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£10,000 raised in memo legal bid

Published 26/05/2015

Sir Malcolm Bruce accused the SNP of attempting to 'extinguish all opposition' in Scotland
Sir Malcolm Bruce accused the SNP of attempting to 'extinguish all opposition' in Scotland

A crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a legal battle to oust former Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael as an MP has raised more than £10,000.

Police are also trying to establish whether a crime has been committed after Mr Carmichael falsely denied leaking a memo smearing SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon during the general election campaign.

More than 700 people have donated money to "The People Versus Carmichael" campaign in just a few hours.

The campaign, launched by Kirkwall-based pro-independence and SNP supporter Fiona MacInnes, aims to raise £60,000 "for legal representation to hold Alistair Carmichael accountable for his behaviour before, during and after the election campaign".

It states: "If successful we will raise an election petition in the courts. This could begin a process which could have the recent result in Orkney and Shetland overturned.

"This campaign is not supported by any political party but by residents of Orkney and Shetland who are disappointed in the behaviour of their MP and want our politics conducted honestly and without smears."

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "We can confirm that a complaint has been received and inquiries are ongoing to establish whether there is any criminality."

Mr Carmichael has said he would have quit the Cabinet if he were still a minister.

He was one of just eight Liberal Democrat survivors on May 7 but his majority of over 10,000 was squeezed to 817 votes by the SNP.

Senior Liberal Democrat Sir Malcolm Bruce, who stood down ahead of the election, has suggested the Commons would be cleared out if every MP who told a lie had to quit.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Sir Malcolm - a former deputy leader of his party - said: "If you're suggesting every MP who has never quite told the truth or indeed told a brazen lie, including ministers, including Cabinet ministers, including prime ministers, we'd clear out the House of Commons very fast, I would suggest."

Asked if he was suggesting that lying in public life is widespread, Sir Malcolm replied: "No. Well, yes - I think the answer is lots of people have told lies and you know that to be perfectly true."

But James Cleverly, the new Conservative MP for Braintree, told the Press Association: "Frankly, in my experience politicians rarely lie much at all because the risks to do so in almost all circumstances are so massively outweighed.

"I think (Malcolm Bruce) is completely wrong about this. I think if he wanted really to do Alistair Carmichael any favours, he should stop talking."

Labour MP for Bassetlaw John Mann said Sir Malcolm's comments were surprising for someone who chaired a Commons select committee before the election.

Mr Mann highlighted the seven "principles of public life", which formalise "honesty" as one of the key standards politicians should keep to.

He said: "There are plenty of people who avoid answering a question but that is not the same as lying."

Mr Mann said Mr Carmichael's case demonstrated the need for voter-initiated recall, rather than the system - implemented shortly before the election by Liberal Democrat ministers - which begins in Parliament.

SNP MP Pete Wishart said: "This was an extraordinary outburst and a new low, even by the standards of the Lib Dems' increasingly desperate attempts to defend the indefensible and keep Alistair Carmichael in his taxpayer-funded job."

Mr Carmichael has apologised to both Ms Sturgeon 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".

Mr Carmichael said he had not seen the document before it was published in the Telegraph but he was ''aware of its content and agreed that my special adviser (Euan Roddin) should make it public''.

A Liberal Democrat spokeswoman said: "Alistair Carmichael has accepted responsibility for his error of judgement, apologised to Nicola Sturgeon and the French ambassador and declined his ministerial severance payment.

"Alistair is now focussing on his job of representing Orkney and Shetland."

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