Carmichael faces court over leaked Sturgeon memo

CAMPAIGNERS have launched a court action aimed at overturning the election of former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, over his role in the Nicola Sturgeon leak row.
There have been calls for Mr Carmichael to resign over the leaking of a memo. Picture: Jane BarlowThere have been calls for Mr Carmichael to resign over the leaking of a memo. Picture: Jane Barlow
There have been calls for Mr Carmichael to resign over the leaking of a memo. Picture: Jane Barlow

A petition was lodged at the Court of Session in Edinburgh yesterday after a crowdfunding drive raised more than £40,000 to challenge his narrow victory on Orkney and Shetland.

Mr Carmichael has been under fire after it emerged he authorised the leak of an official UK Government memo which wrongly claimed Ms Sturgeon preferred David Cameron as prime minister to Ed Miliband.

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The campaigners say that if this had been known during the campaign, the result could have been different. Mr Carmichael clung on with a majority of just 810.

The campaign, entitled “The People Versus Carmichael”, was set up by Orkney residents Fiona MacInnes and Tim Morrison.

Ms MacInnes said yesterday there was now a “large groundswell of opinion” on the islands for Mr Carmichael to step down and have a rerun of the election.

She added: “It is really constituents from Orkney and Shetland asking the courts, or the law of the land, to examine the electoral process in Orkney and Shetland over the election period, and to see whether it was run properly and fairly.”

Mr Morrison was present at court, where the petition was formally presented by Jonathan Mitchell QC at a hearing before Lord Uist.

Mr Morrison said afterwards: “I’m a voter from Stromness in Orkney and one of the four petitioners asking the Court of Session to request the result of the general election in our constituency to be examined.

“Everyone has an opinion on what happened and what Mr Carmichael has done or not done, but we ordinary voters want to have our say now that we are in full possession of the facts.”

The judge made an order for Mr Carmichael to be formally notified of the petition.

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Mr Carmichael is the last remaining Lib Dem MP in Scotland and has come under pressure to quit over the past week since his role in the memo row came to light.

He was forced to admit that he approved the leak of an official memo by his special adviser to a newspaper during the campaign after an official cabinet office inquiry.

The document, written by a civil servant in the Scotland Office, claimed the First Minister told the French ambassador to the UK that she would prefer Mr Cameron as prime minister rather than Mr Miliband. Both Ms Sturgeon and the French ambassador say no such comments were made and Mr Carmichael has also admitted this was wrong.

During the election, Mr Carmichael claimed to have been unaware of the memo until he was contacted by a journalist. He has since said that while he had not seen the document before it was published, he was aware of its content and agreed that it should be made public.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Purvis last night said that Mr Carmichael had made a “grievous mistake”, but insisted there was no need for another election. The former Borders MSP said: “The issue is whether his role as a member of Parliament for Orkney and Shetland is affected by that.

“Well of course in one way it is because his relationship with his voters is important to him. I know that he will be working very hard for those constituents going forward.

“It has to be rebuilding the trust for those constituents. I don’t want there to be an orchestrated witch-hunt but do want the work that he does and the importance of that to restore faith to continue.”