Two interpretations of Carmichael ruling

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Image caption Mr Carmichael is expected to now seek to recover his legal expenses from the petitioners

One verdict - but two very different interpretations. That is the response with regard to the ruling that Alistair Carmichael may continue as the duly elected MP for Orkney and Shetland.

Mr Carmichael himself says he has been wholly vindicated. He adds that, although confident he would win, the episode has caused enormous stress to him and to his family.

The judgement offered by Mr Carmichael's critics, including the constituency petitioners who brought the case, is rather different. They say the court case leaves him exposed as a proven liar.

You may remember the basics. They date back before the UK general election in May. An internal memo suggested that Nicola Sturgeon had indicated at a meeting with the French Ambassador that she favoured the return of David Cameron to Downing Street.

'False statement'

This was potentially highly contentious in that it was a core foundation of the SNP campaign that they would work to eliminate Conservative rule from Scotland.

The memo was leaked to the Daily Telegraph and published at the beginning of April. Response was swift. Ms Sturgeon vehemently denied the claim - and was backed in that denial by French diplomats who said the assertion was wrong.

And Mr Carmichael? Two days after publication, he told Channel Four news that he had known nothing about the memo until contacted about the issue by a journalist.

That was not true. As the court noted, it "constituted a false statement of fact, in other words a lie." That meant that Test One in the court's trilogy had been met.

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Image caption Fiona Grahame (left) and Euphemia Matheson were among four constituents who raised the court action against Mr Carmichael

As was Test Two. The judges noted that the intention of Mr Carmichael's conduct was, in essence, to further his own electoral interests.

But the case fell at Test Three. Election law requires that any lies must be "in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate". The judges were not convinced of that beyond reasonable doubt.

Mr Carmichael says the case was "politically motivated" - and "a deliberate attempt by nationalists to remove the last Scottish Liberal voice at Westminster." It was, further, a "mark of the unhealthy polarisation of Scottish politics."

The SNP sees things rather differently. Stewart Hosie, the party's deputy leader, says that Mr Carmichael's comments are "nonsense" - and that the only political motivation lay with the MP for Orkney and Shetland in his attempts to smear the SNP.

Critical comment

The petitioners are, of course, disappointed with the judgement. But they claim moral victory. One of them, Tim Morrison, has told the BBC the case confirms that Mr Carmichael lied. He should, said Mr Morrison, now step down. The MP declines to do so.

So a victory for Alistair Carmichael. But one tinged with critical comment. For example, the judges note his dealings with the Cabinet Office leak inquiry where, they say, his conduct was "at best disingenuous and at worst evasive and self-serving."

Mr Carmichael, however, draws attention to the verdict itself - which confirms that his election was valid within the terms of the law. He says he will now devote his efforts to serving his constituents in the Northern Isles.

There is a further issue. It is understood that Mr Carmichael will now seek to recover his legal expenses from the petitioners - who raised their cash from crowd funding. It is believed those expenses are in the realm of £150,000.

Two scenarios are possible. Either there is an agreement between the parties as to expenses. Or it goes back to court for a ruling.

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