Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale could be forced to foot her remaining legal bills over a blogger’s defamation claim after the party moved to limit its support.
The MSP-turned-I’m A Celebrity contestant is being sued by Stuart Campbell, who runs the pro-Scottish independence blog Wings Over Scotland, for alleged defamation.
The party had been bankrolling Dugdale’s defence, which is thought to have run to £90,000 so far, and HuffPost UK understands general secretary Jennie Formby is likely to refuse any further party funds being used.
Responding to the news, a spokesman for Dugdale said: “Given the principles on which it was founded - equality, fairness and justice - the UK Labour Party wholeheartedly committed to paying all legal costs associated with this case from start to finish.
“It is very much hoped that all promises will be kept.”
Backers of the decision to curb funding believe that party members’ subscriptions would be better spent on campaigning in a potential snap election year.
However, some MSPs are sympathetic to the idea of Labour paying for the full legal costs.
Others would regard the move as a major betrayal by the leadership of one of its leading politicians north of the border.
Dugdale is known to have received a fee of £70,000 for her appearance on ITV reality show, which followed her shock decision to step down from the party’s top job in Scotland. After tax, the amount is said to have been around £30,000.
She also declared between £10,000 and £15,000 worth of travel, accommodation and living expenses, which were paid by ITV.
Dugdale donated £5,100 of her appearance fee, as well as £2,500 of her MSP salary, to charity and was formally reprimanded by Labour for her absence from the Scottish Parliament.
Campbell brought the defamation case in July and Dugdale will face a courtroom cross-examination next year after a sheriff ordered a full hearing.
The nationalist blogger claims Dugdale defamed him by claiming a tweet he posted about Tory MSP Oliver Mundell was homophobic.
Mundell’s father is Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who came out as gay in 2016.
Campbell tweeted in 2017: “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.”
In a column for the Daily Record, Dugdale said she was “shocked and appalled to see a pro-independence blogger’s homophobic tweets”.
The party is reported to have instructed London-based lawyers Steel & Shamash, who have enlisted Scottish firm Balfour+Manson.
HuffPost UK has contacted Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard for comment.
When approached for comment, a UK Labour Party spokesman, said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on a live, ongoing legal case.”