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SNP blasted by anti-bigotry group over attack on Dundee MSP Michael Marra

Michael Marra.
Michael Marra.

The SNP has been urged to apologise to Dundee MSP Michael Marra over their response to concerns he raised about a council election candidate.

Call It Out – which campaigns against anti-Catholic bigotry in Scotland – has criticised the SNP over its comment about Marra’s motives in questioning the suitability for office of Siobhan Tolland.

We revealed on Tuesday how Tolland – standing to represent Lochee in May’s council vote – had taken to Facebook in 2010 to tell friends she had a “sore throat” after shouting at Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Edinburgh.

After returning from the capital, Tolland said she had “got a chance to tell him he should be arrested for child abuse”.

Tolland, who also sits on the SNP national executive, added that she “might have gone a wee bit too far when she called him a c**t”.

Siobhan Tolland.

Her comments were criticised by Marra, who as a councillor also represents the Lochee Ward, an area with strong Irish and Catholic roots.

Hitting back at Marra, an SNP source said: “Mr Marra’s attempts to make specific comments about child abuse into comments on the broader community are shameful and appalling.

“Does he condone historic child abuse within the Catholic church?

“Unlike the Labour Party who are happily standing a former Orange Lodge Grand Master, Siobhan hasn’t got a sectarian bone in her body.

“In 2010, she was demonstrating against the cover up of paedophilia and child abuse.”

But Call It Out – which campaigns against anti-Catholic bigotry in Scotland – was stunned at the SNP’s response to Marra’s remarks.

‘Retract comments and apologise’

Chair Jeannette Findlay said: “The weaponising of the horror of child abuse, in this instance to attack the religious leader of billions of Catholics worldwide, is a symptom of a deep sickness in Scottish society.

“The SNP spokesperson should retract these comments and apologise as a matter of urgency

“Nobody believes that this woman, with no track record of activity on this issue, insulted Pope Benedict in the interests of victims of historic child sex abuse.

“The motivation was anti-Catholic bigotry.”

New MSP Michael Marra
Michael Marra is also a Dundee City Councillor for Lochee

She added: “For an official of the SNP to pretend that these actions were understandable and to attack Michael Marra and suggest that he, as a Catholic, is specifically required to take responsibility for clerical child abuse is akin to requiring all Muslims to take responsibility for Islamic extremist terror attacks or requiring all Jews to take responsibility for the actions of the State of Israel.

“To do either of these would be instantly recognisable as anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic respectively.

“When it comes to anti-Catholic bigotry people in Scotland find it harder to identify and acknowledge, but this is rooted in bigotry and the SNP spokesperson should retract these comments and apologise as a matter of urgency.”

The SNP has been approached for comment.

Scots ‘struggle to identify anti-Catholic bigotry’

We told previously how the SNP said Tolland’s social media posts were “regrettable and reflect a difficult period in her life which she has long since moved on from”.

In other messages, she described 9/11 as “an inside job” and concerns were raised over a 2015 blog post where Tolland refers to a Nazi concentration camp while criticising David Cameron, who was prime minister at the time.

She has deleted the posts and is said to be “very sorry”.

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “The SNP must remove this candidate now.

“These comments are bigotry straight from her mouth in black and white.

“Failure to act sends a very clear message about the First Minister’s tolerance for intolerance in her own party.”

On Monday, Marra said: “Lochee is a warm, welcoming and diverse community with historic links to the Irish Catholic community stretching back centuries.

“This is a community that deserves serious politicians representing the area, not people who indulge in offensive conspiracy theories, who travel across the country to scream abuse at religious figures in the street or, appallingly, create false equivalences that minimise the horrors of the holocaust.”

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