing the party into disrepute”, triggering a series of resignations from the SNP group in protest.

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

Those quitting included Cllr McManus, who faced a six-month suspension.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Cllr McManus said he had raised complaints locally last August but this was “downplayed” and he was referred to the SNP’s press team.

“At that point I felt as if I was pushed aside,” he said. 

“It's not as if these are just new accusations. It's not the first one. It's a sense of protectionism or something over Jordan.

“In a wider context too, when it comes to North Lanarkshire, the party has always been scared to get involved or intervene. 

“In speaking to other longer-serving members, it's been like that for the last 15 or 20 years.”

Cllr McManus said the party only took action after press articles about the situation.

“I took the comments to the party National Secretary [Lorna Finn] in February.

“I only received a reply back from them after the second newspaper article, about a month later, and that was only because the press asked them why they didn't get in contact with me.

“So they only got in contact and responded to me due to that. There was no communication beforehand. There was not even an acknowledgement email sent out beforehand.”

He said there was “a bigger issue within the party” of not treating complaints responsibly.

He said: “The complaints process isn't being properly followed, at a local level and a national level, they've not implemented their own safeguarding policy that they updated less than a year ago.”

Asked what he wanted Humza Yousaf to do about the North Lanarkshire SNP, Cllr McManus said: “I don't think there is a way to fix North Lanarkshire politics.

“It has been toxic for the last 10 years, for as long as I've been involved. 

“Obviously speaking to other members, it has been like that for the for the last 15, 20 years. 

“I think it's just the party's avoidance of dealing with North Lanarkshire has been most of the issue. I don't think updating a couple of pieces of policy is going to change the situation that myself and others have went through in the last couple of weeks, months and years.”

READ MORE: SNP sex-pest council meltdown 'challenging' admits Humza Yousaf ally

Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher, a member of North Lanarkshire Council before becoming an MSP, said: “This interview lays bare the shocking failure of the SNP hierarchy to deal with sexual misconduct allegations.

“Cammie McManus speaks of ‘protectionism’ and the party closing ranks around Jordan Linden to protect his and their reputation – and that shameful culture was equally evident in the Patrick Grady [the MP for Glasgow North] case too.

“The SNP’s first instinct – to protect powerful perpetrators rather than victims – is deplorable.

“It’s completely unacceptable that North Lanarkshire whistleblowers, like Cammie McManus, have been ostracised by the party, while those who sought to suppress the allegations are in charge locally – and many of them are employed by SNP MPs and MSPs.

“Humza Yousaf must show some leadership and challenge the toxic culture in his party, when it comes to dealing with sexual misconduct. 

“But the signs are not good, given he’s ignored my call to reinstate the North Lanarkshire councillors who resigned or were forced out and has vowed to campaign for the disgraced Patrick Grady if he stands at the next General Election.”

Mr Linden disputes the allegations against him.

Tracy Carragher, the current leader of the SNP group on North Lanarkshire Council, last week said she didn’t accept “the revisionist view of events” from those who had quit.

She said: “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." 

On Monday, Mr Yousaf said of the situation: “Those allegations were investigated, and any subsequent allegations that have been made have been investigated. This is a difficult challenge of course in the North Lanarkshire group, but I know that they are absolutely committed to serving the people they have been elected to serve.”

An SNP spokesperson added: “Cllr McManus has raised an allegation against an individual who is no longer an SNP member, and therefore not subject to our disciplinary procedures.

“In any circumstance where an individual is alleging criminal behaviour then we would encourage them to contact the police.

“Separately, we are aware that a number of group members faced action for voting against a group decision and unfortunately have now chosen to leave the SNP instead.”