A legal bid to unseat former Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael has been branded a “political show trial” in court by a Liberal Democrat MSP.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said people feel the action is being funded by those, particularly nationalists, who “do not want opposition in this country”.
Mr Scott, a former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, was giving evidence at a four-day Election Court hearing taking place at the Court of Session buildings in Edinburgh.
Four of Mr Carmichael’s constituents in his Orkney and Shetland seat are behind the bid to oust the MP after he admitted allowing the leak of a confidential memo which wrongly claimed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to remain in Downing Street at May’s general election.
Mr Scott was called by the group to give evidence in the case on the first day of the evidence sessions.
During sometimes heated exchanges with their QC Jonathan Mitchell, Mr Scott told the court: “I think people don’t like these proceedings.
“They think it’s a political show trial. They think it’s a political event being funded by people, particularly nationalists, who do not want opposition in this country.”
The court has heard how in a Channel 4 interview earlier this year, Mr Carmichael initially denied having prior knowledge of the memo leak, which emerged around a month before voters went to the polls.
But following a Cabinet Office inquiry, he admitted he had allowed his special adviser Euan Roddin to release details of the document, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on April 3.
The petitioners argue his actions call into question his integrity as an individual and his suitability to represent the constituency at Westminster.
Mr Scott told the court he first became aware of the issue on the first Sunday after the election, May 10, when Mr Carmichael “explained what happened” and said there was a leak inquiry under way.
The court heard how, in a local newspaper article dated May 27, Mr Scott, 49, was reported as giving his backing to the “embattled” Mr Carmichael.
In it, he was reported as being “disappointed” by the actions of his party colleague and felt “let down”.
Mr Scott, the Scottish Lib Dem leader from 2008 to 2011, told the court: “The best idea is not to lie in politics.”
He also said he believes “no question” to this day that it suits the SNP to have the Conservatives in power at Westminster.
The legal challenge – funded via a crowd-funding appeal – is being brought under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.
The case is the first election petition brought in Scotland for 50 years.
Mr Carmichael is expected to give evidence in the case later.