Nicola Sturgeon: Michelle Thomson situation ‘not easy’ for SNP

John Swinney has insisted it was Michelle Thomson's decision to withdraw from the SNP whip. Picture: Greg Macvean
John Swinney has insisted it was Michelle Thomson's decision to withdraw from the SNP whip. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Michelle Thomson’s suspension from the SNP was ‘not easy’ for the party, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The former MP for Edinburgh West resigned the party whip after she was named in an investigation into alleged mortgage fraud and was eventually deselected ahead of June’s general election.

Nicola Sturgeon, left, with Michelle Thomson on the campaign trail in April 2015. Picture: Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon, left, with Michelle Thomson on the campaign trail in April 2015. Picture: Getty Images

The Crown Office announced last week there should be “no criminal proceedings at this time” due to an “absence of sufficient credible and reliable evidence”.

Ms Thomson told BBC Scotland she was disappointed with the SNP leadership’s handling of the affair, adding that it had been a ‘frightening, disturbing and alarming time’.

She said she was not given the chance speak directly with Ms Sturgeon, and said that an apology would be be fitting.

The First Minister said she appreciated the ex-MP “has had a really tough time”, but said it “wasn’t easy” for the SNP.

Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Ms Sturgeon said: “Clearly on some aspects, I would take a different view [to Ms Thomson].

“I regret very much that we were confronted with a situation where one of our newly-elected MPs was facing serious allegations - of course I regret that.

“It wasn’t a situation of my making, it wasn’t a situation clearly I would have chosen to be in.

READ MORE - Michelle Thomson seeking comeback but SNP leaders keep their distance

“And I appreciate that what followed on that, the investigation that took place, was not easy for Michelle Thomson and it wouldn’t have been easy for anyone in that situation.

“But I think people would also appreciate that it wasn’t a particularly easy situation for the party to be in either.

“Michelle is now, happily, in the position where she can put this behind her. She has been cleared of any wrongdoing and I am sure she is very relieved about that so we can now look forward and have a discussion directly with her.

“But with the greatest of respect we will have the discussion, if she wants to have it, with her and not through the medium of the BBC.”

The former MP, who always denied any wrongdoing, spoke of her relief at being ‘completely exonerated’ after the inquiry was dropped.

Ms Thomson, who was elected as an MP in 2015, was one of five people named in a report sent to prosecutors last December following the police investigation into alleged mortgage fraud.

READ MORE - Michelle Thomson won’t face prosecution as fraud probe dropped

Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said there would be no criminal proceedings due to an absence of sufficient credible and reliable evidence

Ms Thomson was linked to deals involving Christopher Hales, a solicitor who was struck off for professional misconduct involving transactions in 2010 and 2011.

She told BBC Scotland she was not aware Mr Hales had been struck off until it emerged in the press in 2015.

The police investigation centred around so-called ‘back-to-back’ property deals, in which homes are sold or remortgaged immediately or soon after purchase, sometimes at a higher price.

Ms Thomson categorically denied that vulnerable people had been targeted for property deals, adding: “If there’s anyone who does feel aggrieved then I can only apologise.

“I would never, ever in any of my business dealings want to diddle someone. It’s just not appropriate and it wouldn’t be fair.”