‘My two years of hell’

Ex-SNP MP lifts lid on failed crim­i­nal probe which ru­ined her ca­reer ‘I was pil­lo­ried. Now my name is cleared I want my life back’ Thom­son also re­veals po­lice quizzed man for rap­ing her aged 14

Sunday Herald - - FRONT PAGE - by Michelle Thom­son

FOR­MER SNP MP Michelle Thom­son has bro­ken a two-year si­lence with a se­ries of ex­plo­sive claims just days af­ter she was sen­sa­tion­ally cleared by pros­e­cu­tors over al­le­ga­tions of mort­gage fraud which ru­ined her par­lia­men­tary ca­reer.

Last week, the Crown Of­fice said there was an “ab­sence of suf­fi­cient cred­i­ble and re­li­able ev­i­dence” against her.

In an in­ter­view with the Sunday Her­ald, Thom­son spoke for the first time about her treat­ment by her party, the me­dia, as well as po­lice and pros­e­cu­tors.

Thom­son hit out at party leader Ni­cola Stur­geon, say­ing that it was a “rea­son­able as­sump­tion” that the First Min­is­ter was be­hind the de­ci­sion to force her to re­sign the SNP whip and that Stur­geon may have “pan­icked” when the al­le­ga­tions first sur­faced.

She also claimed that Stur­geon be­ing mar­ried to the party’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Mur­rell was in­ap­pro­pri­ate for in­ter­nal de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and said SNP women MPs were treated dif­fer­ently to their male col­leagues by the party lead­er­ship.

In another dra­matic devel­op­ment the for­mer Ed­in­burgh West MP also re­vealed that po­lice had “very re­cently” quizzed a sus­pect af­ter she used a Com­mons de­bate last De­cem­ber to dis­close she was raped as a 14-yearold

Re­call­ing the in­tense emo­tional strain she was put un­der with the threat of prose­cu­tion, Thom­son spoke of how she had bro­ken down and wept on the roof of the House of Com­mons. “There were lot of dark days as you can imag­ine,” she said. “I did have a big cry one day and it was in May 2016. I could feel my­self welling up and I was ac­tu­ally in the Cham­ber. I thought ‘ oh no, I can’t do that in front of peo­ple’ be­cause ob­vi­ously ev­ery­thing’s tele­vised so I had to go up to the roof of West­min­ster and ac­tu­ally sent an email to one of my staff to say just let the team go on (with work) be­cause I couldn’t stop cry­ing for a cou­ple of hours.”

In a highly-per­sonal in­ter­view with the Sunday Her­ald, Thom­son talked about the harm­ful toll the last two years had taken on her and her fam­ily dur­ing a pe­riod that saw her lose her MP’s job and face what she de­scribed as a cam­paign of “misog­y­nis­tic” abuse in sec­tions of the me­dia.

She said she had cut off her hair just days af­ter the Gen­eral Elec­tion, some­thing she says was “a psy­cho­log­i­cal thing” to rep­re­sent “a new chap­ter in my life”. Thom­son was blocked from stand­ing for the SNP at the elec­tion by se­nior party of­fi­cials.

Thom­son, who is 52 and has a son and daugh­ter at univer­sity, said the last two years had been “very dis­tress­ing” for the fam­ily. Speak­ing in a cafe in Ed­in­burgh’s the­atre­land dur­ing the cap­i­tal’s Fringe fes­ti­val, Thom­son said her hus­band Peter suf­fered life-threat­en­ing throm­bo­sis, a blood clot in the veins, a year ago – some­thing which she thinks could have been caused by the stress the fam­ily was placed un­der. She said: “One thing I did no­tice was that my hus­band, who was very fit and healthy and went to the gym. reg­u­larly, sud­denly had an un­ex­plained deep-vein throm­bo­sis that was life-threat­en­ing and I had to leave West­min­ster to go to the hos­pi­tal. We don’t know how it oc­curred. It had never oc­curred be­fore and didn’t again. I’m not a doc­tor, so all I’m say­ing is I don’t know if it might have been a con­trib­u­tory fac­tor given that he was fit and healthy and is once more.”

When asked if her own health had suf­fered, Thom­son con­firmed it had as she talked about a stress-re­lated ill­ness she suf­fered. “I didn’t have to go to the doc­tor. But what I did no­tice was that my abil­ity to take in and process in­for­ma­tion and data was not as slick as I would have nor­mally ex­pected,” she said.

Thom­son said that while she had no crit­i­cism of the Crown Of­fice or Po­lice Scot­land’s han­dling of the case, the length of the process al­most be­came too much for her.

“The low­est point was at the start of the year, well past the year mark and head­ing to­wards a year-and-a-half and I was think­ing my good­ness, when is this ever go­ing to end,” she said.

Thom­son said the un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion meant she was un­able to seek al­ter­na­tive work once the last UK Par­lia­ment dis­solved prior to the elec­tion. She said: “It’s some­thing I’ve never men­tioned as so many peo­ple are much worse off, but it has cost me a great deal fi­nan­cially be­cause this has been hang­ing over my head for so long I haven’t been able to do any­thing else ... I sus­pect that every­one knew this would be the even­tual out­come and I cer­tainly knew.”

She added that SNP MPs in the last Par­lia­ment all sup­ported her, sin­gling out for­mer MP Roger Mullin, who she says told her she had been “un­justly treated” by the party and me­dia. She also praised Alex Sal­mond who she said “was kind and sup­port­ive”.

How­ever, Thom­son claimed a vote by the SNP’s West­min­ster group in favour of read­mit­ting her to the party was over­ruled by the party’s national ex­ec­u­tive.

She also claimed se­nior fig­ures in the party, such as SNP busi­ness con­vener Derek Mackay, asked her to re­sign the party whip at West­min­ster when a me­dia storm erupted over the fraud al­le­ga­tions in Septem­ber 2015.

Thom­son said she re­fused, but was told it was “a case of go or be pushed” by se­nior fig­ures, in­clud­ing a fe­male spe­cial ad­viser to Stur­geon.

She said: “Mackay had sug­gested that I might need to re­sign the whip and I said ‘well I don’t want to, I was elected as an SNP MP’.

“Later that day I got a com­mu­ni­ca­tion from one of the spe­cial ad­vis­ers, (I can’t re­mem­ber who), that that was what they wanted to hap­pen.”

Thom­son added: “I didn’t choose to re­sign the whip. I was asked to re­sign the whip. I re­garded my­self even af­ter the loss of the whip as an SNP MP.”

Asked if she be­lieved the de­ci­sion to oust her had been taken by Stur­geon, Thom­son said: “I think that’s a rea­son­able as­sump­tion.”

Thom­son claimed she “never ac­tu­ally had the chance to put my side of the story” to the SNP lead­er­ship.

How­ever, she said: “It may be that the cur­rent leader pan­icked. I don’t know, only she can an­swer that ques­tion.”

She con­tin­ued: “Ev­ery big or­gan­i­sa­tion needs to have its pro­cesses and I’m not clear what process if any was fol­lowed with me.”

She also main­tains that hav­ing a mar­ried cou­ple, Stur­geon and Mur­rell, as the SNP’s re­spec­tive leader and chief ex­ec­u­tive, was a “con­cern” for the con­duct of the party’s in­ter­nal de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

She said: “I would just say there is no other large or­gan­i­sa­tion where that is the po­si­tion.There are good rea­sons why you don’t have a mar­ried cou­ple at the cen­tre of a large or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

I feel that with the cur­rent lead­er­ship, be­cause it is the cur­rent lead­er­ship, the process ap­pears to vary on who it is. If you think about SNP male MPs that have had dif­fi­cul­ties, have we all been treated the same?

Thom­son said she wants to be read­mit­ted to the SNP and has not ruled out stand­ing for par­lia­ment again – and she claimed she would still be an MP if she had been a man.

Thom­son’s re­moval from the SNP in Septem­ber 2015 came be­fore for­mer Glas­gow East MP Natalie McGarry also re­signed the party whip later in Novem­ber that year. McGarry, un­like Thom­son, was sub­se­quently charged with fraud of­fences.

SNP Dundee West MP Chris Law also faced a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his fi­nan­cial deal­ings, but was cleared in Jan­uary 2017. How­ever, Law re­mained an SNP through­out the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Thom­son did not name Law, but sug­gested SNP women MPs were treated dif­fer­ently. She said: “I feel that with the cur­rent lead­er­ship, be­cause it is the cur­rent lead­er­ship, the process ap­pears to vary on who it is. If you think about SNP male MPs that have had dif­fi­cul­ties, have we all been treated the same?”

Thom­son also sug­gested she had been tar­geted by sec­tions of the me­dia be­cause of her gen­der. “How can it be that the story about me ran for two weeks, but the story about the Chilcot re­port [into the Iraq war] ran for two days? I think there was clearly a misog­y­nis­tic el­e­ment and it would ap­pear to me at ev­ery level of pol­i­tics men and women are treated dif­fer­ently.”

When asked, how she felt the me­dia had treated her, Thom­son said she was “pil­lo­ried.” How­ever, she said her or­deal had en­cour­aged her to speak in Par­lia­ment last De­cem­ber about be­ing raped as a teenager. She said: “In a strange way I think that by do­ing that I al­most set my­self free. I said ‘no, you won’t shut me up and that I’ve got some­thing to say and I mean busi­ness and you won’t keep me down’.”

She said she had since re­ported the rape al­le­ga­tion and a sus­pect had been in­ter­viewed un­der cau­tion by po­lice dur­ing the last few weeks. Last night, Po­lice Scot­land con­firmed of­fi­cers had in­ter­viewed a 54-year old man in con­nec­tion with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

De­tec­tive Su­per­in­ten­dent Stu­art Hous­ton said: “An in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­ducted by Po­lice Scot­land and as a re­sult a 54-year-old man has been de­tained, in­ter­viewed and re­leased pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

Re­spond­ing to Thom­son, an SNP spokesper­son said the party would be happy to speak to Thom­son about her re­quest to be­come a mem­ber again.

The spokesper­son 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.”

Michelle Thom­son said Ni­cola Stur­geon may have been be­hind the de­ci­sion to force her to re­sign the SNP whip

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.