A blogger who has taken Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale to court remains “deeply distressed” by the claim that he sent a “homophobic” tweet, a court has been told.
The lawyer for Wings Over Scotland blogger Stuart Campbell said the activist is not a homophobe and that such an allegation is both “untrue” and “unfair”.
The pro-independence activist is seeking to protect his reputation as someone who has consistently supported the equal treatment of homosexual people, the court was told.
However, Ms Dugdale’s QC suggested that the blogger has a reputation for “bile and vitriol” and was not damaged by the article.
Mr Campbell is suing former Scottish Labour leader Ms Dugdale, 37, for defamation over a column she wrote in the Daily Record on March 7 2017, referencing his “homophobic tweets”.
The tweet at the centre of the £25,000 action, made during the Conservative Party conference on March 3 that year, states: “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.”
Mr Campbell, 51, from Bath, has denied that it was a homophobic reference to Scottish Secretary David Mundell being gay and has described it as “satirical criticism” of Scottish Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell’s public speaking skills.
Lawyers for both sides have been summing up their positions on the third day of the civil proof at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
Mr Campbell’s QC, Craig Sandison, opened by telling the court that the blogger “is not a homophobe”.
To accuse someone of homophobia would put “stain” on a person’s character and lower them in society’s eyes, he said, adding that the article carried such an “innuendo”.
The QC later told the court of his client: “He continues to be deeply distressed by that allegation and by the insistence by the defender on its truth…
“He is not a polite man, he doesn’t restrain himself in setting forth his views. He is not circumspect.
“But none of those are aspects of his character he is seeking to protect by this action. What he is seeking to protect is his distinct reputation… as someone who has consistently supported equal treatment of homosexual people and indeed people generally.
“That’s why he’s so upset because this attack on him is so untrue, so unfair.”
Mr Sandison claimed the defence of fair comment does not “get off the ground” in this case and said it is “not true” that the blogger sent homophobic tweets during the Conservative conference.
The QC told the court that, if anyone was “abused” by the tweet, it was Oliver Mundell, based on his public speaking.
He said: “That statement about Oliver Mundell wasn’t based on his sexuality, it’s nothing to do with his sexuality. Was David Mundell then abused because of his sexuality? I say absolutely not.”
He added that Ms Dugdale’s comment was “not fairly made” and claimed it was motivated in part by her “ill feeling” towards the blogger.
Roddy Dunlop QC, for Ms Dugdale, described the Lothian MSP as “entirely credible and reliable”.
The true question in the case is whether someone was entitled to view the tweet as homophobic, he said.
The QC said: “The pursuer (Mr Campbell) quite clearly does not like the defender. He has been extremely rude about her on multiple occasions and on the one occasion she calls him out, he sues – and he sues her.”
He said of the pursuer: “When he publicly tweets about two public figures, he is exposing himself to public comment and he has to thole that.
“There is a plain irony in the pursuer, a master of calumny, suing for defamation in this particular context.
“This is someone who has entered the political arena of his own volition, armed with a quiver of poisoned arrows which he will fire at anyone he chooses.
“He should not complain when an arrow is fired back.”
Mr Dunlop argued it would be clear to a reasonable reader that Ms Dugdale was advancing her opinion that the tweet was homophobic, as he relied upon various defences including that of fair comment.
The QC also asked the court to consider what damage has been caused to the blogger’s reputation as a result of the article.
Mr Dunlop said: “If it’s right to say that he has a reputation of being someone who is quite happy to resort to bile and vitriol… then I say no damage has been done at all.”
Sheriff Nigel Ross will make his ruling at a later date and indicated he hoped to do so within four weeks.