Kezia Dugdale has won a defamation case brought against by the pro-independence blogger Wings Over Scotland.
The Lothians MSP had been taken to court over her claims in a newspaper column that Stuart Campbell, who runs the blog, sent a homophobic tweet. Although a sheriff found the tweet had not been homophobic, he said Ms Dugdale’s claims in her Daily Record column met the test of a “defence of fair comment”.
In a statement posted on her personal Twitter feed, Ms Dugdale said: “I am delighted to have won this case and hugely relived after two long years of it hanging over me.
“I cannot thank the team at the Daily Record enough. They stood by me as I stood up to him and won.
“Their support has been fulsome and unwavering throughout such a difficult time.
“This is an important judgement for the right to free speech and a healthy press.
“This ruling clearly demonstrates that every citizen is entitled to make comments as long as they are fair and reflect honestly held views.”
Campbell had been seeking £25,000 in damages. He had denied being a homophobe and insisted such an allegation was both “untrue” and “unfair”.
He went to court to protect his reputation as someone who consistently supported the equal treatment of homosexual people, and also sought £25,000 damages.
In his written judgement today Sheriff Nigel Ross said the true question was whether someone was entitled to view the tweet as homophobic, according to the Daily Record.
“Despite incorrectly implying that Mr Campbell is homophobic, her article is protected under the principle of fair comment,” he stated.
“She is not liable to pay damages to Mr Campbell.”
Mr Campbell said on his blog that he was still “fully digesting and considering” the judgement with his legal team before deciding on his next course of action, hinting at a potential appeal.
“My legal team and I have just received, unexpectedly early, the sheriff’s verdict in my defamation case against Kezia Dugdale,” he said in a post today.
“The short and paraphrased version is that yes, she did defame me by inaccurately calling me a homophobe, but because she’s an idiot who doesn’t know what words mean, she’s allowed to, so we lose.”
He added: “In almost every sense that the case was brought, we’ve actually won. I sought to defend my reputation against a false accusation of homophobia, to establish that I’m not a homophobe and to prevent anyone from being able to make such claims in future. All of those aims have been upheld, in explicit terms, by this judgement.
“Dugdale had claimed that she’d only said a single tweet was homophobic, not that I was a homophobe in general. The sheriff rejected that and noted that any reasonable person reading the article would have concluded I was being called a homophobe.”