Anas Sarwar has condemned Labour’s complaints handling process as being “deeply flawed” as he revealed he was barred from giving evidence at a hearing into allegations he suffered racist abuse.
The Glasgow MSP said he was given just four days’ notice that the party’s National Constitutional Committee (NCC) was going to meet to consider his complaint.
When he turned up he said he was prevented from speaking about his experiences because he had not given two weeks’ notice that he planned to appear as a witness.
Mr Sarwar said he was left “feeling deeply hurt and demoralised” by the party’s internal complaints process – which he said was “deeply flawed and not fit for purpose”.
He said: “If even I, as a former deputy leader, interim leader, leadership candidate and shadow Cabinet member, don’t believe I can get a fair hearing or adequate support from an institution like the Labour Party, then I am left wondering what chance those experiencing discrimination in other walks of life have.”
Mr Sarwar now wants the Scottish Labour Party to be given power to deal with complaints raised north of the border.
He said: “It is ludicrous that complaints made in Scotland aren’t dealt with in Scotland.
“The Scottish Labour Party should be demanding that disciplinary matters are fully devolved to ensure that cases are dealt with efficiently, quickly and fairly here in Scotland.”
He complained about remarks he claims were made to him in 2017 during his unsuccessful bid to be elected as the party’s Scottish leader.
Councillor Davie McLachlan allegedly told the Glasgow MSP he could not support him because “Scotland wouldn’t vote for a brown Muslim Paki”.
The case against Mr McLachlan was dismissed by the NCC, with the councillor saying his “reputation and character have been badly maligned by the false accusations” .
But Mr Sarwar spoke out against the process, saying “after 15 months of little of no communication” about his complaint he was only notified about the NCC meeting on Thursday – four days before it took place.
He added: “When I arrived at the hearing I was informed by an NCC representative that I could not give evidence as I had not given the committee two weeks’ notice of my intention to appear as a witness.
“I was asked to leave and was unable to provide any evidence. The UK Labour NCC panel subsequently ruled that there was no case to answer without any verbal evidence being taken.”
Mr Sarwar continued: “Given what I read in the paperwork that was produced for the NCC hearing and my experiences since raising this case and the circumstances of the NCC hearing day itself, I am left with the sad impression that Islamophobia is one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice.”
He insisted: “It is important that disciplinary processes are fair and transparent.
“But it’s now clear that the Labour Party’s disciplinary process is deeply flawed and not fit for purpose.
“It is not fair on either the complainant or the accused for the process to last 15 months.
“It is not transparent if witnesses are not adequately informed and then barred from providing evidence.
“The UK Labour Party needs to provide a full explanation on its handling of this case but more importantly it needs to understand the message that this sends about the party’s commitment to tackling Islamophobia and all forms of prejudice. ”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “The complaints Anas Sarwar has made about how this case has been handled deserve to be treated seriously and he is entitled to a full explanation.”
He added: “I have said for some time now that we need to ensure these kind of cases are dealt with more efficiently and more quickly, while maintaining a fair, transparent and rigorous system.
“We have doubled the size of the National Constitutional Committee, the independent body which hears these cases, but clearly more still needs to be done.”
Mr Leonard also stressed: “Anas has my full support for his campaign to root out racism and Islamophobia in our society.”
A Labour Party spokesman said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously, which are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.
“We are committed to campaigning against racism in all its forms, including Islamophobia, and we will continue to press the Conservative Party to join us in adopting the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s definition of Islamophobia.”