O’hara steps down as SNP cul­ture spokesman

The Herald - - NEWS - MICHAEL SET­TLE

BREN­DAN O’hara has un­ex­pect­edly stepped down from his role as the SNP’S spokesman for cul­ture and me­dia at West­min­ster.

A se­nior party source said the MP for Ar­gyll and Bute had left his role for “per­sonal rea­sons” but de­clined to say any­thing fur­ther.

It is be­lieved Mr O’hara an­nounced his de­ci­sion at the SNP Group meet­ing in the Com­mons ear­lier this week.

He was ap­pointed to the cul­ture brief af­ter the June 2017 Gen­eral Elec­tion.

The back­bencher, a for­mer TV pro­ducer, hit the head­lines last month af­ter ques­tion­ing Brit­tany Kaiser, the for­mer di­rec­tor of Pro­gram De­vel­op­ment at Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica (CA), which be­came em­broiled in con­tro­versy over its use of Face­book data and po­lit­i­cal tac­tics.

Dur­ing a ses­sion of the Com­mons Cul­ture Com­mit­tee, of which he is a mem­ber, Mr O’hara high­lighted a claim the con­sul­tancy had “worked on three UK elec­tion cam­paigns”.

But he ap­peared shocked when Ms Kaiser sug­gested there had been meet­ings be­tween CA and the SNP.

The rev­e­la­tion led to a se­ries of me­dia sto­ries and calls for clar­ity from po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents about what con­tacts the Na­tion­al­ists had with the un­der-fire con­sul­tancy.

SNP head­quar­ters re­leased what it said was all of its cor­re­spon­dence, which showed email ex­changes, a meet­ing in Lon­don and a con­fer­ence call.

How­ever, the party lead­er­ship re­peat­edly in­sisted there had been no for­mal re­la­tion­ship with CA, which Michael Rus­sell, the Scottish Gov­ern­ment’s Brexit Min­is­ter, de­nounced as “ly­ing cow­boys”.

The SNP called on other par­ties to reveal what con­tacts they had had with the con­sul­tancy.

Ear­lier this month, CA an­nounced it was clos­ing down.

The party source stressed Mr O’hara’s de­ci­sion to step down was not con­nected to CA me­dia cov­er­age.

He has had a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a TV pro­ducer. He wrote, pro­duced and di­rected STV’S Road To Ref­er­en­dum doc­u­men­tary se­ries and has worked for Sky Sports and the BBC.

Mr O’hara is suc­ceeded in his cul­ture and me­dia role by Han­nah Bardell, the MP for Liv­ingston. Her pre­vi­ous port­fo­lio of trade and in­vest­ment is taken on by Ste­wart Hosie, for­mer SNP deputy leader.

„ Bren­dan O’hara has left role for ‘per­sonal rea­sons’.

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