A LEGAL challenge to the election of former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael as the MP for Orkney and Shetland is to be televised live, with the full proceedings due to be broadcast.
A petition has been lodged at the Court of Session in Edinburgh by four of Mr Carmichael’s constituents in an effort to oust him as the MP for the seat he won on 7 May.
This is a significant advance in televising the Scottish courtsSTV’s Gordon Macmillan
The former Liberal Democrat Scottish secretary has come under pressure to quit after admitting responsibility for a leaked memo written by a civil servant which wrongly suggested that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron’s Conservatives to win the general election.
The legal challenge is being brought under section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which makes it a criminal offence to release a “false statement’’ about the character and conduct of an election candidate.
STV is to televise the proceedings on Monday, becoming the first broadcaster in the UK to televise a Scottish court hearing live and in full.
Gordon Macmillan, STV’s head of news, said: “This is a significant advance in the televising of the Scottish courts and it will provide an important live insight – most especially for Mr Carmichael’s constituents – into the legal process in this case.”
Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood ordered an inquiry after the memo, which claimed Ms Sturgeon told French ambassador Sylvie Bermann she would prefer to see the Conservatives remain in power, became public.
Following the investigation, Mr Carmichael, who had insisted he was unaware of the memo, admitted that he had allowed his special adviser, Euan Roddin, to release details of the document which appeared in the media on 3 April.
Court officials have also agreed that journalists will be allowed to use social networking site Twitter to report live during the proceedings.
A spokesman for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said: “The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service held constructive discussions with all parties involved, in reaching an agreement to broadcast the Election Court and we are pleased STV has agreed to facilitate this.”
In the wake of the memo fallout, Mr Carmichael apologised and said he would have resigned had he still been a Cabinet minister. He also declined his ministerial severance payment.
The Lib Dems said Mr Carmichael, who was one of just eight survivors of his party UK-wide in the general election and is its only remaining Scottish MP, did not want to comment on the plan to have a live broadcast.