Carmichael Backed By Local Lib Dems

27 May 2015, 18:16 | Updated: 27 May 2015, 19:36

Local Liberal Democrats have backed embattled former minister Alistair Carmichael as police inquiries into his election smear tactics continued today and a campaign to oust him reached more than £30,000.

Police Scotland has confirmed inquiries are ongoing to establish whether there is any criminality in a complaint it received about the former Scottish secretary.

Shetland Liberal Democrats and local MSP Tavish Scott voiced disappointment at the MP's leak of an unsubstantiated memo claiming SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon expressed support for the Conservatives, and his attempt to cover up his involvement until it was exposed by a Cabinet Office leak inquiry.

But they have urged his Orkney and Shetland constituents to give him "a fair hearing" rather than giving in to "mob rule" and the "increasingly personal and unpleasant political motivation of the SNP and the Yes campaign".

But a Kirkwall-based campaign, entitled The People Versus Carmichael, to have his election victory overturned has raised half of its predicted £60,000 legal fees in less than two days from more than 2,000 donors.

The site has been accumulating about £500 an hour, with someone donating money on average every minute of the day since it launched yesterday morning.

The campaign's founder Fiona MacInnes, a pro-independence SNP supporter, said the 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", and stressed "it is not an SNP campaign".

In a statement, the Shetland Lib Dems' executive committee "expressed their surprise and disappointment at Alistair's actions and his lack of judgment".

But it added: "The members agreed that Alistair has rightly taken full responsibility and has apologised to all concerned, not least to the people of Orkney and Shetland.

"The members agreed that Alistair is an excellent constituency MP. He has achieved much for Shetland in the last 14 years, particularly during his five years in government, where his experience and expertise were used to great benefit for the Northern Isles.

"He has reinforced his commitment to carry on representing this constituency, as he was elected to do, and he retains the full confidence of the executive.''

Mr Scott said: "I am very disappointed by Alistair's actions. We have worked together for 14 years for Shetland. People come to see both of us to solve problems.

"I too feel let down. No wonder many people across the islands do too. But Alistair's handling of this matter is not the Alistair I know."

He cited a range of local initiatives Mr Carmichael initiated, adding: "There are two options. The first is he resigns. The SNP will have won.

"Few seem to see their abject hypocrisy. (Alex) Salmond blatantly lied about legal advice on Scotland's membership of the EU. The difference between Alistair and Salmond is Alistair has confessed and apologised.

"So, Alistair could resign. Many are demanding that but the political motivation of the SNP and the Yes campaign is obvious and increasingly personal and unpleasant.

"I detest mob rule and that is what this now looks like. It is not the Shetland I know.

"The second option is that he listens to his constituents, real Shetland folk who will give him a fair hearing."

The SNP has urged 10 Downing Street to clarify who knew what regarding the leaked memo.

SNP MP Pete Wishart said: "David Cameron, who previously indicated that he had some knowledge of this, must come clean and state exactly what he knew and when."

Mike MacKenzie, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said: "Given that his (Carmichael's) majority plummeted from nearly 10,000 to just over 800, there is every possibility he would not have been re-elected if the truth had been known.

"The people in his constituency deserve an MP with their best interests at the forefront of his business and would therefore be best served by Mr Carmichael standing down."