The First Minister has rushed to apologise to an Aberdeen councillor who faced an “unacceptable” jibe from one of his SNP members.
Speaking to the P&J, Humza Yousaf slammed the remarks of councillor Kairin van Sweeden – who has since “stepped back” from her party membership during a conduct investigation.
During debate about spending public cash on winter coats for poor children, Ms van Sweeden derided Sri Lankan born councillor Deena Tissera as a “new Scot”.
She suggested the Labour member might not know about British political history.
Now, after SNP leader Mr Yousaf said her comments were “unacceptable – no ifs, buts or maybes about it”, she has handed in her party membership card.
The Tillydrone, Seaton and Old Aberdeen councillor, who apologised for her “clumsy” language, has also tasked the public standards watchdog and party chiefs with looking into her comments.
But Ms Tissera is now calling for her to go further – and quit as a councillor altogether.
First Minister Humza Yousaf intervenes in Aberdeen racism row
The Press and Journal had a prearranged interview with the first minister on Thursday, ahead of his party conference in the Granite City this weekend.
Mr Yousaf, who earlier this year was a victim of racial abuse on the street, told us Ms van Sweeden was “right to apologise”.
He said: “I have to say as somebody who has been on the receiving end of unacceptable comments, that kind of language is just not acceptable.
“In fact, I want to apologise to Councilor Tissera on behalf of the party because that should not have happened.
“She should not have been subjected to that language.”
Mr Yousaf refused to speak about the disciplinary process the first-term SNP councillor would now face.
“I am not going to comment but that is just not acceptable language to use in this day and age,” he added.
‘Incredible’ that FM did not suspend van Sweeden
Despite the firm tone and genuine anger from the first minister, Ms Tissera hit out at his lack of action.
The Hilton, Woodside and Stockethill councillor wrote to Mr Yousaf urging him to suspend the Tillydrone councillor from his party.
“I thank the first minister for his words,” Ms Tissera began. “But words are not actions.”
She added: “It is clear that councillor van Sweden has taken the decision to step back.
“But what is less clear is if she did this of her own accord or whether she was pushed.
“Her behaviour and language makes her unfit to be a councillor and she should resign and allow the public Tillydrone, Seaton and Old Aberdeen the opportunity to decide for themselves if this is something they support.”
LISTEN: First Minister Humza Yousaf intervenes in Aberdeen City Council racism row, speaking before Ms van Sweeden’s exile.
Ms van Sweeden’s self-exile was confirmed by an SNP spokeswoman, a full 24 hours after the row erupted.
A party statement read: “Councillor van Sweeden has taken the decision to refer herself to the Standards Commission.
“And she has 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.”
Was the apology from councillor in the Aberdeen City Council racism row ‘immediate’?
However, Ms van Sweeden’s apology was less immediate than it might have been, amid angry scenes at the Town House.
Her speech was only brought to a halt at the protest of opposition councillors, who took 10 minutes to calm down.
Ms Tissera branded the remarks made an “absolutely racist” attack.
And she rejected Ms van Sweeden’s apology in the chamber and repeated in a statement on Wednesday evening, writing it off as “empty”.
“The innuendo was that I had just come off the boat,” the British citizen told us.
Read more here: