A SERVING councillor was accused of taking photographs of submarines and passing them to the SNP in an act of espionage, an employment tribunal has heard.

At the hearing in Glasgow, a security vetting expert who The National can name only as Mr A said there was no evidence that the Inverclyde councillor had been spying while employed as an electrician at HM Naval Base Clyde, home to the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet.

But a string of emails revealed what another vetting professional, Mr F – said to be a leader in his field – described as treatment “bordering on harassment”. This includes a number of now-disproved claims to the MoD about him, including that he had taken unauthorised pictures of submarines and passed these to the SNP.

And the emails show how the expert believed the “politically charged” atmosphere around the independence debate had led McEleny’s bosses to see him as a “spy in the camp”.

Employment judge Lucy Wiseman heard the details yesterday on the first of a three-day session brought to determine whether or not MoD bosses had discriminated against McEleny on the grounds of his belief in Scottish independence.

Mr A said that while there had been grounds to consider McEleny’s access privileges on the grounds of national security, his team was confident he was no “insider threat”. He said: “There’s no evidence of wrongdoing.”

McEleny was suspended and lost his security clearance after the allegations emerged. That came after he announced his candidacy for the position of SNP depute leader in 2016 and he was reinstated in accordance with the advice of vetting experts.

The claims involved a Che Guevara t-shirt, opposition to Trident and the posting of a lyric from a song praising IRA hunger strikers. The interviewer who probed McEleny was satisfied that he had not known the origin of the line, “and you dare to call me a terrorist while you looked down your gun,” when he posted it on social media as a comment on David Cameron and Syria.

And, on the origins of the complaints, Mr A said: “We had no idea where those came from.”

However, Mr F described the content of the allegations as “part fiction, part subject to interpretation, part down to the author putting two and two together and getting 357”.

The investigation saw McEleny, whose family has Irish roots, questioned about his links to Donegal and interest in the Easter Rising. It was determined that his anti-nuclear and independence beliefs were in line with “traditional” SNP values.

However, Mr F expressed “frustration” that his professional opinion was challenged by the leadership at HM Naval Base Clyde. He wrote: “I get a sense that the HMB hierarchy, with the West of Scotland being particularly politically charged with the whole SNP, independence debate, look at the claimant as a ‘spy in camp’.”

On the allegations relating to passing material to the SNP, Mr A was asked if he would “consider it strange if someone was aware of someone engaging in espionage” and did not report that to police, to which he agreed.

The panel heard McEleny made two grievance claims against his line manager before going off work with stress, prior to the complaints being made.

The case is being heard in full after McEleny first won a point of law, establishing that belief in Scottish independence should be protected under equalities law, something contested by the MoD. The tribunal continues.