A Dundee parliamentary candidate spent thousands of pounds of public money to investigate claims he failed to protect a city councillor working in his office from physical and emotional abuse.
Chris Law, who is standing to be re-elected as MP in the Dundee West constituency, racked up a four-figure sum in legal fees after Roisin Smith claimed she was constructively dismissed by the party while employed as a case worker.
Ms Smith, who is deputy convener of Dundee City Council’s children and families services, said she was subjected to daily verbal, physical and emotional abuse by two other staff members and was repeatedly undermined and disrespected by Mr Law.
Her grievance runs to almost 20 pages of allegations spanning the period September 2015 to June 2018. Mr Law has denied these allegations and insists they were “independently investigated” and not upheld.
Records published by the Independent Parliamentary Stands Authority (Ipsa) confirm Mr Law claimed £6,600 last year for two bills to Dundee legal firm Thorntons.
The grievance procedure was handled by solicitor Debbie Fellows, who is the wife of former SNP head of communications and former SNP candiate John Fellows. Mr Fellows’ mother is the SNP’s parliamentary candidate for Motherwell, Marion Fellows.
As well as concerns over Ms Fellows position as investigator, questions have also been raised about the appropriateness of Mr Law’s use of public money given MPs are covered for legal expenses through a House of Commons insurance policy.
It is understood a formal complaint was lodged to Ipsa this summer but it found the claims by Mr Law were both “within the rules”. It is unclear whether the body was aware of Ms Fellows’ links to the SNP when it reviewed the case.
Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser told the Sunday Times: “Mr Law needs to answer some serious questions: did he use public money to fund a private investigation into a member of his staff?
“Has he misused public money? Why did he pick a lawyer with such close connections to the SNP? If Mr Law won’t set the matter out clearly, Nicola Sturgeon should order him to do so.”
Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay also called for answers and said Mr Law “needs to explain why, despite being covered as an MP for legal expenses, he chose to use Thorntons and claim money back from the public purse.”
Ipsa has confirmed it stopped providing employment insurance in 2016, meaning Mr Law’s claim was entirely for legal expenses.
A spokesman for the Dundee West candidate insisted his claim followed the advice of the House of Commons authorities “from day one”.
The spokesman added: “Any expenditure on employment matters is sanctioned in line with Ipsa rules for MP constituency office employment expenses.”
A spokesman for Thorntons said: “It is our policy not to comment on specific details of work carried out for clients.
“Debbie Fellows is an accredited specialist in employment law and her integrity is unquestioned. All clients are subject to a conflict check as part of our rigorous compliance process.”
An employment tribunal hearing into Ms Smith’s allegations of constructive dismissal is scheduled for February.