The trial has happened. You made it possible. Thank you.
The Rt Honourable Alistair Carmichael MP (still) has been called down from his dizzying heights and been made to stand before two judges and explain his conduct. Now, we wait for the judges – the case will be decided on the law and not the politics – and they need to take their time.
The process took three days – the Court had set aside four. The first two were taken up by evidence. Our side went first. Fiona Grahame (one of the four petitioners) spoke on behalf of all of us and was brilliant. She demonstrated that far from being a nationalist conspirator, she is a calm, clear and moderate woman who cares deeply about democracy.
I was rather amused to see a unionist troll accusing me of cowardice.
— SNPfail #245 (@SNPfail) November 11, 2015
We chose the best person to speak for us and she did very well. We are very proud.
Tavish Scott was then called to appear for us. He thought this rather unkind and did not seem at all happy to co-operate with the Court. Telling the judges to their face that they were running a show trial seemed rather an interesting way to behave and then to repeat that on the steps of the court, just bizarre. There is a rumour that journalists were running a book on whether he would be done for contempt. Clearly, the remainder of LibDem MSPs think they are above the law and have no need to answer questions about their behaviour. He had to be told by the judges twice to answer questions and not make political speeches. The sole concern was to distance himself from Mr. Carmichael as much as he could, he thought our aim was to bring him down through guilt by association. Bless!
He emphasised again and again that Mr. Carmichael was not acting on behalf of the party in any way and not informed his colleagues.
We then called Alistair Carmichael himself. It would have been logical, one would have thought for his own side to do this, but they refused to say what they intended to do, so we had to call him. His evidence took all afternoon and all morning. Listening to him was a remarkable experience. There were frequent gasps in the Court.
It is hard to summarise so much in a few words, but…
– he acknowledged that he let Mr. Clegg speak to the cameras on his behalf without being told the truth.
– he acknowledged that he did not let the Liberal Democrat press office know the truth so they continued to put out misleading statements and so allowed them to put their reputations on the line without being fully informed.
– he admitted that he did not volunteer extra information to the Cabinet Inquiry and looked for ways to avoid telling the truth (his words). He was sent an initial questionnaire in early April. He did not fill it out in a way in which they would know what happened. He only did so after the General Election. If he had been honest, the leak enquiry would have reported before the election and he would have had to resign as a minister. This would clearly have been a huge shock to us, his constituents and would surly have affected some voters.
We did not know about any of this before the hearings (thought we suspected) and Mr. Dunlop has tried to remove it as inadmissible. The Guardian (whose opinion is that Carmichael should stay) is wrong when it claims this is the bulk of our evidence. They are simply wrong.
Mr Carmichael had to send in ‘answers’ to our initial petition – close observers will remember we based it on his broadcast interview to Channel 4. He claimed that interview too place in his position as Secretary of State for Scotland – a major plank of the defence at the legal debate was, that as he was acting in this capacity, the case simply fell. Since then the full clip has appeared. He says at the beginning he is Liberal Democrat Candidate for Orkney and Shetland.
Under cross examination, he said that he was not acting in any government capacity, the interview was set up by party hacks and took place on their premises. It looks, at least on the face of it, that he lied to the Court through his QC who cannot surely have known that before.
At the end of our cross examination, Mitchell asked him, given that he had lied or omitted to tell the truth at every opportunity so far why he should be believed now, he said it was because he was on oath and he had seen what had happened to Tommy Sherridan.
So that takes us to the afternoon of day two. That was rather brief. John Curtice appeared as an expert witness – he said that at the time that interview was broadcast, Orkney and Shetland appeared as safe as any seat could be. This was an important claim to make because part of the defence is that as Mr. Carmichael had no reason to be worried about his own seat, his lies were to influence the national election – and that is legal! Mitchell got Curtice to admit that shocks do happen as when questions of trustworthiness come up. Curtice gave the example of offences being fiddled.
The third day was submissions – interrupted by a break for the two minute silence. These were the final pleadings put forward by both sides. Jonathan Mitchell spoke till about half past two. The court was prepared to sit the next day but Mr Dunlop made it clear that he would not need much time. He did not. The court rose at about 4.30. His points were mainly about the inadmissibility of some of the evidence in Mr. Carmichael’s tendency and a repetition of some of the points made at earlier hearings.
And then it was done. We said ‘goodbye’ to the legal teams and faced the press.
Now we wait for the judges to make their determination. It will be based on two points of law.
– was the lie about his personal character,
-was it trying to influence the election in Orkney and Shetland.
Now we wait – we have to be patient – we are now allowed to comment but we call on everyone to be polite – this is not a time for name calling – no talk of traitors and conspirators – when this is done we have to live together. There is only one person in this process who has admitted dishonesty and there is no need to rub it in.
We don’t know what the judgement will be made – perhaps by Christmas We cannot predict what it will be. The thing does feel 50/50. That is a lot better than it sounds. This is a huge achievement. Remember certain legal experts like James Chalmers who gave us very little chance of getting so far and said that Carmichael would never be in the witness box. He was wrong.
Michael White (him with the whiskers) wrote ages ago.
Is it unreasonable to think that a Lib Dem with a good local reputation and the experience of a former Scottish secretary would be better placed to hold Sturgeon to her promises than a 70-year-old retired teacher, even one with an interesting, multi-party CV like the SNP’s Skene?
Contrite Carmichael, warts and all? Sounds OK to me at this distance. But it’s not up to me, it’s up to his local party activists and, in due course, his voters who may barely remember it all by Christmas.
Aye. We have not forgotten. It is not up to the activists now (both of them) but judges. Mr Carmichael does not have a reputation left of any kind. He can still resign. Please!!!!
A final word – on costs – there has been a lot of speculation so far about the amount of money raised- the situation remains the same – although we have raised a fantastic so much, it is highly likely that we will need a substantial amount more by the time this process has been done. We are not a nationalist conspiracy. I wish we were, because then we would be sure of our funding, so please, don’t forget us and let us keep our burrows above our heads. You can contribute by clicking on the picture above. Don’t forget if we win, and if we get costs awarded, or any other excess will go to foodbanks throughout Scotland – think of it as the ‘Alistair Fund.’