An Aberdeen councillor at the centre of an anti-Semitism storm has been accepted back into the Scottish Conservatives after a six-month suspension.
Councillor Ryan Houghton was banned by the Tories last November when seven-year-old internet forum posts re-emerged.
The George Street and Harbour member claimed he had been taking part in political discussion when he published the remarks, which included stating some parts of the Holocaust had been “fabricated and exaggerated”.
Other comments raised allegations of Islamaphobia and homophobia but the councillor claimed his words, written aged 20, had been taken out of context.
The row resulted in Conservative HQ dropping Mr Houghton as their candidate for Aberdeen North in December’s general election.
The Press And Journal can now reveal he was readmitted to the party just over a week ago after a “robust investigation”.
Opponents accused the Tories of “sneaking out” the news while all focus was on the coronavirus pandemic.
At the end of last month, a disciplinary committee recommended the party lift the suspension for the comments bosses had previously described as “unacceptable”.
Last night Mr Houghton welcomed the committee’s decision and said: “I apologised at the time and have done so in-person to anyone who has contacted me about the matter.
“The comments which led to my suspension were isolated and took place nearly a decade ago.
“They in no way reflect my political or professional record and I find prejudice of any kind abhorrent.
“I will continue to work and represent my constituents to the best of my ability.”
A Tory spokesman said the committee, headed by Faculty Of Advocate’s Gavin MacColl QC, took into account Mr Houghton’s “unreserved acceptance what he had done when much younger was wrong”, noting he understood the “consequence of his actions”.
He revealed letters were submitted in support of the councillor from “local groups”.
Throughout his six-month exile, Mr Houghton remained the Conservative-Aberdeen Labour-independent administration’s business manager, to the dismay of political opponents.
Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill wanted him to lose his £30,000-a-year council job – and said last night that his thoughts had not changed.
“Thankfully the Tories internal processes are none of my business but I believe what he has admitted saying was totally inappropriate,” the Airyhall, Broomhill and Garthdee member added.
“The Liberal Democrats do not believe he should be managing the business of Aberdeen City Council.”
Meanwhile SNP councillor Michael Hutchison, who shares Mr Houghton’s George Street and Harbour ward, said: “All political parties have a duty to stand up to antisemitism, Islamophobia and homophobia and be open about how they deal with these.
“That the Tories have tried to sneak this decision out under the cover of a global pandemic is a slap in the face of the communities who were hurt by Mr Houghton’s comments.
“The party themselves acknowledged that these comments were “unacceptable” and they should be explaining why they no longer feel that is the case or how they feel Mr Houghton has made amends.
“How can he show to his constituents, many of whom belong to the Jewish, Muslim and LGBT+ communities he offended, that he has learned why his comments wrong and why they were so hurtful?”
But Conservative group leader Douglas Lumsden insisted the time taken to readmit Mr Houghton showed “nothing has been brushed under the carpet”.
The council co-leader said: The time taken for all this shows we have a robust investigation process that has been followed properly.”