A LEGAL attempt to unseat former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has been branded a “political show trial” in court by a former Liberal Democrat leader.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said people feel the action is being funded by those, particularly nationalists, who “do not want opposition in this country”.
They think it’s a political show trial. They think it’s a political event being funded by people, particularly nationalists, who do not want opposition in this country.”Shetland MSP Tavish Scott
Mr Scott, a former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, was giving evidence at a four-day Election Court hearing taking place at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Four of Mr Carmichael’s constituents in his Orkney and Shetland seat are behind the bid to oust the MP after he admitted allowing the leak of a confidential memo which wrongly claimed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to remain in Downing Street at May’s general election.
Mr Scott was called by the group on the first day of the evidence sessions.
During sometimes heated exchanges with the group’s QC, Jonathan Mitchell, Mr Scott told the court: “I think people don’t like these proceedings.
“They think it’s a political show trial. They think it’s a political event being funded by people, particularly nationalists, who do not want opposition in this country.”
Mr Carmichael told the court he first revealed the full truth about his involvement in leaking the confidential memo five days after the general election.
He said he “explained the full background” when he was interviewed as part of the official inquiry into the leak on May 12.
The MP also told the court he thought it was “politically beneficial” for the memo concerning Ms Sturgeon to be leaked.
Mr Carmichael initially denied having prior knowledge of the memo leak, which emerged around a month before voters went to the polls. But he later admitted he had allowed his special adviser, Euan Roddin, to release details of the document, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on April 3.
The court heard how a Cabinet Office inquiry into the leak was launched shortly after the newspaper article was printed.
Mr Carmichael told the court he was “less than fully truthful” with the inquiry initially.
“I felt I could truthfully answer, ‘No, I didn’t leak it’,” he told Mr Mitchell.
The lawyer said it was only because Mr Roddin had used his own phone to contact the newspaper that an evidence trail emerged. But Mr Carmichael denied misleading the inquiry and told the court: “The inquiry has to find evidence and put evidence to the people.”
The court also heard how those with knowledge of the memo had to fill in a questionnaire for the inquiry. “You are obviously at this stage not coming up with the truth of the matter, are you?” asked Mr Mitchell.
“I was not giving the full truth,” Mr Carmichael replied.
Mr Mitchell put it to him: “On the 12th of May you go to a face-to-face interview. At that point you say for the first time ‘I did it, I’m the person’.”
The MP replied: “I explained the full background, yes.”
The case continues.