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Tory councillor unmasked as anti-SNP twitter troll ordered to take social media classes

Derek Wann was behind the anonymous troll account.

A senior Tory councillor who was unmasked as the man behind an anti-SNP troll account is free to run again in May’s local elections after being given a “slap on the wrist” by party bosses.

Derek Wann has been ordered to attend “ongoing social media training” but will otherwise face no sanctions from the Scottish Conservatives.

It means the scandal-hit politician, who quit his role as the council’s children and learning convener after being outed for his online behaviour, is free to stand again as an Angus councillor and possibly take up a role on the ruling administration.

Asked whether he would be fighting to retain his seat in the Arbroath East and Lunan ward in May, he said only that the selection process “can be pretty lengthy and I’ll come back to you with confirmation as soon as I’m able”.

‘Misogynistic and transphobic’

We revealed earlier this year how Mr Wann was running a twitter troll account fashioned after the Lady Whistledown character on the popular Netflix series Bridgerton, despite repeatedly denying any involvement.

The (Lady Whistledown) AngusFreeofSNP profile – which shared the nom de plume of an anonymous newsletter columnist on the hit show – had been used to dish out targeted abuse at local politicians and content described by opposition councillors as “misogynistic and transphobic”.

Among the posts were disparaging comments about the appearances of prominent female politicians, remarks mocking Dundee’s record on drug deaths and arguments with members of the public who challenged Mr Wann on his public account.

The Conservative councillor had previously campaigned against online bullying and was linked to the ‘Angus, think before you type’ initiative.

Monitoring the situation closely

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives confirmed it is “monitoring the situation closely” but other than the bizarre instruction for Mr Wann to attend social media classes, no further punishment will be issued.

The spokesman said: “Councillor Wann was told his behaviour was unacceptable.

“He apologised and will be required to take part in ongoing social media training. The party will monitor this situation closely going forward.”

SNP MSP Joe Fitzpatrick called on Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross to “seriously reconsider” the party’s decision and immediately sack Mr Wann.

“This is a serious failure of leadership from Douglas Ross – by allowing Derek Wann to not only stay in his party, but permitting him to stand for elected office again, he is effectively turning a blind eye to his misconduct,” Mr FitzPatrick said.

“On one level that is no surprise, given that the Scottish Tory party is now too often characterised by intemperate, vitriolic and bile-filled politics.

Derek Wann targets Angus councillors Lois Speed and Ben Lawrie using the Lady Whistledown troll account.

“Derek Wann said some abhorrent things on his Twitter troll account, comments that were miles away from what is befitting of an elected representative. The Tories should have come down hard on him, but instead he gets away with a slap on the wrist.”

Mr FitzPatrick added that if Douglas Ross does not “throw Derek Wann out of the Tory Party” he will be “sending a message that this type of behaviour is completely acceptable”.

Mr Wann did not respond to a request for comment on Mr FitzPatrick’s remarks.

A council administration in turmoil

We reported previously how posts on the Lady Whistledown profile were frequently aimed at the SNP, with first minister Nicola Sturgeon referred to in one tweet as “the Bute House golem”.

Others questioned the leadership of Douglas Ross and the Scottish Conservatives’ Scottish Parliament election campaign.

The unmasking of Mr Wann as the man behind the account left the administration on Angus Council on the verge of collapse, with both the ruling group and Mr Ross facing pressure to sack him.

With the council already in turmoil, we revealed a second Conservative councillor, Braden Davy, was running another anti-SNP troll account.

Mr Davy stepped down from the ruling administration in July.

He has subsequently been investigated by police for using the account to coach unsuspecting members of the public to “tactically vote” for him and other Conservatives in May’s Scottish Parliament election.

Police Scotland said it is still considering the activity on that account.