A SENIOR SNP councillor had his security clearance withdrawn from his job at the Ministry of Defence after he announced a bid to become the party’s deputy leader.
A party source said Christopher McEleny, who was also suspended from his post, was then investigated over his views on subjects including Trident, Irish politics, Rangers and his battle with depression.
The councillor’s clearance was reinstated after nearly 12 months, but he quit over his treatment and is taking the MoD to a tribunal.
Aamer Anwar, a lawyer who is representing McEleny, said: “There can be no justification for the treatment that Councillor McEleny alleges and in a democracy we have a right to demand answers.”
McEleny was SNP group leader on Inverclyde council when he unveiled his candidacy in 2016 to succeed MP Stewart Hosie as deputy leader.
He was also a site electrician at the MoD munitions plant site in Beith, prior to which he worked at the MoD site in Coulport as a contractor.
In mid-August, around the time of the SNP leadership hustings, McEleny was informed his security clearance had been revoked and he was suspended.
A source close to him said the National Security Vetting body – a wing of the MoD – interviewed him at his home over whether he was suitable for security clearance.
It is understood that subjects raised by the NSV included McEleny’s mental health issues in 2015, which he has since spoken about publicly.
His anti-Trident position is said to have been cited as a potential conflict and he is also believed to have been quizzed about a social media reference to Rangers as a “new club” – a humorous reference to the Glasgow club’s reincarnation after insolvency.
McEleny had also liked the Facebook pages relating to Sinn Fein, which at the time was part of the Government of Northern Ireland, and the commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland.
His pro-independence speech to an SNP conference is also said to have been raised during the probe.
McEleny was informed in the summer of this year that he had been security cleared, even although this status had been in place for around a decade before the investigation began.
The councillor opted to resign – he is said to believe that “clear efforts” were made to remove his security clearance – and he is taking the MOD to an employment tribunal on the basis of alleged discrimination and victimisation.
The source said McEleny believed the questions on depression, Irish politics and Trident were a “smokescreen” for the MoD clamping down on his SNP activity.
The insider said: “Quite substantial resource has been used to investigate a senior SNP elected official. They didn’t want a high-profile SNP politician who believes in Scottish independence working for the MoD. It was only after he stood for deputy leader of the SNP that he was suspended.”
Extracts from an MoD file reveal the department’s interest in his political views. The file, marked “sensitive”, noted that the “subject” is a long-standing SNP member and, at the time the document was put together, a deputy leadership candidate.
It added: “The Subject was asked to comment on links from his personal Facebook page to Sinn Fein, Irish Unity and the 1916 Easter Rising Centenary Committee Scotland. As previously mentioned, the Subject said that he has an interest in Irish history and Irish nationalism as his family are originally from Donegal; the Subject said that he enjoyed finding out more about his cultural identity and during conversation, it became apparent that the Subject is indeed very well read on 20th century Irish politics and nationalism.”
Anwar said: “The allegations that Councillor McEleny makes of his treatment at the hands of the MoD are a disgraceful abuse of power. They knew perfectly well he was no security risk yet appear to have used his politics against him. We are not living in the 1970s when the security services kept files on trade unionists, legitimate activists, and where blacklists were operated and lives wrecked.”
McEleny, who still leads the SNP group on Inverclyde council, said: “I can confirm I am taking the MoD to an employment tribunal. I am unable to comment further.”
An MoD spokesperson said: “It would not be appropriate to comment on the details of an ongoing employment tribunal.”