Scottish secretary David Mundell has offered to give evidence in support of Kezia Dugdale in her legal battle with a pro-independence blogger.
Mr Mundell said he and his son, Tory MSP Oliver Mundell, would do “anything we can” to help the former Scottish Labour leader if necessary.
The Scottish secretary made the offer when he was asked by the BBC about the legal action brought against Ms Dugdale by Stuart Campbell, author of the Wings over Scotland website. Mr Campbell is suing the former Scottish Labour leader for £25,000 in a defamation action.
Ms Dugdale became the subject of the action when she described a tweet posted by Mr Campbell about the Scottish secretary as “homophobic” in a column for the Daily Record.
Mr Campbell’s tweet described Oliver Mundell as “the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his sexuality sooner”. David Mundell came out as a homosexual in January 2016. According to the BBC, the Scottish secretary said he had provided a witness statement for Ms Dugdale and was prepared to appear in court if necessary.
Labour MSPs meanwhile took part in a stormy meeting yesterday to discuss the UK party’s decision to halt funding for Ms Dugdale’s case after shelling out £94,000.
The decision has split the party, with most MSPs in Scotland believing Labour should meet the entire costs. However, some left-wing MSPs believe the party’s decision is the right one. The issue is now being seen as a test of Richard Leonard’s leadership of the Scottish party.
At the private meeting in the Scottish Parliament, the left-wing MSP Elaine Smith was observed banging the table before leaving, closely followed by Neil Findlay, another Holyrood member on the left of the party.
The Scotsman understands discussions were heated and inconclusive, but Mr Leonard declined to participate when Ms Dugdale’s case was raised. Mr Leonard’s failure to take part did not impress those MSPs who believe he should do more to get the UK party to overturn its position. Neither Mr Leonard nor Ms Dugdale would comment after the meeting finished.
Previously Ms Dugdale has suggested the decision to cease funding her legal costs was made after Iain McNicol was replaced as general secretary by Jenny Formby, who is close to Jeremy Corbyn. Since the decision was taken the Daily Record has “reinstated” legal support. It is understood this does not cover Mr Campbell’s damages and costs if she loses.