Councillor pauses SNP membership over 'unacceptable' remark

Kairin van Sweeden apologised for labelling Labour colleague Deena Tissera a 'new Scot' at a meeting of Aberdeen City Council on Wednesday.

Aberdeen SNP councillor suspends membership after apologising to Labour colleague over ‘unacceptable’ remark Aberdeen City Council

An SNP councillor has resigned her membership of the party after making “unacceptable” remarks at a meeting.

Kairin van Sweeden apologised for labelling Labour colleague Deena Tissera a “new Scot” at a meeting of Aberdeen City Council on Wednesday.

Cllr Tissera, who was born in Sri Lanka, wrote to Humza Yousaf to demand he suspend van Sweeden over the comment, urging the parties “stand together against racism”.

The First Minister later said van Sweeden was right to apologise, also saying sorry to cllr Tissera.

An SNP spokesperson said van Sweeden had now suspended her membership until an investigation into her remarks could take place.

“Cllr van Sweeden has taken the decision to refer herself to the Standards Commission and requested the SNP National Secretary investigate comments she made during yesterday’s council meeting, which she immediately and unreservedly apologised for,” they said.

“Whilst those processes are underway, she has stepped back from her SNP party membership.”

The remark came during a debate on austerity on Wednesday afternoon, with van Sweeden saying: “I realise, as a new Scot, councillor Tissera maybe doesn’t know about the mitigation that the SNP Government has had to put in over the years they have been in power.”

The SNP councillor later apologised in the chamber following objections by other councillors. She later said: “I unreservedly apologise for the clumsy language I used in the chamber and the offence it caused.

“It could not be further from the values I hold.”

But in her letter to the First Minister, Ms Tissera said she would refer the matter to the Standards Commission, adding: “The innuendo of her comments were that I had just come off the boat as a new Scot – her words not mine – I am not as Scottish as others and I did not understand Scotland like her and the SNP group, this being despite the SNP council leader being of French descent and myself holding a United Kingdom passport.

“All leaders must stand up against racism and words are easy but it is actions that are required.”

She added: “First Minister, it is incumbent on us to stand together against racism and, as such, I call on you to act in this matter and act by suspending councillor van Sweeden.”

Yousaf responded: “It was unacceptable. I saw the comment this morning. It’s unacceptable and the councillor is right to apologise.

“In fact, I also want to apologise to councillor Tissera who was on the receiving end of that comment.

“There will now be a process around a potential disciplinary. I’ll not interfere in that process.”

Referencing van Sweeden’s apology, he said: “It wasn’t just clumsy. It speaks to the unconscious bias and discrimination that people hold and we all have to challenge ourselves – we all have it – but we have to challenge ourselves about it.

“But there’s just no kind of place for that language. I saw the comments and I was thoroughly disappointed.”

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