WILLIE Rennie has said ex-Cabinet minister Alistair Carmichael should get a “second chance” after accepting responsibility for a leaked memo alleging Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to win the general election.
But the SNP described Mr Carmichael’s position as “increasingly perilous” and pointed to a newspaper article he wrote five years ago in which he urged MPs to “tell the truth”.
“As a liberal I believe that people deserve a second chance. I hope fair minded people would agree that Alistair Carmichael should be given that second chance”Willie Rennie
Mr Rennie, the leader of the Lib Dems north of the border, said he was supporting the Orkney and Shetland MP who he insisted “deeply regrets his actions”.
Mr Carmichael, the former Scottish Secretary, apologised to both the First Minister and the French ambassador to the UK after a Cabinet Office investigation into the leak concluded he ‘’could and should have stopped the sharing of the memo’’, and he added that he ‘’accepts responsibility for what occurred’’.
After it appeared in the Daily Telegraph before the election, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood ordered an inquiry into how the note, which claimed Ms Sturgeon told French ambassador Sylvie Bermann that she would prefer to see the Conservatives remain in power, got into the public domain.
Mr Carmichael, now Scotland’s only Lib Dem MP, said that while he had not seen the document before it was published in the newspaper, he was ‘’aware of its content and agreed that my special adviser (Euan Roddin) should make it public’’.
The Lib Dems have since said party officials would not be launching any internal disciplinary proceedings against Mr Carmichael. Neither he nor Mr Roddin will claim the severance pay they were entitled to after losing their jobs at the general election.
Mike McKenzie, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said: “Just when Mr Carmichael thought things couldn’t get any worse he has been caught in breach of his own code - and this further deepens the credibility crisis he now finds himself in.
“Mr Carmichael’s newspaper column in the Shetland Times, where he cites the dangers of political smears and the need for MPs to be truthful - along with his support for the right of constituents to recall their MP - leaves his position increasingly perilous.
“Mr Carmichael misled his constituents during an election, and the only way that he can relieve the pressure he is under is to stand down.”
But Mr Rennie said the Scottish Lib Dem party executive met yesterday and gave Mr Carmichael its support.
“I have discussed the serious nature of the publication of the Scotland Office document with Alistair Carmichael. He fully understands the impact it has had on his reputation. He deeply regrets his actions, has accepted responsibility for his error of judgment, apologised to Nicola Sturgeon and the French Ambassador and declined his ministerial severance payment,” he said.
“I have known Alistair for almost 30 years and have worked closely with him in parliament for almost a decade. I have always been impressed by his energy, dedication and professionalism. He has served Orkney and Shetland for 14 years and has been elected on four separate occasions. It is clear to me that recent events are an aberration.
“As a liberal I believe that people deserve a second chance. I hope fair minded people would agree that Alistair Carmichael should be given that second chance.”
Accepting his responsibility for the leak, Mr Carmichael said on Friday: “I should not have agreed this. It was an error of judgment which I regret. I accept full responsibility for the publication of the document...
“Had I still been a government minister, I would have considered this to be a matter that required my resignation.
“I have therefore informed the Cabinet Secretary that I will decline my ministerial severance payment.”
SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie said yesterday that he understood a complaint has been made to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.
“Given the scale of this - a dirty tricks campaign which involved the French Ambassador, the Scottish First Minister - all of which is completely false, bogus, made up, really he ought to consider very seriously whether he can be even be trusted by his constituents to remain a MP,” Mr Hosie added.