Scotland politics

Wings Over Scotland blogger ordered to pay Kezia Dugdale's legal expenses

Stuart Campbell Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Mr Campbell is likely to appeal against the ruling in the defamation case

A pro-independence blogger who lost his defamation case against former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has been ordered to pay her full legal expenses.

Stuart Campbell, of the Wings Over Scotland site, sued Ms Dugdale for defamation after she claimed he had sent "homophobic tweets".

A sheriff ruled in April that Ms Dugdale's Daily Record article was fair comment despite being incorrect.

The court has now awarded full expenses to Ms Dugdale, plus a 50% "uplift".

Writing on his blog, Mr Campbell claimed the ruling was "incomprehensible" and said he expected the final bill to be "in the rough vicinity of £100,000".

He also indicated that he was likely to appeal against the sheriff's ruling in the defamation case.

Mr Campbell has previously estimated that an appeal would cost him a further £50,000 if it did not succeed, on top of the £55,000 he has already spent on his own legal representation in the case.

His latest annual fundraiser saw Mr Campbell - who is Scotland's best known political blogger - raise £171,849 from his readers in June.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Kezia Dugdale has left Holyrood for a job at a political think tank

He said at the time that some of this money would be used to pay legal costs or to appeal against the judgement. A poll of his readers showed overwhelming support for an appeal.

Ms Dugdale's legal team in the defamation case was originally being funded by the Labour Party, which withdrew its support ahead of the three-day hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

The Daily Record then agreed to provide legal support for Ms Dugdale, who is stepping down as an MSP over the summer in order to take a job with a think-tank.

What was the defamation case about?

The case centred on a tweet posted by Mr Campbell during the Conservative Party conference in 2017, which said that Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell "is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner."

In a subsequent column in the Daily Record newspaper, Ms Dugdale referenced his "homophobic tweets" and accused him of spouting "hatred and homophobia towards others" from his Twitter account. She later raised the tweets in the Scottish Parliament, and called on SNP politicians to "shun" Mr Campbell.

Mr Campbell, from Bath in Somerset, strongly denied his tweet was a homophobic reference to David Mundell being gay, and insisted it was "satirical criticism" of Oliver Mundell's public speaking skills.

In his judgement, Sheriff Ross agreed that Mr Campbell "does not hold homophobic beliefs or feelings" and had "demonstrated by his conduct over many years that he supports equality for homosexual people".

The sheriff also said Mr Campbell's tweet about Mr Mundell "was not motivated by homophobia and did not contain homophobic comments", and that Ms Dugdale had therefore been "incorrect" to describe it as homophobic.

But the sheriff said: "Ms Dugdale's article contained the necessary elements for a defence of fair comment. It was based on true facts; the statements complained about were honest; it concerned a matter of public interest, and the comments were fair.

"Her comments were fair, even though incorrect".