A senior Tory councillor has finally admitted he is the man behind an anonymous anti-SNP troll account fashioned after the Lady Whistledown character in the popular Netflix series Bridgerton.
The (Lady Whistledown) AngusFreeofSNP profile was scrubbed on Wednesday night around an hour after Arbroath East and Lunan councillor Derek Wann, who had repeatedly denied running the account, was told the last two digits of its registered phone number match his own.
The profile – which shares the nom de plume of an anonymous newsletter columnist on the hit show – had been used to dish out targeted abuse at local politicians and content described by opposition councillors as “misogynistic and transphobic”.
Mr Wann repeatedly rubbished any suggestion he was involved with the account, including after being contacted by us just after 4pm on Thursday with fresh allegations, but issued a statement just over an hour later apologising for his actions.
It is understood this followed inquiries by the Scottish Conservatives after we approached the party for comment on a string of posts where Mr Wann anonymously criticised Douglas Ross’ leadership during the Scottish Parliament election campaign.
Mr Wann said: “I apologise sincerely for how I have handled this matter. My actions were unacceptable. I have now provided the party with the relevant facts so they can conduct an investigation.”
A Scottish Conservative spokesman confirmed the party “immediately launched an investigation into this matter after new information came to light” and it is understood party bosses could yet take further action.
Mr Wann, who campaigns against online bullying and was linked to the ‘Angus, think before you type’ initiative as the council’s children and learning convener, is likely to face calls to quit as a councillor after being unmasked as Lady Whistledown.
We reported previously how the profile was used to post disparaging comments about the appearance of prominent female politicians, mock Dundee’s tragic record on drug deaths and argue with members of the public who challenged Mr Wann on Twitter.
Vitriolic content shared by Mr Wann on the troll account, which regularly tags other members of Angus Council – including council leader and follower David Fairweather – includes targeted abuse at local political figures.
Posts on the profile are frequently aimed at the SNP, with first minister Nicola Sturgeon referred to in one tweet as “the Bute House golem” and another, shared by the account in reference to an activist being bitten by a dog, stating: “Dogs know a wrongun”.
In another, responding to Brechin Community Council chairwoman Jill Scott sharing cycling routes in Angus, Mr Wann used the cloak of anonymity to ask: “Would anyone want to cycle through Brechin?”
Contact with the public
Mr Wann also used the profile to respond to members of the public who reached out to his council Twitter account in a more aggressive and insulting manner than would likely be permitted under the councillor’s code of conduct.
In one tweet following May’s Scottish Parliament election, Mr Wann appeared to poke fun at Dundee’s drug deaths crisis, writing: “SNP hold Dundee City West (62% of the vote for Joe FitzPatrick).
“He had to resign as Drugs Minister over rising deaths issue and his vote still increased 4% – does this show that there is a bigger drug issues in the city than we thought?”
We can also today reveal that Mr Wann used the account to question Douglas Ross’ leadership of the Scottish Conservatives during May’s Scottish Parliament election campaign and whether another leader would have fared better.
In one example on May 7, in response to a question over how the party would perform under the leadership Michelle Ballantyne, he wrote: “Not sure Michelle would fare much better, in fact I cannot see any of the current stock or wannabes any use – need to look further afield for a leader.”
He also retweeted a post on May 3, stating: “I would love to know who it is that’s running the Scottish Tories’ Holyrood campaign. Absolutely woeful.”
Despite the account no longer being accessible by Twitter itself, archives for all web pages, including social media accounts, are stored online so a record of thousands of the profile’s tweets remain available to the public.
Mr Wann was first publicly linked to the Lady Whistledown account on Monday night after it shared a link to an Angus Council press release – where he was the only person quoted – with the caption “my comments”.
Social media users theorised the link to the council’s website – which was also shared on Mr Wann’s Facebook page 15 minutes earlier – was intended for his own personal account and that he accidentally outed himself as Lady Whistledown.
The councillor is now likely to face questions over why, just 31 minutes after a post was published on the community Facebook page Flatpack Angus publicly accusing him of running the profile, he shared another “my comments” link from the account with a press release quoting council colleague Mark Salmond.
Speaking before Mr Wann’s admission, Angus MP Dave Doogan, who was a regular target from vitriol from the Lady Whistledown profile, said any such revelation would pose serious questions for the administration on Angus Council.
He said: “Anonymous troll accounts are the scourge of social media and, in cases such as this, serve to only make political debate hostile and aggressive.
“If it can be proven that this troll account was run by an elected council member then it poses serious questions not only for the member in question but the Angus Tory administration as well.”