Pressure has remained on Alistair Carmichael to stand down following news he was embroiled in a controversial memo leak which claimed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wanted to see David Cameron returned to Downing Street.
A claimed 60-strong crowd gathered at the Market Cross in Lerwick on Saturday as pressure group We The People of Shetland garnered support for their calls for the embattled MP to seek re-election. Meanwhile, a campaign has seen more than £51,000 of the required £60,000 raised to mount a legal challenge, known as The People Versus Carmichael, against the election result.
folk are feeling really unhappy
We The People spokesman, Logan Nicolson, said people from a mixture of political persuasions had attended Saturday’s silent protest.
“There were many Greens that turned out. There were ex-Lib Dems. There were people who weren’t aligned at all politically and – last week and this week – we had no voters who turned up.
“It wasn’t just a thing about the yes campaign, it’s a thing folk are feeling really unhappy with the way this is going.”
He added he was aware other people supported what they were doing, but felt unable to take a public stance on it because of the role they had in the community.
“It is divisive and folk do find politics a difficult thing to speak about in Shetland. I understand that. I think that’s the very reason that, if there is a by-election and Carmichael stands again, that can put this issue to bed without folk feeling they are not able to speak out.”
Last week a contrite Mr Carmichael apologised for his actions, but insisted the best way for him to make amends would be to serve in the job he was elected to do. He stood by his 14 year record as a constituency MP.
But Mr Nicolson said that was not a convincing excuse.
“He does have a very good constituency record for a long while. But that’s what we’d expect from our MP. That’s his job.
“Most folk have a good track record in their employment, but that doesn’t mean when they make grave errors of judgment, or lie about their conduct in their job, that they get away with it.
“Any of us, if we’d … lied about leaking information we’d lose our job.
“If he believes he has a really good track record as a constituency MP, let folk decide if they feel that that’s enough. I don’t think it’s up to the person who made the mistake to decide the level of apology, or whether they get a second chance. I don’t think it’s up to the person who made the mistake to decide how they are judged.”
While last week’s news sparked calls for Mr Carmichael to stand down, criticism has equally been levelled at campaigners by supporters of the MP. Notably, his Holyrood counterpart, Tavish Scott, and local members of the Labour party who criticised the “excitable tub-thumping” carried out largely by SNP members.
Mr Nicolson said he believed debate here had been “more measured and respectful” than in Orkney.
“There were some folk who came with placards last week that we didn’t agree with, and we didn’t want them to march with, so they put that ones away.”
He said there was a need to strike a balance between encouraging people to run a positive campaign, while at the same time expressing their unhappiness.
His comments came as support for The People Versus Carmichael came close to the £60,000 target needed to challenge the election result in the courts.
So far more than 3,300 people have contributed to raise over £51,000 in a bid to hold Mr Carmichael accountable. They hope the Representation of People Act will help force a by-election.
Mr Nicolson said he had made it clear that was “not the way” he wanted to go about things, but he wished those raising the action good luck.
“It’s something I support in so far as it’s their right to take them to court about this issue. They are behaving totally openly and honestly and it’s their democratic right to do so. So in so far as they have got a right to do so I support it.”
He added: “I think if they succeed they will have broken new ground.”
Mr Nicolson added it was important Mr Carmichael, and Mr Scott, “set aside” their allegiances to the Liberal Democrats and think first and foremost about their constituents.