POLITICS

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael To Seek Legal Costs Of £150,000 After Attempt To Oust Him Over Leaked Nicola Sturgeon Memo Fails

09/12/2015 11:07 GMT | Updated 09/12/2015 12:59 GMT
Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 09: Alistair Carmichael leaves Edinburgh Court of Session where he is appearing over a falsified memo that was leaked when he was in charge at the Scotland Office on November 09, 2015 in Edinburgh,Scotland. Mr Carmichael is appearing following a Cabinet Office enquiry found he authorised the leak of a memo in which it was claimed that Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron, rather than Ed Miliband, to be Prime Minister. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael is to chase legal costs of around £150,000, The Huffington Post understands, after a “politically motivated" attempt to oust him failed.

Four constituents challenged the election of the Orkney and Shetland MP, the party's only Member of Parliament north of the border, over a leaked memo wrongly claiming First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted David Cameron to remain in Downing Street at May's general election.

The election court in Edinburgh today ruled it not been proved beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Carmichael had committed an “illegal practice”, despite telling a "blatant lie".

The court noted, however, there was "reasonable doubt" over whether the lie could be characterised as a false statement of fact "in relation to (his) personal character or conduct".

Afterwards, the MP said the case was a "deliberate attempt by nationalists" to get rid of the Lib Dems in Scotland and was a mark of the "unhealthy polarisation of Scottish politics since the referendum".

The decision means the Lib Dems avoid the prospect for now of a tricky by-election, though he is still under investigation by the parliamentary standards commissioner.

A Lib Dem source said: "They chose to purse this case fully aware of the issue of costs. Alistair has also incurred significant costs, of around £150,000 to defend himself. The petitioners made arrangements to cover the costs of their legal action and doubtless will have considered the issue of costs.​"

Details of the memo were published in the Daily Telegraph at the start of the election campaign in April. Ms Sturgeon's comments were said to have been made to the French ambassador and damaged suggestions she would forge a left-wing coalition with other parties.

Mr Carmichael claimed in a TV interview he'd only heard of the memo when he received a phone call from a reporter, but later admitted to authorising the leak.

The MP said: “I am pleased with the decision of the court.

“Although I was always confident of winning the last few months have been a difficult and stressful time for me and my family.

“We have been enormously grateful for the tremendous levels of support received from local people, in both Orkney and Shetland, regardless of which political party they normally support.

“This support has sustained us and we are very thankful for it.

“I should also like to thank my legal team, especially Rosie Walker and her colleagues at Gilson Gray who have been professional and caring throughout.

“This case was politically motivated. It was a deliberate attempt by nationalists to remove the last Scottish Liberal voice at Westminster, and is a mark of the unhealthy polarisation of Scottish politics since the referendum.

“I shall continue to represent Orkney and Shetland as a Member of Parliament to the best of my ability, as I have done for the past 14 years.

“These are very special communities, and it is where my wife and I have made our home and where we are bringing up our family. The interests of the Northern Isles have always been, and always will be my first priority. It remains an honour and a privilege to be their Member of Parliament.”