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Glasgow council leader calls on Richard Leonard to probe Labour links to loyalist troll

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has been urged to launch an investigation into claims his councillors in Glasgow have been colluding with a notorious internet troll to target political rivals and civil servants.

Reports over the weekend suggested that a now suspended Twitter account using the name Bears Fight Back had been taunting and harassing Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken, with information they could seemingly only have obtained from Labour councillors.

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It was revealed on Sunday that the account had shared the content of Freedom of Information requests and correspondence from Labour councillors long before it was in the public domain.

Aitken said the troll’s tweets, which also targeted officers as well as rival politicians, were “clearly designed to inflame and provoke further online attacks”.

She added that the posts “contained highly personal attacks, including entirely false and defamatory claims and sectarian language that could be construed as hate speech”.

The Glasgow Times said others contained “implicit threats which have led to more than one SNP councillor having to either cancel surgeries or only attend surgeries accompanied”.

One tweet shows the account describing an SNP councillor sharing his surgery dates and locations as “brave”.

In the letter to Leonard, Aitken has urged the party leader to take the claims seriously and launch an investigation into the connections “between Glasgow Labour – both the Labour council group and the wider party – and this online troll”.

Senior figures in Glasgow Labour have denied being in cahoots.

The account, which has since been suspended, is believed to belong to an individual in Belfast.

Much of the anger comes from their belief that Aitken is anti-Rangers, and stems from the controversy over the Rangers fanzone.

The dispute started in 2018 when the club applied for permission to host family-friendly games and entertainment at a council-owned facility opposite Ibrox.

That application was knocked back by the council, infuriating Rangers.

Supporters of the club suggested the rejection had more to do with the politics of the SNP administration than the lack of support from the community council cited by the local authority.

Last year, at 10.45am on November 20, the Bears Fight Back account tweeted about a letter from Frank McAveety to Aitken calling on her to resign. He wrote: “Susie any interesting emails in this morning? You didn’t have another party leader asking you to resign, did you?”

However, Aitken didn’t receive the email from McAveety until 1.45pm. The account then apologised for knowing about the email before the council leader did.

He also tweeted details from two Freedom of Information responses sent to Labour councillor Martin McElroy, including one about the former Lord Provost Eva Bolander’s clothing expenses – before they were made public in newspapers.

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A Labour source told the Glasgow Times that McAveety had “publicly made clear that Glasgow Labour have not provided any information to this Twitter account and that he is not aware of how this account would have received any information”.

The source added: “Glasgow Labour Group does not conduct its business in this way and completely rejects personal attacks on elected representatives.”

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