A LABOUR councillor has said he knows of party activists standing in the local government elections in May who voted Yes in 2014.

Martin Lennon spoke out as he disputed claims that Scottish Labour had placed a ban on independence supporters fighting for council seats later this year.

Tensions emerged between the Labour UK and Scottish leadership last week after Anas Sarwar rejected a suggestion from Sir Keir Starmer's team that the party was open to members who support independence from seeking elected roles.

One Labour activist then told The National that activists who back independence now feel that they are "second class citizens" in their own party.

READ MORE: Pro-indy Labour members feel like 'second-class citizens' over candidacy ban

But Lennon, a Labour councillor in South Lanarkshire, who campaigned for a No vote in 2014 and continues to oppose independence, attacked the development.

"There is no rule citing that a candidate for the Labour party must oppose independence or must support any particular manifesto pledge," he told The National.

"Indeed several Labour candidates have directly contradicted explicit manifesto pledges so I don't understand why independence would be any different."

The councillor, who represents the Rutherglen Central and North Ward, added: "I don't ask people if they support independence very often because I don't care. I don't think it is a politically important thing. But I definitely know of people who voted Yes in 2014 who are candidates this time. Maybe they have changed their mind."

He declined to name the Labour council candidates who voted Yes in 2014.

Sarwar ignited a war of words with Starmer’s team in London last week by suggesting it does not understand the Scottish party as he slapped down suggestions of candidates supporting independence.

Sources close to Starmer, the UK leader, had said that putting people forward who favour independence could help the party win more seats in a general election by bringing people back to the party who had moved to support the SNP

A source close to Starmer told The Sunday Times: “You don’t have to have a binary position; you can have people with different stances.” 

Sarwar said that Scottish Labour was a pro-UK party and that despite his close relationship with Starmer, “when it comes to Scotland, when it comes to Scottish Labour, I’m in charge, I’m the boss”.

Labour has politicians who back Scotland leaving the UK but Sarwar insisted they had been elected on a platform to keep the UK together and held the view there should not be another referendum.

“Whoever it was who was speaking or quoted clearly doesn’t understand that decisions on selecting candidates in Scotland, even for a general election, are made by the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Labour Party alone,” he said. 

“We will be standing on a platform in the UK general election which is about reforming and renewing the UK, which is, yes, about pushing power out of Westminster and into the nations and regions of the UK, but also pushing it out of Holyrood and into local communities across the country as well. And that’s what we’d expect every candidate to stand on.”

Labour sources have insisted that candidates who stand for the party should support the parties' policies and election manifestos.

The National:

Party activist Hollie Cameron (above) was de-selected as a Labour candidate in Glasgow for the Holyrood election last May for supporting independence on the grounds her views were at odds with the party's manifesto.

However, party deputy leader Jackie Baillie was selected as a Holyrood candidate in 2016 despite opposing Scottish Labour policy to scrap Trident. 

The policy was adopted by Scottish Labour under the then leader Kezia Dugdale in 2015 and it fought the 2016 Holyrood elections on that basis. The UK Labour party backs Trident renewal.

However, the Scottish Labour manifestos for the 2017 and 2019 general elections supported the UK party line and pointed to defence being a reserved issue.