Carmichael case a ‘political show trial’, says MSP
Isles MSP Tavish Scott has called legal proceedings brought against former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael as a “political show trial”.
The former Scottish Lib Dem leader told the Election Court sitting in Edinburgh that the case against the Mr Carmichael is being funded by SNP activists who want to eliminate opposition to the nationalist agenda.
Mr Scott made the claim while giving evidence in the first day of proceedings against Mr Carmichael to advocate Jonathan Mitchell QC.
The lawyer has been instructed by members of the public from Mr Carmichael’s constituency in Orkney.
They want to see Mr Carmichael removed from the House of Commons over an untruthful statement he made to Channel 4 News during this year’s general election campaign.
Mr Scott told Mr Mitchell that the hearing was “very political.”
He added: “I don’t think people like these proceedings. They see it as a political show trial.
“They see it as a political event which is being funded by nationalists who don’t want to see any opposition in this country.”
The claims emerged during proceedings brought by constituents of Mr Carmichael who wish to see his May 2015 election to the Westminster Parliament declared null and void.
They believe that Mr Carmichael breached the Representation of the Peoples Act over a leaked Scottish Office memo which formed the basis of a Daily Telegraph story on 3rd April.
The piece was headlined Nicola Sturgeon secretly backs David Cameron.
The story claimed that the First Minister preferred to see David Cameron continue as Prime Minister.
The information contained within the story came from a leaked memo recording the alleged contents of a conversation between Ms Sturgeon and the French ambassador.
Two days later the cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood ordered an inquiry into the leak.
Mr Carmichael told Channel 4 News that the first he became aware of the story was when a journalist phoned him to seek comment just before the publication of the tale in The Telegraph.
However, the civil service probe later concluded that Euan Roddin, a former special adviser to the Scottish secretary, had the permission of Mr Carmichael to leak the memo to the newspaper.
Mr Carmichael, who won the Orkney and Shetland seat with an 817 majority, left his government role without severance pay.
The constituents who brought the petition – Timothy Morrison, Phemie Matheson, Fiona Grahame and Carolyn Welling, all of Orkney, were aided by crowd funding.
They maintain that Mr Carmichael’s statement on when he first became aware of the memo leak actually took place before the election and broke electoral law.
The constituents argue that his statement to Channel 4 News about when he became aware of the memo, was untruthful and breached the Representation of the People Act.
The legislation states that a person will be guilty of an illegal practice if before or during an election, for the purpose of affecting the return of a candidate, they make or publish a false statement of fact over a candidate’s personal character or behaviour.
The constituents believe that Mr Carmichael broke a section of the Representation of the People Act which forbids election candidates from making damaging statements about another candidate’s personal life or personal conduct.
Today, Mr Scott told the court that he and Mr Carmichael spoke to each other on 10th May.
Mr Scott said: “He told me that a leak inquiry was underway and Alistair explained that statements he had made to Channel 4 were wrong.”
Mr Scott said he felt uneasy at having to give evidence to the court because he felt the proceedings were a “political” process.
He told Mr Mitchell: “These are a political series of questions that you are asking me. I feel as though I am on television.”
Mr Scott also told the court that he believed that the SNP wanted to see David Cameron continue as Prime Minister.
He added: “It is clearly in the interests of the SNP to have a Tory government at Westminster. It suits the SNP to have a Conservative government. They can play the politics of grievance more effectively than they could do with a Labour government.”
Earlier, the court heard evidence from Fiona Grahame, who is one of the constituents who brought the case to court.
The 57-year-old online business owner, of Sandwick, Orkney, told the court that she respected Mr Carmichael.
The Scottish Green Party activist said: “He was extremely hard working. He did help a lot of people.”
But she said she felt “shocked” when the truth about the circumstances of the leak became known.
She said: “It was hard to get your head around – I can’t understand why somebody who you trusted and respected so much, and who had an important position in Scotland as well, could lie to the people of Orkney and Shetland.”
The proceedings before judges Lord Matthews and Lady Paton continue.
• Copy supplied by United News Service Ltd.
Mr Carmichael denies any wrongdoing.