Jewish groups ‘concerned’ as Aberdeen Tory is readmitted


THE Tories are under pressure to explain why they have re-admitted an Aberdeen councillor suspended last year after The National uncovered a history of antisemitic and Islamophobic internet comments.

In a statement released over the weekend, the party said Ryan Houghton had accepted that “what he had done when much younger was wrong”.

But the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC), the representative body of all the Scottish Jewish communities, said “no serious action appears to have been taken” against the councillor.

The city council’s SNP group are also calling for more details. They want the Tories to explain “how they feel Councillor Houghton has made amends”.

Last November we uncovered posts made by the councillor on an old martial arts forum where he seemed to suggest that some events around the Nazi regime’s state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews had been “fabricated”.

He also described Islam as “violent” and plotting to turn Europe into “Eurabia”.

At the time, Houghton was the party’s candidate for Aberdeen North at the General Election.

One holocaust survivor said he felt “sickened” by the posts.

According to the Press and Journal, the Tories readmitted Houghton last week following a “robust investigation”. Houghton told the paper: “I apologised at the time and have done so in-person to anyone who has contacted me about the matter.

“The comments which led to my suspension were isolated and took place nearly a decade ago.

“They in no way reflect my political or professional record and I find prejudice of any kind abhorrent.

“I will continue to work and represent my constituents to the best of my ability.”

A Tory spokesperson said a committee, headed by Gavin MacColl QC, took into account Houghton’s “unreserved acceptance what he had done when much younger was wrong”, and that he understood the “consequence of his actions”.

He also said letters were submitted in support of Houghton from “local groups”. It is not clear which groups.

The local synagogue did not respond to The National’s request for a comment.

However, Danielle Bett from SCoJeC said they had not been approached by Councillor Houghton or the party.

She added: “We remain concerned about the nature of Mr Houghton’s conduct. Of course people make mistakes, but the key is to engage and show willingness to learn in order to make any form of progress.

“These comments may have been made in the past, but that is not an excuse, nor can promoting racism be excused by the supposed context. We are disappointed that no serious action appears to have been taken on this matter.”

Despite being suspended, Houghton kept his £30,000 a year job as business manager on the Aberdeen Labour-Tory administration in charge of the city council.

SNP councillor Michael Hutchison said the Tories needed to share details of how Houghton has made amends: “That the Tories have tried to sneak this decision out under the cover of a global pandemic is a slap in the face of the communities who were hurt by Cllr Houghton’s comments.

“The party themselves acknowledged that these comments were ‘unacceptable’ and they should be explaining why they no longer feel that is the case or how they feel Cllr Houghton has made amends.@

Hutchison said the councillor needed to show to his constituents “that he has learned why his comments were wrong”.

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