SNP race row as councillor labled opponent from Sri Lanka a 'New Scot' and may not understand English
Deena Tissera (left) said she did not appreciate the comments made during a meeting (Picture:Aberdeen City Council)

An SNP councillor has resigned from the party and will be investigated after calling a Labour colleague from Sri Lanka a ‘New Scot’.

The remarks were made by Aberdeen City councillor Kairin van Sweeden to Deena Tissera during a debate on austerity on Wednesday afternoon.

She has now referred herself to the Standards Commission and said on Wednesday: ‘I realise, as a new Scot, Councillor Tissera maybe doesn’t know about the mitigation that the SNP government has had to put in over the years they have been in power.’

Ms Tissera hit back and said: ‘I do not appreciate those comments. I have taken the Life in the UK test to become a citizen. I probably know more than you do.’

Ms van Sweeden later apologised and said: ‘I unreservedly apologise for the clumsy language I used in the chamber and the offence it caused.

‘It could not be further from the values I hold.’

A spokesperson for the SNP said: ‘Councillor van Sweeden has taken the decision to refer herself to the Standards Commission and requested the SNP national secretary investigate comments she made during yesterday’s council meeting, which she immediately and unreservedly apologised for.

‘Whilst those processes are under way, she has stepped back from her SNP party membership.’

Deena Tissera @deenatissera Politician Humanitarian Entrepreneur Public Health Councillor @ScottishLabour SEC#JoCoxLeadership l Advisor @scottish_future
Deena complained to Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf

Ms Tissera wrote to Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf and said: ‘The innuendo of her comments were that I had just come off the boat as a new Scot – her words not mine – I am not as Scottish as others and I did not understand Scotland like her and the SNP group, this being despite the SNP council leader being of French descent and myself holding a United Kingdom passport.

‘All leaders must stand up against racism and words are easy but it is actions that are required.’

She added: ‘First Minister, it is incumbent on us to stand together against racism and, as such, I call on you to act in this matter and act by suspending councillor van Sweeden.’

Mr Yousaf said: ‘It was unacceptable. I saw the comment this morning. It’s unacceptable and the councillor is right to apologise.

‘In fact, I also want to apologise to Councillor Tissera who was on the receiving end of that comment.

‘There will now be a process around a potential disciplinary. I’ll not interfere in that process.’

Referencing Ms van Sweeden’s apology, he said: ‘It wasn’t just clumsy. It speaks to the unconscious bias and discrimination that people hold and we all have to challenge ourselves – we all have it – but we have to challenge ourselves about it.

‘But there’s just no kind of place for that language. I saw the comments and I was thoroughly disappointed.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at

For more stories like this, check our news page.