Alistair Carmichael faces legal fight for seat

Alistair Carmichael MP
Alistair Carmichael MP

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael will face a legal bid from four constituents who want to see him ousted from his seat over allegations of lying.

Mr Carmichael, who will fight the move, is subject of the first election petition to come before a Scottish court since 1965.

Campaigners in his Orkney and Shetland constituency are aiming to have his election overturned after he admitted responsibility shortly after the election for a memo that was controversially leaked from his department while he was Scottish Secretary.

The former cabinet minister and procurator fiscal depute issued an apology last month for facilitating the leak of the inaccurate memo, which said the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the French ambassador she wanted to see David Cameron remain Prime Minister.

In the immediate aftermath of the leak, he had insisted to Channel 4 News that he first knew of the letter “when I received a phone call from a journalist”.

In his response to the election petition, Mr Carmichael denies breaching section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 by making a “false statement” about an election candidate’s character or conduct.

The Liberal Democrats have refused to state whether or not they will pay his legal fees.

Professor James Chalmers, Regius Professor of Law at Glasgow University, told The National that the Court of Session could head north to hear the petition from within Mr Carmichael’s Orkney and Shetland constituency.

He said: “For people in the legal profession it is historic. There’s not been one of these for decades in Scotland. They do happen in England, but they are pretty rare events here.

“The court should normally sit in the constituency, but the last one was moved to Edinburgh because that was where they had all the books.

“That’s no longer an issue now with the internet and so on, so we could see the Court of Session decanting up north to hear this case.”

The petitioners successfully raised £60,000 in 16 days through the Internet in order to afford legal representation for the process.

On their crowdfunding page, they wrote: “The runaway success of this crowd fund shows that people care about truth honesty and cleaning up politics.

“Michael White said in the Guardian that we would have forgotten about this by Christmas. We will not because you have given us the ability to try the only legal opportunity that we have to challenge an MP.”

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