I have tried to raise the issue of irregularities in the Westminster selection process with the SNP at every level. Not only do they refuse to act, but they refuse to even acknowledge concerns. My complaints have led to the circumstances detailed below, and as no one within the SNP will even acknowledge letters I feel I have no option but to issue a public open letter to the leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon. A copy of this has been emailed directly to her and various other members of the SNP executive.
I voted in my first election in 1988, I voted SNP in that election and have voted SNP in every election until 2015. Based on what I have seen over the last 11 months or so I seriously doubt that I ever will again.
In September 2014 following the Yes campaign, in which I played an active part, like many others I joined the SNP. I began attending branch meetings in Airdrie. Late in 2014 it was announced that the selection process would be opening to select candidates for the Westminster elections. I had heard that Neil Gray, the assistant to Alex Neil was to be nominated which I thought to be a poor choice, considering that for the previous four years I had heavily criticised the Labour Party for choosing Pamela Nash, the former assistant to John Reid, as their candidate. The referendum had thrown up many fantastically motivated individuals, and I hoped to support fresh talent with real life experience, not someone who came from within the political bubble.
Initially there were four potential candidates and these were soon whittled down to two. One candidate, Craig Murray, failed vetting in a manner which I’m sure you are aware of, given its media coverage. My friend Steve Bell’s application on the other hand was refused due to two names on his nomination form who apparently had failed to renew their membership. Despite me personally submitting his nomination form to the branch secretary eleven days prior to the closing date, he wasn’t informed of the error (which was clearly not his fault) until a few weeks later, on the actual night of the first hustings. This was the first in a series of shameful acts carried out by the party.
Two candidates remained: Neil Gray and Tommy Montgomery. As I had nominated Tommy Montgomery and was part of his team of supporters I paid close scrutiny to the electoral rules, as having seen another two candidates scrapped we did not want to give any cause for complaint. I noticed that there had been breaches of these rules in regards to electoral material issued on behalf on Neil Gray which in my opinion warranted severe action, and I raised this at the first hustings. Neil Gray dismissed this as “tittle-tattle”.
Within days of that event, Tommy Montgomery had been called to SNP HQ in Edinburgh to answer a string of false and malicious allegations.
These complaints had been made maliciously and the identity of the people who sent them to headquarters were confirmed by SNP’s solicitor to then SNP Councillor Alan Beveridge as being members of the Airdrie branch. Independent investigations by North Lanarkshire Council and Police Scotland cleared Tommy of all of the trumped up charges put against him. Following this I had a one to one meeting at SNP HQ with Scott Martin, to whom I relayed all my concerns. This meeting occurred only after repeated phone-calls which went unanswered and emails which were never replied to. I had to resort to going to SNP HQ in Edinburgh and waiting until someone would see me. Despite pointing out that making malicious allegations against another member breached the SNP code of conduct, no disciplinary action was taken against any individual.
Around two weeks after the first hustings, at 0230hrs on 22nd January 2015 my wife and I were woken by banging on our door. I went downstairs to find my car ablaze and had to evacuate the family from the house due to the closeness of the car to the house. Police and Fire crew attended. My car, only a few months old, was completely written off. Had it been a only a few feet closer to our house it is probable that our house would have been destroyed with it, with us asleep inside.
In February 2015 I attended a branch meeting of the Airdrie SNP at Airdrie Football ground which could only be described as a ‘kangaroo court’ where it was made clear to Councillor Alan Beveridge that he would be found guilty of all the ills which the branch found itself facing and that any members who challenged the existing branch regime were ‘a party within a party’ who would be facing expulsion from the SNP. I left the SNP immediately after that meeting, sickened by what had gone on. Subsequently letters were sent to virtually everyone who had supported and campaigned for Tommy Montgomery barring them from future membership, apart from myself which I found unusual.
In June I sent a letter which was critical of the SNP to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser and it was published in the paper on Wednesday. On the Friday of that week my wife and daughter noticed someone dressed in black hanging around outside and peering in the windows. When they were noticed they ran off, and this was reported to the police. Two nights later while getting ready for bed there was a knock at the door, and my 11 year old daughter said that there were two guys with hoods up and that she was frightened. We shouted down asking who was there and one of the guys opened the door and shouted “Is that James? Is that James?” I told him that I thought that he had the wrong house and he said “Take this as a warning, stop slandering XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. They then ran off. I got dressed and ran out to give chase but they had gone, we called the police and gave them all the details. In the following few days I received nuisance calls, all from withheld numbers, asking the same thing as the man who had entered our house: “Is that James? Is that James?” before hanging up.
A few days later Councillor Beveridge arranged a meeting with someone from Police Scotland. I detailed my concerns and stated that it was our belief that these attacks were in relation to comments made about the SNP locally. He suggested that if I stopped writing about such matters and the attacks stopped this would perhaps indicate that our suspicions were correct. Following this the calls stopped and there were no further attacks on myself, my family or my house.
On 19th August 2015 my step daughter Maxine and my wife had a discussion with an SNP Councillor where they spoke of their concerns about the attacks on our car and the threats made against us. A few days later the Police visited our home to speak to my step-daughter in regard to an allegation of using threatening behaviour to the SNP councillor. After speaking to my wife and step-daughter the police stated that there was no evidence of any such behaviour. I am disgusted that the already overstretched resources of the police are now being used against us, and yet no action can be taken regarding these false claims.
On 24th August, I submitted a request to the SNP Data Protection Officer to carry out an investigation into how my address was passed to the Police. This was personally delivered to SNP HQ in Edinburgh, along with a copy addressed to you, and these were signed for by Beverley Murray. As of this date I have received no acknowledgement. Par for the course as I have come to learn.
I believe that no organisation is perfect, and every organisation has its share of bad apples. I also believe that an acknowledgement of what has been done wrong must be carried out if you are to correct an error and find the right path. But in North Lanarkshire SNP this is simply impossible. Open discussion is labelled as dissent, subversion or infiltration by supporters of Tommy Sheridan. People are threatened with secret files and photographs, and legitimate complaints are ignored at every level. I know this, as I have copied every possible senior SNP member into my emails and seen no action taken.
On a personal level every time I have publicly criticised the goings on within the SNP in North Lanarkshire my property has been attacked or I have been threatened, and these past months to stop any further attacks I have remained silent, but I cannot remain silent any longer. My family and I have been living in fear for the last 9 months and it is our opinion that there are individuals within the SNP who are misguided in their attempts to silence opposition. I do not know who these individuals are. I doubt you know either, but I am asking that you please issue a statement condemning any such action and asking these misguided people that we be left in peace without the constant fear of attack hanging over us.