Former Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael has admitted that he hadn’t initially told the full truth to an official inquiry into a leak he sanctioned about Nicola Sturgeon during the election.
The Orkney and Shetland MP revealed in a special election court yesterday that it wasn’t until five days after the general election that he first admitted he was behind the leak of a memo suggesting the First Minister backed the re-election of a Tory government.
The memo’s claims, an account of a meeting between Ms Sturgeon and the French ambassador to the UK, were rejected by both individuals at the time.
Mr Carmichael, a former procurator fiscal, is now facing a legal challenge to his election victory in May from a group of constituents under the Representation of the People Act over his actions. He was giving evidence at a special election court in Edinburgh yesterday.
Mr Carmichael initially denied any knowledge of the leak, which emerged around a month before voters went to the polls on 7 May. He later admitted allowing his special adviser Euan Roddin to release details of the document, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 3 April. Mr Carmichael told the court he was “less than fully truthful” initially with an inquiry which was launched following the row over into the leak.
“I felt I could truthfully answer, ‘No, I didn’t leak it’,” he told QC Jonathan Mitchell, acting for the four petitioners.
The lawyer said it was only because Mr Roddin had used his own phone to contact the newspaper that an evidence trail emerged. Mr Carmichael admitted his involvement five days after the election.
But he 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.
He told the court he ultimately accepted responsibility when he was interviewed for the inquiry.
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.”