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TOP NAT MSP IN ASSAULT CLAIM ROW; Disabled Gill quits over SNP `cover-up'.

A DISABLED SNP member has ripped up her party card after claiming a leading MSP attacked her.

Angry Gill Strachan, 34, who uses crutches, claimed she was pushed and abused by SNP MSP Kenny Gibson after a "booze cruise".

And she accused party bosses of mounting a cover-up over the incident.

Gill, who has a serious hip condition, said she and her partner, Mark Coyle, had resigned from the party in disgust.

She said the incident came when a number of party activists went on a cruise on Loch Ness at the party's last conference in Inverness.

It was followed by a disco at the Ness Hotel in the town.

She said: "We were about to leave just after 1am when Kenny Gibson came over and started talking over me."

She added the 38-year-old Glasgow MSP had waged a whispering campaign against her partner, a former party activist in Govan, Glasgow.

She explained: "I asked him why he was talking to us after everything that he'd said in the past about Mark.

"He shouted and swore at me and, even though I was on my crutch, he pushed me.

"The guy had totally lost it, and the worst thing was the look in his eye. He seemed totally out of control."

A number of shocked onlookers rushed in to break up the fracas, said Gill, a politics and sociology student.

One SNP source said: "Everybody has a Kenny Gibson story, but what he did to Gill Strachan is a scandal to say the least."

Gill said she got in touch with SNP Parliamentary group secretary Shona Robison the morning after the alleged assault and went away in the belief that Robison would take the matter up with chief whip Bruce Crawford.

But the following week she discovered Crawford knew nothing about the allegation.

He then promised to look into the matter, but later told Gill he could not disclose to her what disciplinary procedures, if any, were being taken against Mr Gibson.

Gill said she agonised over going public with her story, and added: "It slowly dawned on me that the SNP didn't see me as equally important as an MSP, and they were doing all that they could to cover the story up. Now I feel so angry."

An SNP spokesman said: "There was no formal complaint after this alleged incident four months ago and sharply different recollections of what took place.

"Bruce Crawford, the SNP whip, dealt with the matter informally to people's satisfaction at the time."
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Author:McGARVIE, LINDSAY
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 6, 2000
Words:419
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