Councillors Ricky Bell and Marie Burns, along with her brother Mark Burns, posted a show of support for the First Minister during her grilling at Wednesday’s inquiry.
The tweet read: ‘I have known Nicola Sturgeon since she was 16. She is one of the strongest, honest and most courageous women I know. She has dedicated her life to public service and we’ve been lucky to have her this past year #IStandWithNicola.’
The identical messages were quickly mocked online and drew suggestions of a clumsily executed order to rally round Ms Sturgeon.
Such speculation has been rubbished by the trio, who insist Coun Burns crafted the original tweet before it was copied by the others, who are also old friends of the First Minister.
Hitting back at such suggestions, Coun Bell said: ‘It really is pathetic. You’d have thought in a party of 100,000 members we may have got more than three people.’
He added: ‘If this was a concerted effort, the person who orchestrated it should have got the boot.’
Three SNP figures have raised eyebrows after each tweeting an identical gushing tribute to their under-fire leader, Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon faced eight hours of probing in the Scottish Parliament this week
The Glasgow councillor explained that in a day of back-to-back meetings he saw the tweet from his friend Coun Burns, who has also known the First Minister for years.
‘I looked at Marie’s tweet and thought I couldn’t have put it better myself. So rather lazily I cut and paste her tweet,’ he said.
Coun Bell added: ‘The fact is that Nicola is so well liked she didn’t need people to be told to tweet messages of support.’
Ms Sturgeon faced eight hours of probing in the Scottish Parliament this week about the Scottish Government’s botched handling of sexual assault allegations made against Alex Salmond in 2018.
She is accused of misleading Parliament about when she first learnt of the claims against her predecessor and that she ignored legal advice to drop the case.
Such actions would be a breach of the ministerial code and are considered resignation offences.
In six hours of brutal testimony last week, Alex Salmond laid out a case that senior SNP figures conspired to try to force him out of public life over harassment claims
SNP supporters have been riding to her defence online with the hashtag #IStandWithNicola.
The party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford also sent a similar tweet on the same day that read: ‘I have known Nicola Sturgeon all of her adult life. She is a woman of great integrity and honesty.’
It is not unusual for politicians to rally round a colleague in times of difficulty, and is something practiced by all parties.
But the three identical tweets about Ms Sturgeon caused amusement among social media users.
Political commentator Alex Deane wrote: ‘Good to have such friends from an early age, so in tune in their thinking that they’re spontaneously inspired to support in the same way, isn’t it?’
Brian Feeney replied to Mr Burns’ tweet: ‘You might at least have paraphrased the release.’
Mr Burns shot back: ‘That’ll be my mate, Ricky Bell, who also comes from Irvine and grew up with Nicola at same time as me. We both copied it from my sister Marie, also a friend of hers in same time period. Is that ok with you?’
The party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford also sent a similar tweet on the same day of the inquiry
Coun Burns backed up Coun Bell’s version of events and said: ‘I wrote the tweet. Nicola was appearing before the committee that day, so around 8.45am I thought ‘I’m going to tweet some support here’.
‘A friend of mine is also a councillor, Ricky Bell. We met Nicola at the same time because we all lived in Irvine and that’s where Nicola joined the SNP when she was 16.
‘At that point, unbeknownst to me, Ricky decided that he liked my sentiment, and he would just cut and paste it.
‘Then, shortly afterwards, my brother Mark, who also met Nicola at the same time decided he would do the same.
‘I don’t know what was in their minds. Naivety, maybe? What happened after that was, I suddenly got this massive pile on from people saying ‘this is something the SNP have sent out’. It was repeated over and over again.
‘In all honesty, the only tweets I have seen have been from one of us. There was one other person whose name I didn’t recognise, [who] had decided to copy it as well.
‘It’s my tweet. It’s one of those things. I don’t know why they didn’t retweet it. I think in their heads they wanted to express the same sentiment so they just copied it.
‘I can tell you it is genuine. We are all very fond of Nicola and have known her for a long time and are still in contact with her.
‘If the SNP was going to ask people to tweet something, I very much doubt it would start ‘I’ve known Nicola since I was 16’. Really?