Carmichael accepts ‘full responsibility’ for memo leak

Northern Isles MP has admitted that he authorised the leak of a controversial memo ahead of the general election.

The document suggested First Minister Nicola Sturgeon favoured David Cameron as the Prime Minister – a claim which she denied “100 per cent” at the time.

Alistair Carmichael gives his acceptance speech after being returned as MP. Photo: Rosalind Griffiths
Alistair Carmichael is accused of an “election dirty trick”. Photo: Rosalind Griffiths

Today the SNP leader accussed Mr Carmichael of a “blatant election dirty trick” and has called on him to consider his position as MP following his admission that he authorised the leak of the memo from the Scottish Office to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

At the time Mr Carmichael was Secretary of State for Scotland as part of the previous coalition government. He came under heavy criticism after saying “these things happen”, in reference to the leak.

But today he offered an apology to Ms Sturgeon and the French ambassador, who she was in conversation with at the time the comments were said to have been made.

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Mr Carmichael, who earlier this month was re-elected but with a massively reduced majority of just over 800, told the BBC: “I accept full responsibility. This happened in my department and involved my special adviser while I was Secretary of State for Scotland.

“I could have stopped it. I should have stopped it. It was clearly an error of judgement on my part. For that I have apologised both to the First Minister and the French ambassador.”

Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the crowd in the Shetland Museum during her visit before the referendum. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Nicola Sturgeon says Alistair Carmichael should consider his position as MP. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Ms Sturgeon has said that Mr Carmichael has only admitted his involvement because he had been caught.

“Mr Carmichael said at the time that the first he was aware of this matter was when he received a call from a journalist, but we now know that this is simply untrue. The false memo was leaked by a special adviser acting under the authority of Mr Carmichael.

“He knew all about it, but said in public that he knew nothing until a journalist phoned him.

“As well as the original dirty trick, which was bad enough, Mr Carmichael then tried to cover it up – and is only admitting it now because he got caught.

“He needs to seriously reflect on that – and reflect on whether his actions and attempt to cover them up are consistent with his position as an honourable member of the House of Commons.”

Mr Carmichael said that if he were still a minster in the government he would have offered his resignation. “I’m not, so I can’t. But I have told the cabinet secretary I will not be accepting the ministerial severance payment normally given to ministers when they leave office.”

That payment is equivalent to three months of the ministerial salary.

Following the leak an inquiry was ordered by the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood.

More to follow.



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