MSP forced to deny vote rigging claims

Richard Lyle MSP

Richard Lyle MSP

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An MSP is facing claims that he rigged a vote during the SNP meeting that he was forced to abandon amid rowdy scenes.

The political storm erupted just days after Richard Lyle was confirmed as the party’s candidate to stand in Bellshill and Uddingston at next year’s Scottish Parliament election.

This week Central Scotland list MSP Mr Lyle strongly denied any wrongdoing and his supporters claim he is being harangued by disruptive hard left members.

Branch in-fighting shows no sign of abating with complaints about both sides now being sent to party headquarters in Edinburgh.

Last week the Times & Speaker revealed that the monthly meeting of the Uddingston and Bellshill SNP branch at Bellshill Academy was abandoned after tempers flared.

The anti-Lyle camp claims the trouble started after a vote on a £750 grant to the pro-independence Hope over Fear group. He insists the meeting was halted after abusive comments left one member in tears.

The minute of the meeting shows that the vote - on a show of hands counted by Mr Lyle - ended 29-29. Mr Lyle used his casting vote as convener to reject the grant application.

However, a recount was called for. This was carried out by newly-elected Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill MP Phil Boswell - an observer at the meeting - and he made it 42-32 in favour of the grant.

One branch member said: “That’s why the trouble kicked off. People were counting the vote while Dick Lyle was doing it - they knew it wasn’t a 29-29 split.

“After the recount it was clear to everyone what had happened the first time.

“Should Dick Lyle resign over this? I see no alternative.”

Mr Lyle refused to comment on ‘branch business’.

However, it has been suggested that the discrepancy in the figures could be down to people not voting the first time. It’s also been claimed that only 70 members were present at the meeting so Mr Boswell must have got his sums wrong by counting 74.

Mr Lyle said he has no reason to stand down as election candidate. He is to give up his post as branch convener but says that is so he can concentrate on his election campaign.

More on this story in the Times & Speaker, out tomorrow.