ABERDEEN's current Depute Provost has defended her predecessor, accusing opposition parties of a "witch hunt" to force his resignation after a conviction for sexual assault.

Independent Alliance councillor Jennifer Stewart replaced Alan Donnelly after he was found guilty of kissing and touching a man at a civic function last year.

Conservative councillor Donnelly was ordered to pay £800 in compensation and will be supervised by the council's social work department for eight months.

The former depute provost – who has also been placed on the sex offenders register – has faced pressure in recent days to step down as a councillor; however, he has indicated his intention to stay on.

Stewart, a former Liberal Democrat who now sits as an independent in the ruling administration at Aberdeen City Council, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that Donnelly would face a "witch hunt" if he continued to represent the Torry and Ferryhill ward.

The Depute Provost said: "I think it's entirely up to Councillor Donnelly whether he does choose to continue as a councillor.

"My concern is that if he does stay on - what I see - is that there is a bit of a witch hunt to get him out."

She added: "I have suffered at the wrath for three years of what the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have been like at Aberdeen City Council and I know how they will go on their witch hunt as they did with me.

"That's what I see is going to happen to Alan. Whether he chooses to remain is his decision - but if they make his life so intolerable and uncomfortable it might be that he chooses to step aside."

The head of the SNP group, Alex Nicoll, denied there was a witch hunt, describing Stewart's comments as "beyond bizarre".

He added: "The people of Aberdeen, the people of Scotland will think that is the right thing that should be happening - he should be resigning and leaving office now."

The councillor claimed that the ruling administration was looking to ensure they kept control of the council, something Stewart strongly denied.

He said: "In this case, your listeners will feel this is very much a stunt and is an attempt by the administration to maintain their control of Aberdeen City Council using a person who I don't think the people of Aberdeen think should be in office."

Stephen Flynn, SNP MP for Aberdeen South and Nicoll's predecessor, said on Twitter: "A convicted sex offender should not hold public office.

"Genuinely stunned to hear the comments of the current Depute Provost of Aberdeen City Council this morning - defending the indefensible."