The SNP is standing by a general election candidate after it emerged Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh is under investigation by the professional body for solicitors in connection with a former law firm pursued by the taxman in a bankruptcy case last year.
Opposition parties have called for Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh, the SNP’s Westminster international trade spokeswoman who is defending her Ochil and South Perthshire seat on 8 June, to be suspended while the Law Society of Scotland carries out its probe.
And SNP spokesman confirmed reports that Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh is being investigated over what she described as “administrative matters”. The party said she would remain on the campaign trail.
The Law Society of Scotland, the professional body for solicitors, has not commented. The investigation centres on the law firm Hamilton Burns WS Ltd, which Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh set up as a partnership in 2001.
She resigned as a director of the firm shortly after becoming an MP in 2015. In December 2016, it emerged that Hamilton Burns had been subject to a sequestration order by HMRC to secure assets in the event of bankruptcy.
Legal action was launched by HMRC against both the firm and Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh, but the case was dismissed “in chambers” and did not go to court. She said at the time that she had “no outstanding personal tax liability whatsoever”.
In a statement, Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh said: “I’m proud of my 17-year career in the legal profession. I am aware that issues have been raised with the Law Society in relation to administrative matters during my time at my former firm.
“The Law Society has a duty to uphold professional standards and they must be allowed to do so without prejudice.
“In the meantime, I’m getting on with fighting this election campaign and seeking re-election to stand up for the people of Ochil and South Perthshire.”
A spokesperson for the SNP said: “The party is aware that administrative matters relating to Tasmina’s time at her former firm are being looked into.
“Hundreds of issues are raised with the Law Society every year and it is right that they investigate them.
“She has co-operated fully and is continuing her campaign to be a strong voice for the people of Ochil and South Perthshire.”
Following investigation, the Law Society can refer serious cases of misconduct to the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT). A spokeswoman for the SSDT said it was not dealing with any case relating to Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh.
Two SNP MPs, Natalie McGarry and Michelle Thomson, were suspended by the party following criminal investigations into their financial dealings. James Kelly, Scottish Labour’s general election campaign manager, claimed that “in the wake of a series of scandals it once again raises questions about the party’s vetting process”.
He said: “Voters on 8 June have an opportunity to reject Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh at the ballot box and get a Labour MP who will fight against another divisive independence referendum.”
Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife, Murdo Fraser, said: “These are serious allegations and, four weeks out from an election, the voters of Ochil and South Perthshire need an immediate explanation.
“It would be utterly unacceptable for the SNP to try and brush this under the carpet. For once, they need to be straight with people.
“If an investigation has been launched, then the SNP should do exactly as they did with their former MP Michelle Thomson and suspend Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh immediately.”
Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh is defending a 10,168-vote majority in Ochil and South Perthshire, having finished 17.6 per cent ahead of Labour in 2015.