Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross is facing calls to sack a senior Tory councillor who was unmasked as the man behind a “callous and misogynistic” Twitter troll account.
Despite previously denying any involvement, Arbroath East and Lunan councillor Derek Wann has now admitted he was behind an anonymous account named after the Lady Whistledown character in the Netflix series Bridgerton.
Hiding behind the vitriolic profile, Mr Wann posted disparaging comments about the appearance of prominent female politicians, mocked Dundee’s tragic record on drug deaths and argued with members of the public who challenged him.
Using the mask of the (Lady Whistledown) AngusFreeofSNP profile, Mr Wann regularly tagged other members of Angus Council with targeted abuse, referred to first minister Nicola Sturgeon as “the Bute House golem” and in reference to an SNP activist being bitten by a dog, stated: “Dogs know a wrongun”.
The SNP has now challenged Scottish Tory leader Mr Ross to take decisive disciplinary action against the councillor, in what is described as a serious test of his leadership.
SNP MSP Rona Mackay said: “There is no place in politics for such obnoxious and sleekit behaviour. Derek Wann’s conduct is absolutely indefensible, particularly in mocking drugs deaths.
“This is a serious test of Mr Ross’s leadership – he must act without delay. There is no need for an investigation when the man at the centre of it all has already admitted his atrocious behaviour.”
Mr Wann repeatedly rubbished any suggestion he was involved with the account, including after being contacted by us just after 4pm on Thursday with fresh allegations, but issued a statement apologising for his actions just over an hour later.
He said: “I apologise sincerely for how I have handled this matter. My actions were unacceptable. I have now provided the party with the relevant facts so they can conduct an investigation.”
A Scottish Conservative spokesman confirmed on Thursday night that the party “immediately launched an investigation into this matter after new information came to light” and it is understood party bosses could yet take further action.
Mr Wann, who campaigns against online bullying and was linked to the ‘Angus, think before you type’ initiative as the council’s children and learning convener, used the account to tag other members of Angus Council and dish out abuse to local figures.
He also hid behind the cloak of anonymity to respond to members of the public who reached out to his council Twitter account in a more aggressive and insulting manner than would likely be permitted under the councillor’s code of conduct.
In one tweet following May’s Scottish Parliament election, Mr Wann appeared to poke fun at Dundee’s drug deaths crisis, writing: “SNP hold Dundee City West (62% of the vote for Joe FitzPatrick).
“He had to resign as Drugs Minister over rising deaths issue and his vote still increased 4% – does this show that there is a bigger drug issues in the city than we thought?”
He also criticised Mr Ross’ leadership of the Scottish Conservatives during May’s Scottish Parliament election campaign and questioned whether another leader would have fared better.
In one example, on May 7, in response to a question over how the party would perform under the leadership Michelle Ballantyne, he wrote: “Not sure Michelle would fair much better, in fact I cannot see any of the current stock or wannabes any use – need to look further afield for a leader.”
He also retweeted a post on May 3, stating: “I would love to know who it is that’s running the Scottish Tories’ Holyrood campaign. Absolutely woeful.”
A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “As we have already said, we are investigating this matter. That process is ongoing.
“Given that the SNP’s own internal investigations often take more than a year, if they ever conclude at all, they should get their own house in order first.
“By the standards the SNP are hypocritically claiming must be upheld, Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly failed tests of leaderships over and over again, particularly when she failed to do anything whatsoever about the SNP membership of the disgraced ex-finance minister Derek Mackay.”