Sir Menzies Campbell has condemned the SNP’s “despicable” campaign against the late Charles Kennedy, saying that the Nationalists’ Westminster leader must take responsibility for it.
Lib Dem grandee yesterday waded into the row over Ian Blackford’s treatment of Mr Kennedy when he defeated him in the 2015 general election.
Mr Blackford, now the SNP’s Westminster leader, has been criticised for the way the campaign was conducted at a time when Mr Kennedy was battling alcoholism. Mr Kennedy died a few weeks after losing his Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat to Mr Blackford.
Yesterday Sir Menzies, who as Lord Campbell of Pittenweem sits in the House of Lords, said: “The campaign against Charles Kennedy by the SNP was the most despicable that I can remember in any election since 1974 when I first stood for parliament. I simply don’t buy the argument that the candidate knew nothing about what was going on. Responsibility for the conduct of a campaign in every case rests with the candidate and if he or she does not accept that obligation then they should not be standing.
“What’s more, it is inconceivable that the Nationalist high command did not know what was going on and must take responsibility for what took place in the constituency.”
The controversy over the SNP’s conduct in Ross, Skye and Lochaber was reignited this week when friends of Mr Kennedy took issue with comments made by Mr Blackford in a weekend interview. Mr Blackford said he was proud of the SNP’s campaign and said he respected Mr Kennedy as an “outstanding” parliamentarian. He claimed to have no regrets about the campaign when Mr Kennedy died because there was “absolutely no issue” between him and the late Lib Dem.
He went on to claim the Lib Dems ran a “nasty” campaign against him, which he did not blame Mr Kennedy for. His remarks led to the former Labour MP Brian Wilson accusing Mr Blackford of an “odious attempt to rewrite history”. He said Mr Blackford had launched the hashtag “#where’sCharlie?” which unleashed a torrent of abuse from SNP supporters.
Last night a SNP spokesperson said: “Neither the campaign nor Ian Blackford made personal attacks. Ian considers these issues were settled following the election three years ago and they have only resurfaced following a journalist’s questions. Ian Blackford has nothing further to add on these matters.”