A senior Tory councillor unmasked by The Courier as the man behind an anonymous anti-SNP troll account is unfit to represent the people of Angus, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has said.
Speaking during a visit to Monifieth this weekend, Mr Cole-Hamilton insisted local people “deserve better” than current Arbroath East and Lunan Conservative councillor Derek Wann.
He also effectively ruled out any prospect of Lib Dem candidates voted in at May’s council elections entering a coalition that involves Mr Wann.
The now-scrubbed profile, which was fashioned after the nom de plume of an anonymous newsletter columnist on the popular Netflix series Bridgerton, was used to dish out abuse described by opposition councillors as “misogynistic and transphobic”.
Troll councillor faced little punishment
Mr 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.
The Scottish Conservatives say they are “monitoring this situation closely”.
Angus Council was further rocked after we revealed a second senior Tory councillor, Braden Davy, may have broken electoral rules by secretly coaching the public to vote for him from a separate anonymous anti-SNP troll account on Facebook.
In an exclusive interview with The Courier, Mr Cole-Hamilton insisted it is time for a “bit of a clear out” at the local authority.
Asked whether he believes Mr Wann is a fit and proper person to stand for election and represent people in Angus, the Lib Dem leader said: “I don’t think he is, no.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton said he believes Mr Wann should not be “allowed” to hold public office, adding that it “says a lot about the Conservatives that their threshold allows him back in with a rap on the knuckles and some social media lessons”.
“There is too much hate in our politics full stop but when you are using language that is transphobic, prejudiced or bigoted in any way, then you have no place in public life,” he said.
Lib Dem leader would take a ‘very dim view’ of working with Derek Wann
The Liberal Democrats have previously worked with Conservative and independent councillors to form an administration on Angus Council but Mr Cole-Hamilton appeared to rule out any prospect of them joining up with Mr Wann again.
He said: “The Lib Dems have a wonderful tradition of the leadership not telling local groups what to do, so ultimately decisions would be up to local council groups around the country as to whether they form a coalition or not.
“That said, I would take a very dim view if we were sharing administration with councillors of that nature and that calibre.
“I trust (Lib Dem candidate) Ben Lawrie and councillors who might be elected alongside him to do the right thing for the communities they represent.
“I don’t think that putting somebody in a position of power, who has been shown to have those views and act in that way, is in the best interests of the people of Angus.”
Tories monitoring things closely
Among the posts shared by Mr Wann were disparaging comments about the appearances of prominent female politicians, criticism of fellow councillors and remarks mocking Dundee’s record on drug deaths.
The Conservative councillor had previously campaigned against online bullying and was linked to the ‘Angus, think before you type’ initiative.
A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “Mr Wann apologised and is required to take part in ongoing social media training.
“The party is monitoring this situation closely going forward.
“Voters in Angus know that only the Scottish Conservatives can beat the SNP locally.”
Derek Wann was approached for comment.