The SNP has suspended its local selection race after launching a probe into the conduct of the sitting MSP.

Kenneth Gibson, who first won Cunninghame North for the party 13 years ago, faces allegations of bullying.

Former MP Corri Wilson and former SNP aide Osama Bhutta had come forward to challenge Mr Gibson’s candidacy, but Mr Bhutta already suspended his campaign citing rule-breaking by supporters of the incumbent.

This month it was revealed that more than 20 local officials wrote to SNP HQ last year reporting claims of bullying by Mr Gibson, ‘especially’ towards women.
The party’s National Secretary has now tasked an external lawyer with taking testimony from the complainants, which could lead to the party’s member conduct committee.

Last week, the Herald reported that planned hustings were called off.
This followed complaints by Mr Bhutta that party officials in the Garnock Valley branch circulated an email of support for Mr Gibson using member data - a breach of SNP’s rules.

However, it has been reported the cancellation was due to another complaint that the format would favour Mr Gibson’s challengers.
Several requests for comment and clarification by the Herald to SNP HQ have received no response.

Mr Bhutta said: “I’m sad this has dragged on the way that it has, but I couldn’t keep happily campaigning while cheating like this is going on.
“I’m assured by the party that they are attending to the situation in the constituency.”

Mr Bhutta’s campaign had won support from Gibson’s election agent Linda Nicholson and his former staffer James Stewart.

Five of the seven SNP councillors in the constituency have also welcomed the challenge to Gibson without backing a particular candidate.

Ms Wilson said: “I am disappointed as a candidate but more importantly for the members that the selection contest, and their democratic right, has been suspended.”

Gibson said critics had attacked “without regard for how this might impact on support for the SNP, independence cause or me personally, as I continue to represent constituents and the SNP at this exceptionally busy time”.

He told the Sunday National: “If only a 10th as much energy was put into campaigning for the SNP by these folk.

"Clearly, such people do not believe that their candidate of choice can win fairly and squarely.

“Sadly, neither of the other nominees has even commented on, let alone condemned these underhand tactics. Meanwhile, I have been heartened by the dozens of endorsements received from local SNP activists, MPs, MSPs and three cabinet secretaries.”