Pro-independence blogger Wings over Scotland loses court appeal against Dugdale
The appeal was refused by three judges, upholding the original decision by Sheriff Nigel Ross from last April.
Lord President Lord Carloway, along with Lords Brodie and Menzies heard the appeal case of “Wings over Scotland” blogger Stuart Campbell, who claimed Ms Dugdale defamed him in a newspaper column three years ago.
She had written a comment article in the Daily Record about alleged “homophobic tweets” made by Mr Campbell in reference to the sexuality of former Conservative Scottish Secretary, David Mundell.
Mr Campbell lost his defamation case and demand for £25,000 in reputational damages at Edinburgh Sheriff Court when the Sheriff ruled that while Ms Dugdale was incorrect to imply Mr Campbell was homophobic, she was protected under the principle of fair comment.
The latest judgement says that the Lords agreed “with the sheriff’s conclusion” that Ms Dugdale’s article was “fair comment” on Mr Campbell’s tweet, they saif was in “the nature of Oliver Mundell’s public speaking was such that it would have been better if his father had declared his homosexuality earlier whereby, it is said, his son would not have been born.”
The said that while “it is not now disputed that the article was, in its reference to the pursuer as homophobic, defamatory... the next question is whether the defamatory elements in it constituted comment, as distinct from fact.
“It is important then to look at both the visual and textual context in which the article appears. The defender’s article is at the top of a page which is dedicated to the defender’s views on political and other topics. It is not part of a news reporting section. It is accompanied by pieces on female equality, trades unions in supermarkets, the Conservatives’ austerity programme and the fortunes of Hibernian FC. The context points towards the piece being one of opinion rather than fact.
“Comment may, and often will, contain an allegation of fact. It will nevertheless be classified as comment, for the purposes of defamation.”
The concluded: “The court has therefore reached its own decision on the central matters in dispute, albeit that the conclusion matches that of the sheriff.”
Mr Campbell responded to the result on his website. He said: “We’ve just learned that we’ve lost the appeal over our defamation by the then-Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.”
In the angry blog, Mr Campbell said the ex-politician had “repeatedly and publicly made the appalling, damaging and wholly untrue smear that I was a homophobe”. He said he had lost his appeal “even though the appeal judges all agreed with the original sheriff that the smear was false and defamatory.”
He added: “While our case was clearly just, I hadn’t been building my hopes up. I truly wish I could feel more surprised that the sweary independence blogger had lost to the Unionist politician despite the court agreeing with everything we claimed. But that’s the Scottish establishment for you.”
Ms Dugdale was originally supported in her defence by the Labour Party who later withdrew their financial backing in what her supporters claimed was a politically-motivated decision by the party’s General Secretary Jenny Formby. Her defence was then financially supported by teh Daily Record.
Today she said: “I feel a huge sense of relief that this whole saga is over.
“I cannot thank the Daily Record enough, for the opportunity to write and their willingness and determination to defend the words written.
“At the heart of this case was the right of all Scots to freely express opinion; this important right has been upheld today. Credit for that goes entirely to my legal team Roddy Dunlop QC and Campbell Deane at BKF who couldn’t have been more professional or supportive.
“I'm very grateful to many friends for providing morale-boosting support and Stonewall Scotland, which like the Daily Record, stood by me throughout.”
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