A Stirling councillor ousted as chair of a prominent council committee has lambasted former SNP colleagues during a virtual public meeting.
Bannockburn ward councillor Maureen Bennison resigned from the SNP last month claiming there had been bullying, sexism and party in-fighting and that “toxic abuse and threats” had been dished out by elements within the party on women speaking out over the Scottish Government’s proposed changes to gender recognition.
She had further alleged the situation had “come to the fore” since the installation of current Stirling MP Alyn Smith as the party’s Westminster candidate.
A statement issued by Stirling SNP later accused her of being “bitter” and of casting “untrue assertions” and called for her to stand down to allow a by-election to be held.
At a special full council meeting on Thursday the SNP/Labour administration voted for SNP members to replace her on the council’s public safety committee and a number of other council bodies.
Councillor Bennison, the partner of former Stirling MP Steven Paterson, told the meeting, however: “Regardless of your thoughts on gender recognition reform, abusing women online is a form of gender-based violence and should never be tolerated, particularly by a political party.
“I was extremely disappointed in the press release and a follow- up email from the MP for Stirling to all SNP party members which made derogatory comments about my work as public safety convener and my wider role within the administration. Under no circumstances were my work or commitment to our administration ever questioned. These retrospective allegations only reinforce my reasons for resigning from the party in the first place.
“I have felt under increasing pressure to work with our MP but I cannot work with a man who in my opinion is a misogynist and I refuse to be pushed around or pressured by either him or his staff.”
In statement issued afterwards, MP Alyn Smith swiped back: “Clearing out dead wood is a sensitive process. This bitter, hurtful and absurd allegation is entirely untrue.”
Councillor Bennison also went on to berate SNP councillor Evelyn Tweed, who will replace her as public safety committee convener, during the meeting, suggesting Cllr Tweed had made disparaging remarks about her work.
She questioned the “sudden desire” of Councillor Tweed, who is vying to run for the SNP at the new Scottish Parliament elections, to chair the “well functioning” committee, further describing Cllr Tweed’s performance as housing portfolio holder as “woeful to say the least”.
SNP councillor Alasdair MacPherson said that “as someone who stood on a joint ticket with Councillor Bennison” in the Bannockburn ward he was disappointed by some of her comments and that neither the provost nor the head of legal services had successfully intervened.
“There is no bigger fan of the work Councillor Bennison has done than me and it’s deeply regretful. Politics and washing your dirty laundry in public fair enough but if I had been defamed like this I assure you I’d be seeking legal action.”
Councillor Tweed meanwhile, said: “What I actually said in public about Maureen was she had worked very hard as a councillor and we were sorry to see her go and that she had stuck up for people and her views very strongly, so I’m very sorry Maureen feels the way she does.”
Following the meeting, Councillor Bennison resigned from the public safety committee saying while it had been a privilege to act as convener for three and a half years, she felt it best to step back following the vote. She thanked representatives of the emergency services, council officers and fellow councillors for their hard work.
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