AN SNP councillor accused of spying on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was questioned about whether he thought Rangers are a new club to determine if he was a threat to national security.

A vetting expert questioned Inverclyde Council’s Chris McEleny on his opinion of the Glasgow club after he was accused of having IRA sympathies and passing sensitive information, including pictures of nuclear submarines, to the SNP.

Bosses said he had given information to MPs for a period of three years, but no proof could be found.

McEleny was suspended from work as an MoD electrician and had his security clearance revoked after the accusations emerged in 2016.

READ MORE: Spy ‘lies’ over SNP's Chris McEleny made by top officials

The vetting expert, who can be named only as Mr F, told bosses McEleny was no threat and recommended that he be reinstated. That advice followed an interview at the councillor’s home, where the Rangers question arose.

Discussing the event at an employment tribunal hearing last week, McEleny said he had refused an offer from his father, who had held top level security clearance during a 40-plus year career in service to the MoD, to sit in on the interview.

McEleny, who accuses the MoD of discrimination over his Scottish independence stance, said: “I remember at the time thinking ‘I wish he was here because people won’t actually believe the things that have been put to me.’”

He went on: “I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. To have a security vetting officer ask me do I think Glasgow Rangers Football Club are a new club or are they the same club because someone’s put to them that is a security concern ... I was genuinely bemused.”

Three days of evidence were heard on McEleny’s case, which is the first of its kind, by a panel led by employment judge Lucy Wiseman in Glasgow last week.

The full hearing comes after judge Fiona Eccles ruled that belief in Scottish independence is protected under the 2010 Equality Act.

McEleny contends that bosses did not want him working for the MoD because he is a “nat” and worked to “paint a picture” of him as “classic insider” threat with a grudge against the MoD.

The councillor said he had first been on the MoD estate as a toddler to see the Christmas lights at Coulport with his father and went on to serve an apprenticeship there.

He was elected to Inverclyde Council in 2012 and internal concerns were raised after he spoke at the SNP’s autumn conference that year on NATO membership and his opposition to Trident.

These concerns escalated to include allegations of espionage and IRA sympathies, something which related to a short quote placed by McEleny on Facebook and to his interest in social media accounts on Sinn Fein and the Easter Rising centenary commemorations. Vetting officials accepted he had not known that this was a lyric from a song praising IRA prisoners.

On a claim by bosses that the trade unionist was a “trouble maker” who challenged authority and bent rules, McEleny said it was his role as a shop steward to make challenges on behalf of union members and that rule-breaking claims were “malicious”.

The tribunal also heard how one senior figure, known as Mr G, said he was “disturbed” by the news that McEleny had passed vetting and did not want him to return to his role.

Dr Andrew Gibson, representing the MoD, said any union-supporting Labour councillor who followed an Easter Rising account, was the subject of spy claims, had spoken against Trident at a party conference and had, like McEleny, raised two grievance claims against managers and reported a period of depression, would also have had their security clearance suspended.

McEleny said: “I don’t believe that the individual would be hectored in the same way. It’s probably fair to say that within the Ministry of Defence there are Scottish Labour Party councillors who oppose Trident renewal, who haven’t been suspended.”

McEleny was suspended for 10 months before the suspensions were lifted and said he’d suffered stress, depression and anxiety over the claims, fearing they would ruin his career, limit his political activities and, in the case of the spy suggestion, lead to a criminal case under threat of a 14 year jail term.

He resigned after deciding his employment there was “no longer tenable” and attempted to reach a settlement with the MoD, also turning to mediation service ACAS before beginning tribunal proceedings.

The MoD denies discrimination and a determination will be issued in due course.