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Sarwar: Swift suspension for candidate over unacceptable pro-Russia posts

Aberdeenshire North and Moray East candidate Andy Brown has been accused of sharing the posts on social media.

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Anas Sarwar delivers a speech

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said his party had taken “swift action” to suspend a candidate accused of “unacceptable” pro-Russian posts on social media.

Andy Brown was dropped as the party’s candidate in the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency following reports he shared content which played down the country’s role in the Salisbury poisonings.

Reports suggest he shared an article from Russian state media outlet RT which claimed the “toxin” used in the poisonings was “never produced in Russia, but was in service in the US, UK and other Nato states”.

But the candidate told the BBC he did not make the social media posts.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, died after being exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, which had been left in a discarded perfume bottle in Amesbury, Wiltshire, in July 2018.

It followed the attempted murders of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and ex-police officer Nick Bailey, who were poisoned in nearby Salisbury in March that year.

All three survived, as did Ms Sturgess’s boyfriend, Charlie Rowley.

Speaking to the PA news agency during a General Election campaign visit, Mr Sarwar said: “We’ve taken swift action. New information came to light to us last night and within hours this candidate was suspended pending an investigation.

“I think that’s right thing for us to do.”

The Scottish Labour leader added: “He’s been suspended pending investigation because of posts which we believe are unacceptable.

“We expect the highest standard in all our candidates and all those that seek to be representatives of the Labour Party.

“Clearly when new information came to light we took swift action in suspending this candidate and I think that’s the right thing for us to do.”

He also aligned himself with comments from shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves who told Sky News that she was “very, very pleased” Mr Brown had been suspended.

She said: “I hadn’t heard of this guy until this morning and I’m very, very pleased that I will hopefully not have to hear of him again because he’s been suspended as a Labour candidate.

“That is absolutely right. We’ve taken the swift action.

“As soon as these postings came to light, we got rid of him.”

But Mr Brown rejected the claims and suggested he had been “hung out to dry”.

He told the BBC: “I didn’t share those.

“Where they’ve been shared from or how has someone accessed my account and shared them, it may have been corrupted at some point – but honestly, I did not share those.”

Pressed on the possibility he had forgotten making the posts, he said: “No, I definitely didn’t make that. I would never like these at all. It’s not the sort of comments I would comment on.”

Mr Brown added: “Nobody has checked this, it is quite shocking that I’ve been treated this way. I’ve been hung out to dry, basically.”

According to the Press and Journal, in the same month Mr Brown also shared a quote from a Jewish historian which said: “The real issue … is that right-wing Jews in the Labour Party and outside the party object to the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is a consistent supporter of Palestinian rights.”

Despite being suspended by the party, Mr Brown will still appear on the ballot paper on July 4 due to the deadline for nominations having passed, but he will not receive the backing of Labour.

The Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat has been in the news in recent weeks after Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross went back on his promise to stand down from Westminster to take over the candidacy from former MP David Duguid, who has spent time in hospital.

The SNP is also facing pressure following reports in the Press and Journal that two of its election candidates, Glen Reynolds and Robert Leslie, also posted comments on social media raising doubt about Russia’s role in the Salisbury poisoning.

Mr Reynolds is standing in Orkney and Shetland while Mr Leslie is standing in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine.

An SNP spokesperson said: “Both candidates have made clear their full commitment to the SNP’s policy of unequivocal opposition to Putin’s evil regime and the need to counter it at every opportunity.

“That’s why we continue to extend our support to the Ukrainians bravely opposing Russian imperialism, and why we have consistently spoken out against Russian dark money that should have no place in UK politics.”

The backlash led to Mr Ross announcing he would stand down as party leader after the July 4 poll.

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