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Political editor Brian Taylor
"SNP insiders say Ian Blackford lost the trust of colleagues"
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Chief political correspondent John Morrison
"It's widely reported that the SNP's financial affairs were a shambles"
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Lawyer Peter Watson discusses the issue
"It will be necessary for a pursuer to establish there was malice on the part of the person they are suing"
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Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
SNP suspends treasurer
SNP door Edinburgh
Mr Blackford is being shown the door by the party
The Scottish National Party has suspended its treasurer, Iain Blackford, who is threatening to sue party leader Alex Salmond for defamation.

Mr Blackford was the subject of a motion of "no confidence" by Mr Salmond which was carried by 18 votes to three at a meeting of the party's executive at the weekend.

A statement from the SNP said national secretary, Stewart Hosie, had suspended Mr Blackford until the next executive committee meeting on 8 July, "for conduct inimical to the interests of the party".

Kenny MacAskill
Kenny MacAskill: Stepping into the job
It said that Mr Blackford would be given the opportunity to address the meeting and to put before it any material that he considers relevant.

Kenny MacAskill, regarded as a fundamentalist and a past critic of the leadership, has been appointed as acting national treasurer on temporary basis.

Mr Blackford is considering a number of options, the most likely being a writ claiming defamation.

As the SNP was preparing to announce his suspension, Mr Blackford met his lawyers on Tuesday and discussed the possibility of seeking an interim interdict stopping the party from taking such action.

He conceded the party had acted within the constitution in suspending him - but said he would now appeal to the wider party for support.

'Damaging' statements

Deputy leader, John Swinney, said: "Obviously we would prefer this not to be taking place, but it is taking place and we have to resolve it.

"All parties go through these points of difficulties. The key thing is that we have appointed a very experienced national treasurer to take forward the stewardship of our finances and I am very confident that will be done in the period ahead."

A managing director with an international investment bank, Mr Blackford said that Mr Salmond had made statements which were damaging to his professional reputation.

Iain Blackford
Iain Blackford: "Appalled" by comments
He was not at Saturday's meeting to defend himself but his lawyers have taken statements from party members who did attend.

Mr Blackford said Mr Salmond accused him of incompetence in his stewardship of the party's finances, of overspending at the Scottish election and of destabilising the party by leaks to the media.

Last month, the SNP was reported to be 400,000 in debt and its headquarters in Edinburgh are for sale.

But he said that if Mr Salmond apologised unreservedly, the matter would be closed.

However, SNP sources said the treasurer had lost the confidence of an overwhelming majority of the executive and talk of an apology was "nonsensical".

Legal view

Lawyer Peter Watson believes Mr Blackford faces a tough fight if he pursues his defamation claim.

"I think it will be difficult because in order to succeed with an action for defamation in this sort of case it will be necessary for a pursuer to establish that there was malice on the part of the person they are suing," said Mr Watson.

"The mere fact that somebody has, as it were, tabled a complaint or expressed a point of view that is critical within the setting of a political party will not found a successful action."

On Monday, Mr Blackford was outspoken in his criticism of Mr Salmond, accusing him of "control freakery" and of treating him and the party with "utter contempt".

He said: "I'm absolutely appalled at what Alex Salmond has done.

"It really is an act of political cowardice, when he knew a meeting I was not going to be at, when my apologies were in, that he has decided to move a motion of no confidence with no warning."

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24 Sep 99 | Scotland
Independence the goal - Salmond
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