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Nicola Sturgeon 'unaware if Michelle Thomson knew about lawyer when selected'

Nicola Sturgeon has said she does not know whether suspended MP Michelle Thomson knew her lawyer had been struck off when she was selected to stand for the SNP.

The First Minister dismissed a suggestion that the property dealer should have informed the SNP's selection committee about the affair, insisting "she would say that she denies all of these allegations so there was nothing for her to have brought to the attention of the committee".

Solicitor Christopher Hales acted in 13 property transactions involving Ms Thomson's firm that saw him being suspended and reported to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency by the Law Society in 2011.

Mr Hales was ultimately struck off in July 2014. An unredacted copy of the judgement obtained by the Sunday Times revealed Ms Thomson and her firm M&F Property Solutions were named extensively in the report.

The Hales case was published in the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal 2014 annual report, and the Law Society began briefing the Crown Office about the transactions in December that year.

During this period, Ms Thomson was appointed a director of pro-independence body Business for Scotland and selected to stand for the SNP after the referendum in September 2014.

She was officially announced as the SNP's candidate for Edinburgh West in April 2015, and was elected on May 7.

However, Ms Sturgeon said Ms Thomson has not told her whether she knew what happened with her solicitor during the selection process.

The SNP leader told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I didn't know about those allegations and as I have said repeatedly, nobody has brought any evidence to the contrary - which they can't do because there is none.

"Now, if there are decisions to be taken when the police investigation comes to a conclusion I won't shy away from those decisions.

"But what I am certainly not going to do is prejudge the outcome of that investigation."

Ms Sturgeon was asked whether she would have expected a candidate to have declared such a serious issue with her business at a candidate selection meeting.

She said: "Can I just point out, and this is where we stray into the remit of the investigation, Michelle Thomson denies all of the allegations that have been made against her."

Ms Sturgeon questioned a suggestion that Ms Thomson knew what happened with her solicitor.

She said: "I think, and I may be wrong here because I can't speak for Michelle Thomson on this, but I'm not sure that she is saying that she did know that about her solicitor.

"That's for her to say, but I don't know that she knew that.

"The point I'm making is, I think if she was answering your questions she would say that she denies all of these allegations so there was nothing for her to have brought to the attention of the (selection) committee.

"But that is for her to put forward and to argue her case."

Ms Sturgeon said she "got to know Michelle Thomson a bit personally during the referendum campaign and after the referendum campaign".

She added: "I thought she was a vigorous, passionate campaigner and that's the basis of the endorsement that I gave her.

"I didn't know about the allegations that I now know about, and I think that is an important point to make.

"It's also an important point to make, and it is one that I have made repeatedly and I know it's unfashionable, but she is entitled right now to the presumption of innocence.

"Allegations have been made. There is a police investigation under way into property transactions that she was party to, and I think before we reach any conclusions in terms of this issue we should allow this investigation to reach its conclusion."

A YouGov poll for The Times on Thursday revealed 59% of respondents think Ms Thomson should resign as an MP.


From Belfast Telegraph