Scotland politics

SNP suspends blogger in anti-Semitism row

Grouse Beater blog post
Image caption Much of the blog post was a personal attack on GMB official Rhea Wolfson

The SNP has suspended a pro-independence blogger after he was accused of writing an anti-Semitic post about a Jewish union official.

The post on the Grouse Beater blog attacked GMB official Rhea Wolfson over her role in the Glasgow City Council equal pay dispute.

It refers to Hitler "accusing 'the Jew' of gradually assuming leadership of the trade union movement".

Gareth Wardell, who runs the blog, denies the post is anti-Semitic.

He said the essay was an attack on fascism and that political opponents had "tried to make it sound sinister".

But the SNP confirmed on Tuesday that his membership has been suspended after a complaint was passed to its disciplinary committee.

Image caption Ms Wolfson has spoken in the past about being the target of anti-Semitic abuse online

The party had earlier said it was "resolute in our unqualified condemnation of anti-Semitism in all its forms".

It added: "The blog should not have been shared by any SNP member and Rhea Wolfson deserves a full apology from the author for the clear offence that has been caused."

The post, which was headlined "GMB - a Cockney Clique", was promoted by the SNP Edinburgh East Twitter page, Livingston East Facebook page and the campaign page of two West Lothian councillors.

It criticises the GMB union for organising last week's two-day strike by council workers in Glasgow amid a "lack of progress" on equal pay claims from thousands of female workers.

The council is currently run by the SNP, but the equal pay dispute dates back to the previous Labour administration - which had challenged the women's pay claims in court.

This has led to claims from some SNP supporters that the strike was engineered by the Labour-backing GMB to attack the nationalists.

The Grouse Beater blog post argued that it was "no surprise to learn the GMB was born in East London", and accuses it of being "another wing of the campaign to Bring Back the Great British Empire".

Image caption Schools across Glasgow were closed by last week's strike over the equal pay dispute

Much of the blog is devoted to personal attacks on Ms Wolfson, the union's Scottish organiser and a former Scottish Labour election candidate - including a claim that she had ignored "her GMB male colleagues" in calling the strike.

In a section headed "Hitler's view", the blog said the Nazi leader had claimed Jews were gradually assuming leadership of the trade union movement.

"Whether or not Wolfson is intellectually aware of Hitler's outlook is unknown, but she certainly knows how to make the most of it".

The blog also said: "The people of Glasgow voted for independence without caveat. They did not invite fifth column English unionists to come to their city to divert that just ambition."

When the post started circulating online, Ms Wolfson tweeted that she had "honestly never expected to see such outright support for such obviously anti-Semitic views".

Scottish Labour and the GMB both wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling for an investigation.

In a statement Mr Wardell said: "The only sinister aspect to my essay is the way political opponents tried to make it sound sinister. They use the fascist language it warns about, anti-intellectual, portraying everything in terms of 'them and us'.

"Ms Wolfson has been grievously misled. When advised what they were up to I strengthened the praise of her anti-Semitic stance in relation to Labour's troubles.

"In this case it's quite a stretch for me to be anti-Semitic brought up in Jewish family."

'Contacting Police Scotland'

GMB Scotland's secretary, Gary Smith, said the SNP's suspension of the blogger was "the only logical course of action to take".

He added: "GMB will also be contacting Police Scotland to establish what further action can be taken".

The SNP's Livingston East branch apologised on Twitter for sharing the post.

One of the councillors who shared it - Frank Anderson, a representative of East Livingston and East Calder - said he was now able to "properly understand the offence caused to Rhea Wolfson by this blog".

He added: "I was unaware of her Jewish heritage and therefore did not appreciate how hurtful the words would be.

"I unreservedly apologise to her for my embarrassing lack of understanding of these issues and my part in the offence that she has suffered."