ONE of Alex Salmond's new MSPs has been chastised by a sheriff for going to a parliamentary gathering instead of appearing in court to face allegations that he has failed to pay a £4,000 bill.
Mike MacKenzie, an SNP list MSP for the Highlands and Islands, is being sued by a small family business, which claims not to have been paid for electrical work carried out for the politician's building firm on the island of Easdale, near Oban. But Mackenzie earned a rebuke from the sheriff overseeing the case when he failed to turn up for a scheduled hearing on Tuesday, 10 May, because he decided to travel to Edinburgh instead.
He took part in a "pre- induction" meeting for new SNP MSPs the day before their formal induction as elected members at Holyrood.
The whole of the Tuesday at Oban Sheriff Court had been set aside to hear the case, but MacKenzie's non-appearance meant that Sheriff Douglas Small was only on the bench for around half-an-hour. Small told the court: "This whole day has been set aside to deal with this court and this is an extremely busy court." He added that MacKenzie's solicitor's submission suggested that the MSP believed "that an induction is more important than a continued litigation".
The sheriff ordered MacKenzie to pay for the cost of the other litigant's expenses for that day in court.
MacKenzie is one of the new intake of MSPs to have benefited from the extraordinary swing to the SNP at the 5 May election. As the seventh-placed candidate on the Highlands and Islands list, even the most optimistic pro-SNP forecasts would have struggled to predict that he would make it to the Scottish Parliament where he will collect a 56,000 salary.
But Mike MacKenzie Builders is involved in litigation brought by a local electrician Lorne Walton, of Walton Electrical, Oban.
Walton claims that Mackenzie has failed to settle up for work his company carried out three years ago when he did the wiring for three houses that the newly-elected politician was then building on the small island.
Walton said: "I can confirm that we have been pursuing Mr MacKenzie for 4,087. All I ever wanted was to be paid for the work I carried out. Mr MacKenzie claimed the work was faulty even though it was inspected and passed."
The case has been rescheduled to be heard in July. An SNP spokesperson said: "This is a matter for the proper authorities and will be dealt with according to due process.
"Mike MacKenzie's travel arrangements meant that he had to miss the hearing due to parliamentary business, and an apology and explanation was provided to the court by his lawyer."