Independence blogger ‘horrified’ at homophobia claim by Kezia Dugdale
A pro-independence blogger was “absolutely horrified” to have been accused of homophobia by Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, a court has heard.
Wings Over Scotland blogger Stuart Campbell is suing the former Scottish Labour leader for defamation over a column she wrote in the Daily Record referencing his “homophobic tweets”.
The tweet at the centre of the controversy states: “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.”
Giving evidence as the first witness in a civil proof at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Mr Campbell said he made the comment while live-tweeting the Conservative Party conference on March 3, 2017.
He said it was “satirical criticism” of Scottish Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell’s public speaking skills.
Mr Campbell, 51, from Bath, denied it was a homophobic reference to Scottish Secretary David Mundell being gay and agreed anyone who believed so was either “dishonest or stupid”.
He said: “I don’t believe any intelligent person could honestly interpret that tweet as homophobic, given what it said.”
Mr Campbell said the tweet was a “joke”, the joke being: “I wish by some means or other you had not been fathered by your father.”
He added: “It’s a staple joke of humanity, I’d suggest, for almost as long as there has been language.”
In her column on March 7 2017, Ms Dugdale wrote: “I was shocked and appalled to see a pro-independence blogger’s homophobic tweets during the Tory Party conference.”
She went on to criticise any politicians who endorse those who “spout homophobia”.
Mr Campbell denied being homophobic, saying he has always found discrimination against gay people “abhorrent”.
Asked for his reaction to Ms Dugdale’s column by his lawyer, Craig Sandison QC, he said: “I remember being horrified and I spoke fairly quickly to my solicitor and suggested to him I considered that to be defamatory.”
Ms Dugdale later brought up the matter at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, where she said her column had “called out Mr Campbell for his homophobic comments”.
Mr Campbell told the court: “I was absolutely horrified. It was a very unpleasant sensation to come home and find you have been decried in such a way on live national television on a programme that may be watched by your family and friends. It was very unpleasant.”
He said the comment in her column was “hurtful” and this had not lessened as Ms Dugdale has “stuck to a malicious and spiteful lie for two years”.
“I feel she has left me no option but to defend my reputation in this manner and the consequences of that I hold her significantly responsible for,” he added.
Mr Campbell wants £25,000 in damages for the alleged defamation by Ms Dugdale, who is defending the claim.
The case before Sheriff Nigel Ross continues today.