AN SNP councillor has claimed party bosses told him to “curtail” his Catholicism if he wanted to be a parliamentary candidate.

The incendiary remark from Inverclyde group leader Chris McEleny has been flatly rejected by the party, who have all but accused the prominent activist of lying, saying that no one is ever asked about their religious views during the vetting process.

In a complaint to the SNP’s governing NEC, seen by The National, the councillor, who previously ran to be the party’s depute leader, says he was asked during the “prolonged candidate vetting process” if he “would be willing to curtail discussing matters pertinent to my faith if I were an SNP Parliamentary candidate”.

He also hits out at the party’s treatment of fiercely Christian MP Lisa Cameron.

Last week the MP was facing a selection battle for her East Kilbride constituency.

At one point she was the only incumbent SNP MP not to have been reselected for the next election.

The politician believed that was in part linked to her opposition to abortion.

In July she was one of two SNP MPs to vote against changing Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws.

Her plight attracted the attention of John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley, who took to Facebook last Wednesday to ask “what on earth” was going on with Cameron’s candidacy.

The MP was eventually reselected by her local party on Thursday.

She told The National she was concerned by McEleny’s complaint: “I am delighted to have received the overwhelming backing of my local members balloted but something is clearly wrong with the vetting process when potential candidates are being asked to ‘curtail discussing matters of faith’.”

Anthony Horan, director of Catholic Parliamentary Office, said he was worried about a “creeping intolerance” towards Christians.

He said:“The right to not only hold a religious belief but also to manifest it publicly is a fundamental human right that should not be infringed.

“People of faith are rightly concerned about a creeping intolerance towards religious belief which seeks to push religion into the private sphere.”

An SNP spokesman said: “We are proud of our diversity as a party and the range of faith groups represented amongst SNP parliamentarians and Scottish ministers.”

MPs overwhelmingly voted to extend access to abortion to Northern Ireland, bringing it into line with the rest of the UK.

The change, which polls suggest is supported by two thirds of people in the province, comes into being if devolution doesn’t return to Stormont before 21 October.

The reform has angered local Christian groups. Last week thousands protested.