THE case of Chris McEleny, the SNP councillor who has won the right to challenge the Ministry of Defence over alleged discrimination against him, has profound implications for the political, industrial and cultural life of the UK, and perhaps not all of it is for the public good.

McEleny, the SNP group leader on Inverclyde Council and a former candidate for the party’s deputy leadership, took the MoD to an employment tribunal after his security clearance was withdrawn in 2016 while he worked as an electrician at a munitions depot in Bishopton, Renfrewshire. He quit his job and said he would take the Ministry to an tribunal, alleging discrimination.

McEleny stated that he was questioned by officials from National Security Vetting – part of the MoD – on issues that apparently included his views on Trident, his mental health, Irish politics, independence and, ahem, Rangers FC.

So last week’s decision of Glasgow employment tribunal Judge Frances Eccles that McEleny can put forward his claim to a full tribunal is frankly historic.

The judge interpreted the infamously woolly wording of the Equality Act 2010 to mean that McEleny’s belief in independence was a “protected characteristic” under the Act.

It states: “A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.”

The “protected characteristic” in this case – others include sex, race and age – is McEleny’s belief in independence, belief being defined in the legislation as “any religious or philosophical belief.” Yes, it’s as open as that.

The judge was clear that McEleny held a philosophical belief in independence that went far beyond mere political party membership. So now the tribunal has to decide if the MoD discriminated against McEleny because of his philosophical beliefs.

It seems a slam dunk in McEleny’s favour, for the gaping hole in the MoD’s case is that McEleny had already been vetted and given security clearance, and that clearance was only withdrawn after he made his pitch for the SNP deputy leadership.

In other words, it was only when he became a higher-profile SNP member that they decided to investigate and suspend McEleny, withdrawing his security clearance. The case has huge implications for independence supporters, not least those in the armed forces, the police and prison service.

For if the tribunal rules in the MoD’s favour, that will give the British state the right to sack anyone whose support for independence is deemed a “security risk”.

Technically, and in strictly legal terms, it would also mean any employer could sack you if your support for independence became a “problem”. And should that decision, the setting of the bar, be left to the state and employers?

Much will depend on the tribunal’s interpretation of the “philosophical belief” claim by McEleny. The judge has said it is a protected characteristic but the tribunal may ask McEleny to prove it.

There is also the possibility that if the tribunal finds in McEleny’s favour then those who espouse a philosophical belief, as opposed to mere political persuasion, could claim discrimination if employers sack them because they are fascist, communist, socialist, naturist, libertarian or have any belief system that goes beyond mere politics.

Once again, Britannia waived the rules, but this time thanks to Judge Eccles, Chris McEleny will have the chance to right a wrong.