‘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
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