SNP MP Ian Blackford is facing legal action after falsely accusing a photographer of breaking lockdown rules.
The MP for Skye, Lochaber and Ross is accused of libelling Ollie Taylor by using Twitter to ask if he had a “valid reason” for taking pictures of the Northern Lights in Caithness at the weekend.
In a now-deleted tweet, Mr Blackford posted: “As you live in the south of England and travel to Scotland is only for permitted reasons I am sure there will be a valid reason as to why you are posting a photo from the north of Scotland last night?”
However, Mr Taylor had been living in the Highlands since October.
I will continue to stand up for my constituents who frequently raise these concerns with me but I recognise that it was wrong to query an individual on Twitter and I apologise to @OllieTPhoto for my earlier post, which I have deleted.
— Ian Blackford (@Ianblackford_MP) November 23, 2020
Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie claimed Mr Blackford had “bullied” Mr Taylor because he thought he was English and suggested the SNP politician’s behaviour “could only add to the problems of anti-English sentiment in Scotland”.
And the photographer revealed that he had launched legal action in a bid to get a public apology and damages.
He said: “He knew exactly what he was doing.
“For an MP to be doing that is completely out of order.”
Last nights lil #Auroa display here in the north of #Scotland
Been away from twitter for a lil while, hope everyone is all good 🙂 #ThePhotoHour @StormHour @VisitScotland @esa @LiveAuroraNetw1 @spacewxwatch @spaceweather pic.twitter.com/C3r9HN31xs
— Ollie Taylor (@OllieTPhoto) November 22, 2020
He told how Mr Blackford called him yesterday to try to defuse the row, adding: “He’d deliberately stoked the fire then tried to run away.
“He grovelled a bit, even more, so it seemed when I told him lawyers had contacted me.
“We had a small chat about the fact he has distant English ancestry, and I have a mix of Scottish, English and Irish family.”
In Mr Taylor’s letter of claim, his lawyer Charles Holland points out that his client lives in Halkirk, Caithness and is paying council tax.
It also accuses Mr Blackford of behaving in a manner that was “likely to cause serious harm” to Mr Taylor’s reputation by falsely suggesting he had “committed a criminal offence.”
The letter alleges Mr Blackford sought to humiliate and shame the photographer, adding: “My client appears to be the only recipient of a tweet of this nature from you.
“My client and no other person has been selected by you for a public dressing-down.
“This constitutes unlawful discrimination and harassment.
“You sought to bully my client in public, and you did so in a fashion that can fairly be described as menacing and sinister.
“Your tweet appears to have been designed to humiliate my client. It was discriminatory.”
A spokesman for the MP told the Daily Mail: “Mr Blackford has apologised without reservation to Mr Taylor online as well as in a phone call.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further.”