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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
12 October 2023
Aberdeen SNP councillor 'steps back' from party following row over 'New Scot' remark

SNP councillor Kairin van Sweeden says she has 'stepped back' from the party | Alamy

Aberdeen SNP councillor 'steps back' from party following row over 'New Scot' remark

An SNP councillor has “stepped back” from the party after calling a Labour opponent a “New Scot”.

Deena Tissera, who was born in Sri Lanka, accused the SNP’s Kairin van Sweeden of “racism” during a meeting of Aberdeen City Council this week.  

During the meeting van Sweeden said: “I realise as a New Scot, Councillor Tissera maybe doesn’t know about the mitigations that the SNP government have had to put in over the years since they have been in power. For example, the bedroom tax, maybe you are not aware of the bedroom tax, that started a long time ago.”

Independent councillor Jennifer Stewart described the comments as “inappropriate” and “discrimination” during the meeting.  

Tissera responded to van Sweeden’s comment saying that she is a British citizen and would contact the Ethical Standards Commissioner.  

The SNP councillor apologised for using “clumsy” language and has referred herself to the Standards Commission.

The SNP said: “Cllr van Sweeden has taken the decision to refer herself to the Standards Commission and requested the SNP National Secretary investigate comments she made during yesterday's council meeting, which she immediately and unreservedly apologised for.

“Whilst those processes are underway, she has stepped back from her SNP party membership.”

In a letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf and the SNP’s chief executive, Tissera called for van Sweeden to be suspended, saying that her comments “shocked me and shocked the council”.  

She said: “The innuendo of her comments were that I had just come off the boat and as a New Scot - her words not mine - I am not as Scottish as others and I did not understand Scotland like her and the SNP group, this being despite the SNP council leader being of French dissent and myself holding a United Kingdom passport. 

“As a Labour councillor we will disagree on policy, but I hope and trust we don’t disagree on calling out racism. First Minister, it is incumbent upon us to stand together against racism and as such, I call on you to act in this matter and act by suspending Councillor van Sweeden. 

“I do want to say in defence of the SNP at Aberdeen City Council, the council leader Councillor Allard did apologise for his councillor’s comment and did apologise on behalf of the SNP group.” 

Councillor van Sweeden said: "I unreservedly apologise for the clumsy language I used in the chamber and the offence it caused.

"It could not be further from the values I hold."

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