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Lib Dems demand apology from Nicola Sturgeon after court victory over leaflets

A judge agreed the pamphlets issued by the SNP were ‘false in substance, materially inaccurate and defamatory’.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson went to court to challenge an SNP leaflet in the East Dunbartonshire constituency where she is standing (Aaron Chown/PA)
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson went to court to challenge an SNP leaflet in the East Dunbartonshire constituency where she is standing (Aaron Chown/PA)

By Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor

Scotland’s First Minister is being urged to apologise after the SNP sent out leaflets which Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson successfully challenged in court as being false and defamatory.

The Liberal Democrats went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Tuesday to halt distribution of the pamphlets in the East Dunbartonshire seat where Ms Swinson is a candidate.

After the court ruled the leaflets were “false in substance, materially inaccurate and defamatory”, Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP would respect that decision.

But she insisted the Liberal Democrat leader needs to be held to account for her party’s record in coalition with the Conservatives.

Ms Swinson was a minister in the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition at Westminster, with Ms Sturgeon claiming she does not have “a good record”.

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Nicola Sturgeon said the Lib dem leader should be prepared to defend her record. (Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images)

Speaking at the SNP election manifesto launch in Glasgow on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon said: “We of course respect the judgment of the court and we will honour that judgment.”

However she added: “Beyond that and in more general respects I will say this: Jo Swinson has a record she needs to be prepared to defend, it’s not a good record.

“It’s not a good record on austerity, on welfare, on fracking, on a whole range of other things and she seems a bit sensitive when it is raised.

“But it is going to continue to be raised, because she can’t run away from it.”

Campaigning in East Dunbartonshire on Wednesday, Ms Swinson said she was “very pleased that the judge ruled that the leaflet that was being distributed was false and defamatory and that has now been accepted by the SNP”.

She added: “Obviously we all need to take responsibility to make sure we speak with accuracy, and I think the court’s decision speaks for itself in that case.

“We can certainly do that and have that good robust debate without being defamatory to other people.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the First Minister must now apologise for the leaflet.

He has written to Ms Sturgeon, calling on her to “set the record straight” – adding that a “failure to do so will send all the wrong signals”.

Mr Rennie also called for the SNP to put a written apology on its local and national websites, and for the party to produce a new leaflet “that sets out this apology and for that to be delivered in the constituency”.

Mr Rennie insisted: “The SNP owe Jo Swinson and local people in East Dunbartonshire a full and unreserved apology.

“These sort of attacks should have no place in Scottish politics, and by setting the record straight Nicola Sturgeon can point a direction for the rest of her party to follow. Failure to do so will send all the wrong signals.”

PA

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