The Scottish National Party is re-opening selections for the marginal constituency of Renfrewshire South after its candidate was suspended following allegedly homophobic comments about a government minister.
Councillor Andy Doig, who currently serves on Renfrewshire Council as the representative for Johnstone North, Kilbarchan and Lochwinnoch, aimed to overturn Labour’s majority of 2,587 in next year’s Holyrood elections.
However, Doig has resigned little more than a week after being selected as the candidate, following a “humourous” e-mail he circulated in which he made sexual references to an SNP activist – as well as making homophobic comments towards transport minister Derek Mackay, who is also the MSP for the neighbouring constituency of Renfrewshire North and West.
The precise nature of the comments has not been made public – although it has been described by some as “very misogynistic” and “nasty” – but the party has been quick to act in suspending Mr Doig from the party and re-opening the selection process.
Doig, who is 53, has been an SNP member for 36 years and is a former deputy leader of the SNP group on Renfrewshire Council as well as a former Assistant National Secretary for the party. He has defended himself, arguing that his e-mail was satire and a “spoof press release” which should be understood as nothing more than a private joke between friends.
He also denies the allegedly homophobic comments relate to Mr Mackay.
He claimed to have received several messages of support and has vowed to clear his name.
Doig said: “Humour is a very personal thing and I accept that what one person finds humorous another may find offensive.
“This was a private spoof press statement, not intended for public consumption.
“I recently welcomed on Twitter the vote in Ireland for same sex marriage and one of the main political campaigns I was involved in in the later 1980s was to stop the closure of the Women’s Aid refuge in Falkirk.
“So I refute charges of misogyny and homophobia.”
It is understood that the offending e-mail is not the only concern surrounding Mr Doig, who is also accused of improperly using insider information to canvas support for party members many weeks ahead of the initial selection contest.
He has previously been censured by the Standards Commission for breaching the councillors’ code of conduct for comments made about a colleague.
An SNP spokesperson said: “Andrew Doig has been suspended from the SNP and the Renfrewshire Council group pending a full investigation.
“Any sexist or homophobic comments are entirely unacceptable and have no place in the party.”
The party has confirmed that nominations to select a candidate opened on Friday and will close on 2nd October.