An employment tribunal has held that a belief in Scottish independence can amount to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. Former SNP adviser Chris McEleny, the SNP group leader on Inverclyde Council, is pursuing the Ministry of Defence (MoD), his former employer, claiming he was unfairly treated over his support for independence.

McEleny announced his candidacy for the post of deputy leader of the SNP in 2016, following the resignation of MP Stewart Hosie. Shortly afterwards the Ministry of Defence suspended McEleny from his post as an electrician at a munitions site in Ayrshire, telling him that his security clearance had been removed.

McEleny resigned, claiming he had been interviewed by security officials on issues including his pro-independence views. He claimed he had been unlawfully targeted for his stance on leaving the UK.

Employment Judge Frances Eccles ruled that sovereignty and “self-determination” are “weighty and substantial aspects of human life”, and was persuaded that “how a country should be governed is sufficiently serious to amount to a philosophical belief”.

The case may now proceed to a full hearing at which McEleny will have to show that his political beliefs were responsible for the MoD’s security precautions. If he wins, the compensation award could be considerable.