The local SNP party has been put under special measures by the National Secretary after the candidate selection process turned sour.

Party members in Cunninghame North had their hustings cancelled amid allegations that sitting MSP Kenneth Gibson broke SNP rules and ‘bullied’ colleagues.

Mr Gibson strongly denied the claims and a post on a local party social media page said the allegations of rule breaking are ‘completely unfounded and untrue’.

Several members who had booked places on the hustings but had not received joining instructions had to inquire to find out what had happened, prompting Cunninghame North Constituency Association Convener Ian Stewart to raise concerns that there had been ‘an attempt to prevent this decision being communicated to...members’.

Last week, candidate Osama Bhutta suspended his campaign accusing local officer bearers in Garnock Valley of breaking party rules.

Mr Bhutta said they had sent a mass email to their membership in support of Mr Gibson.

He added: “Nobody appears to be denying the basic facts – that information supporting one candidate was emailed to the membership.

“This is against the rules, a breach of trust, and action must be taken against it.”

The party rules state: ‘No candidate, or other person supporting a candidate, may make use of membership data other than as provided for in these rules to advance a candidacy or share membership data provided with others in any way not authorised by the Party’s Data Protection Officer.’

Mr Gibson said: “This selection will be conducted according to the rules set out by the SNP.

“Every selection process is a matter for the local party membership, in this instance members of Cunninghame North’s SNP.

“Each candidate will have a statement and up to three emails to every member to make their case.

“I have followed those rules throughout this process, despite numerous provocations, and will continue to do so.”

The other candidate in the process, Corri Wilson, previously said: “I am certain that the SNP will also wish to intervene and take all appropriate action to moderate the behaviour of others and to ensure that the high standards of conduct expected of all parliamentarians is upheld.”

SNP HQ did not respond to a request for comment.