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March 24, 2020

Defamation victory

For some time, Andy Wightman MSP has been living with the threat of court action in a defamation case in which he was accused of damaging the reputation of a business with comments that he made in his blog Land Matters.  Being sued for £750,000 in damages would have left him bankrupt and forced to resign as MSP.  It’s great news that he won the case but Scotland’s defamation legislation is nonetheless in serious need of revision. It favours those with deep pockets to such an extent that the basic right to freedom of expression is being seriously compromised. 

The National

SCOTTISH Green Party MSP, Andy Wightman has successfully defended himself against defamation action over blog posts he published about Wildcat Haven Enterprises (WHE).

The blog posts, published in September 2015 and February 2016, led to WHE attempting in 2017 to claim £750,000 in damages against the MSP which would likely have cost him his seat in the Scottish Parliament.

In their ruling, Lord Clarke found that the author did not defame WHE, nor that his posts had resulted in a loss of £750,000 to organisation.

Today, Wightman has announced that he is “delighted” with the judgement, and thanked his legal team for their work.

He said: “I’m delighted with this judgement from Lord Clark. I would like to thank my legal team of Campbell Deane and Roddy Dunlop QC for their support, diligence and hard work over the past three years. I’d also like to thank my family and colleagues at work for their support and understanding over this period.

“I want to pay particular thanks to the thousands of people who generously contributed to my crowdfunder, without whom I would simply have been unable to defend myself. I have been hugely encouraged by their ongoing support.

“The National Union of Journalists and Scottish PEN have also been very supportive as part of their wider campaign for defamation reform. I have maintained throughout that I did not defame the pursuer and that this action should never have been brought against me.

“It is vital that Parliament modernises the law of defamation to ensure that the law provides the right balance between freedom of expression and the rights of people not to have their reputations tarnished. It is also important that the law is clear, so that writers and journalists can write confidently and provide the freedom of expression that is so important in any democracy.”

The Lothian MSP and writer raised over £116,000 from crowdfunding to take on the case against him. He said at the time that a “huge worry” had been lifted after hitting his funding target.

Wightman promised to repay contributions should he win the case and be awarded costs.