A Stirling Councillor has resigned from the Scottish National Party (SNP) over claims of party in-fighting, sexism and bullying.
Cllr Maureen Bennison, who represents Bannockburn on the council, resigned from the SNP on Monday night.
In a letter to council leader Scott Farmer, Bennison said:
“This has been an extremely difficult decision, but it is the only principled course of action left to me in regrettable circumstances.
“Since being elected in May 2017, I have championed women’s rights and, through the public safety committee I chair, a huge amount of work has been done to advance better outcomes for women facing a range of difficult issues, from poverty to domestic abuse.
“However, during this same time period, women have been attacked by elements within my own party due to concerns made over the Scottish Government’s proposed changes to gender recognition and the danger these may erode hard-won women’s rights.
“Reasonable debate has proved impossible, and instead, toxic abuse and threats have been heaped out on any woman prepared to speak out on the issue.”
Bennison went on to attack Stirling’s MP Alyn Smith, saying that the situation worsened when he was chosen as Stirling’s candidate in the 2019 General Election. Bennison claimed that Smith “consistently refused to condemn vile abuse spouted on social media.”
Bennison has previously claimed that her partner, former Stirling MP Steven Paterson, who lost to the Conservative’s Stephen Kerr in 2017, was blocked from being chosen democratically as the party’s candidate for Stirling in 2019. These claims are strongly refuted by Stirling SNP.
Bennison believed that the same would happen to her and that she would be deselected at the 2022 council elections.
She went on to say that she had raised her concerns with the SNP council group and that although several of her colleagues have been supportive she has felt bullied by others and said she was told to “sit down and shut up.”
Despite resigning from the party Bennison will remain a Stirling Councillor, but her colleagues in the SNP have called for her to resign from the council.
Bennison said: It is depressing that toxic gender politics seems to be the prime issue vexing some in prominent positions in our local party.
“I will continue to vote and work in the best interests of my constituents. I sincerely hope that certain people in the party reflect on their behaviour, the damage it is doing to the SNP and to the cause of Scottish Independence – a cause to which I remain totally and absolutely committed.”
Stirling SNP have refuted Bennison’s claims and have called on her to resign her position as a councillor, criticising her recent behaviour as “bitter.”
“Maureen Bennison has sadly not conducted herself as an SNP representative for some time now, and her behaviour in recent months has been bitter to say the least. This is a sad end to her time as an SNP member, casting untrue assertions about Stirling SNP members and the party generally.
“In 2017, Bannockburn and the Eastern Villages elected two SNP Councillors. With Maureen Bennison today resigning from the SNP, she should now also step down from Stirling Council and trigger a by-election in the ward, so that the good people of the area can elect an SNP Councillor who will play a full and constructive part in the Council Administration delivering for local people.”
An unnamed SNP insider spoke about Bennison’s resignation and her recent conduct within the party.
“Since Steven Paterson [Bennison’s partner] wasn’t selected as the candidate, she [Bennison] distanced herself from the party.
“Branch members were not happy that she didn’t campaign during both the 2019 European Elections and the recent General Election.
“What she said about the local SNP is not true.
“The SNP is not a family business, this is playground politics which have made their way into the real world.
“Her contributions over the past few years have been obstructive and disruptive and she should resign from the council.”
Bennison was elected as a councillor for Bannockburn in 2017 and she chaired the Public Safety Committee of Stirling Council.
Featured Image: Brig/Harry Williamson