Labour members call for U-turn over Dugdale’s legal fees

Kezia Dugdale. Picture: John Devlin.
Kezia Dugdale. Picture: John Devlin.
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Scottish Labour members have demanded the party U-turn over its decision to withdraw financial support from former leader Kezia Dugdale’s legal fight against the pro-independence blogger behind Wings Over Scotland.

It comes as Labour MSPs were urged to help fund her defence against a defamation action brought by Stuart Campbell, with Jackie Baillie calling on fellow Holyrood parliamentarians to contribute £100 per month.

Mr Campbell took Ms Dugdale to court after she accused him of posting “homophobic” tweets.

The blogger had written on social media about a Conservative MSP, saying: “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.”

Mr Mundell’s father is Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who came out in 2016.

In a newspaper column, Ms Dugdale – at the time, Scottish Labour’s first and only openly gay parliamentarian – wrote that she was “shocked and appalled” by the comments.

Her legal fees are believed to be in excess of £90,000. Earlier this month a sheriff rejected a call from Ms Dugdale’s lawyers for the case to be dismissed, and ordered a hearing of evidence.

A motion put forward by the Glasgow Anniesland constituency party for debate at the Labour conference in Liverpool states that “a promise was made by the party to support Kezia Dugdale in this action from start to finish in connection with her legal defence”.

Paul Cruikshank, the secretary of Anniesland CLP told The Scotsman: “This isn’t about divisions in the Labour party – members on all sides are supporting Kezia and want the party to change is decision.

“There are lots of SNP supporters and independence supporters who also think Wings Over Scotland should be challenged.”

Mr Campbell has accused the former Scottish Labour leader of telling “appalling, cowardly and mendacious lies” about his views. At a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in July, his QC Craig Sandison said it was “simply not true” to call Mr Campbell a homophobe.

Lord Foulkes, for whom Ms Dugdale worked before being elected as an MSP, welcomed the call for MSPs to help cover he legal costs.

He told the Herald on Sunday: “In principle, Jackie Baillie has come up with a good idea, and if MSPs paid this sum, I am sure MPs and peers would also contribute. My only worry is that it gets [UK Labour general secretary] Jennie Formby off the hook as we should keep the pressure up on the party. There should be a moral, if not a legal, obligation on the party to come up with the money.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on a live, ongoing legal case.”