SNP candidate axe in Kirkcaldy is ‘game changing’ moment

Neale Hanvey has been removed b y the SNP, but remains a candidate
Neale Hanvey has been removed b y the SNP, but remains a candidate

The axing of SNP candidate Neale Hanvey could be a game-changing moment in the vote for the next MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

Mr Hanvey was leading the party’s bid to capture a key marginal seat from Labour - and some polls had him on course to defeat Labour’s Lesley Laird in the December 12 poll.

His name will still appear on the ballot papers next to the SNP name and logo - they have already been printed, and some postal votes have been returned.

But the party has severed all support, and suspended him pending a disciplinary invesgtigation over two-year old anti-Semitic posts on Facebook.

And because the deadline for nominations has passed, they cannot field another candidate.

Mr Hanvey has confirmed on social media he is still a candidate, but he will now go ahead without party backing.

If elected, he would sit as an independent MP.

The row erupted on Thursday night when he was suspended from the party and dropped over two social media posts from 2017.

He issued an unequivocal apology for his “dreadful errors of judgement” – and said he let down his party and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon with his “careless and casual” use of language.

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But his removal from the SNP ticket has left party supporters without a candidate to spearhead their campaign.

It is understood party members have been emailed and urged to switch their time and efforts to the crucial North-East Fife constituency where Stephen Gethins is defending a wafer-thin majority of two in a head to head fight with the Lib Dems.

But that leaves the issue of what to do in Kirkcaldy where there was a real push to reclaim the seat first won for the party by Roger Mullin in 2015.

On social media, many supporters debated how best to throw their weight behind the Green Party candidate, Scott Rutherford who could now be the main challenger to Labour.

His party – the only pro-independence party standing in the constituency – was quick to court the substantial nationalist vote.

Mr Rutherford accepted the upheaval was a game changing moment for Greens, contesting the seat in a General Election for the first time.

Mark Ruskell, Green MSP, also added to the pressure by calling on Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath’s SNP MSP, David Torrance and Annabelle Ewing, to publicly back his party’s candidate.

He urged them to “do the right thing by publicly backing Mr Rutherford” adding: “It would send the right message about the values of the independence movement.”

Perhaps the biggest winners from the upheaval are Labour who were defending a vulnerable majority of just 259.

Lesley Laird, who has been MP since 2017, was neck and neck with Mr Hanvey, and his departure under an SNP banner, may give the party some breathing space going into the final two weeks of campaigning.