Scotland politics

Former MP Michelle Thomson criticises SNP leadership

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Media captionThe former MP says she was not allowed to give her side of the story

The former SNP MP Michelle Thomson has criticised her treatment at the hands of the party's leadership.

Days after learning she would not face charges, Ms Thomson said leader Nicola Sturgeon did not give her the chance to explain her side of the story.

She called for Ms Sturgeon to apologise over the party's handling of the accusations concerning a property firm.

The SNP said it wished her well for the future and was happy to "engage with her" over her party membership.

The former parliamentary representative for Edinburgh West had run a property company. Fraud allegations were made against a former business associate.

Ms Thomson resigned the SNP whip but said she was given no choice in the matter by the party.

This week, the Crown Office concluded that there should be "no criminal proceedings at this time".

It said this was due to an "absence of sufficient credible and reliable evidence", with the decision coming after "careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case".

Image caption Michelle Thomson gave her first broadcast interview to BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme

In an interview with the BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley, Ms Thomson said she thought the party leader may have "panicked".

"Nicola Sturgeon is an excellent, consummate politician and she's the first minister of Scotland and I'm entirely respectful of that," she said.

"The comments I've made in the papers are that perhaps - at the beginning - she was relatively new in her role. Perhaps she panicked.

"Who amongst us hasn't? I certainly panicked as well, incidentally."

She added: "What I find disturbing is I had no opportunity whatsoever to speak directly with Nicola Sturgeon and put across some of the key points I've made.

"I had no chance to put across my side of the story."

A SNP spokesman said: "Michelle Thomson stepped down in 2015 until the investigation was concluded.

"She took a dignified approach while the investigation was under way and will be relieved to put this affair behind her.

"We wish her well for the future and will be happy to engage with her about her membership of the SNP."

Apology

The former MP also criticised coverage of the investigation - arguing she was hung out to dry by the media.

She said: "They were absolutely unfair. How could it that the story about me ran for two weeks when the story about the Chilcott papers (when they) came out ran for two days?"

Ms Thomson said she believed some of the coverage had been at best lazy and at worst "sinister"

She also called for an apology from the BBC for its coverage.

Ms Thomson has always insisted that the property transactions by her business were not only legal but also fair.

She said: "If there's anyone who does feel aggrieved then I can only apologise.

"I never ever want to, in any of my business dealings, want to diddle someone.

"It's just not appropriate and it wouldn't be fair."

Ms Thomson said was not surprised by the conclusion of the Crown Office that she should not be prosecuted.

"To be honest, not even remotely surprised. I had always been quite clear from the outset, as you recall.

"Obviously though, however, I was relieved because I'd been living under quite a lot of strain and stress for some time."

Newspaper reports

The former MP said the reports about her business activities had been badly handled when they first appeared in newspapers in 2015.

"During that time I didn't actually hear anything from the SNP so I was kind of left, to be honest, to my own devices.

"What do you do here? And unfortunately for me, having no experience, I didn't do anything.

"I failed to take the chance to rebut the thing at the time because I had no support and I had no experience, if you like.

"It wasn't until the (following) Tuesday that the business convener of the SNP Derek Mackay and the chief whip Mike Weir came to see me."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Michelle Thomson won Edinburgh West for the SNP in 2015, but was deselected before the 2017 snap election

Ms Thomson said she was only given one option.

"Derek had said to me at the first meeting: 'Look, to be honest, I think we need you to resign the whip'.

"I said at that point: 'I don't want to resign the whip - I'm an SNP MP, that's what I signed up for'.

"And he said he would let me know later that day. Later that day I did get a telephone call confirming that's what they wanted me to do."

Ms Thomson said the SNP could have acted quickly to welcome her back because, she believed, it was quickly clear she had done nothing wrong.

After she had resigned the whip, her former colleagues called on her to be reinstated.

"That was referred to the NEC (the party's national executive).

"Obviously I'm not privy to what was discussed at the NEC buy I did receive a call afterwards saying that they weren't going to go any further.

"That was a decision I found difficult to understand."

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