SNP election joy turns sour in Bellshill

Richard Lyle MSP
Richard Lyle MSP

Like SNP branches all over the country, Uddingston and Bellshill was on the crest of a wave just a few short weeks ago.

Membership had increased sharply since September’s independence referendum and members were celebrating general election success in all four of the constituencies in the area.

However, angry scenes at last month’s branch meeting have resulted in a serious fallout between two leading figures with one of them, Councillor David Baird, being reported to SNP headquarters in Edinburgh.

And tensions are likely to run high when members gather tomorrow night (Thursday) to discuss their candidate for next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

The favourite for the nomination is current list MSP Richard Lyle, the branch convener, but there is speculation that he could face a challenge from Councillor Baird who represents Mossend and Holytown on North Lanarkshire Council and with whom he clashed.

The branch has referred Councillor Baird to party HQ over allegations concerning his handling of money during the general election campaign. It’s understood he was given the task of buying banners for the local campaign and party memorabilia to be sold on to members.

Mr Lyle refused to comment on his clash with Councillor Baird at the branch meeting, but said: “Matters raised at the branch have been referred to headquarters.”

Councillor Baird said he had done nothing wrong and promised to ‘fight strongly’ any allegations. Asked about events at the meeting, he replied: “It’s an internal party matter and I would prefer it stays like that.”

One party member who witnessed the row said: “It was a set up to make the councillor look bad.”

Nominations for the Scottish Parliament candidacy opened this week, but Councillor Baird said he isn’t planning to put his name forward, saying he has enough to do as a councillor.

He and his wife, Linda, have been prominent members of the SNP’s Uddingston and Bellshill branch in recent years. Mrs Baird served as branch secretary before standing down earlier this year.

She helped process hundreds of new members after the referendum in September. The branch has seen membership increase tenfold since 2011 - from just 107 to 1,088 - and there is confidence that the party can take the Uddingston and Bellshill seat from Labour’s Michael McMahon next year.

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