Ex-SNP MP cleared after fraud probe seeks apology from Nicola Sturgeon

Updated: 
General Election 2015 campaign - April 3rd

Former SNP MP Michelle Thomson has called on party leader Nicola Sturgeon to apologise for the way she was treated during a police investigation into alleged mortgage fraud.

Ms Thomson, who always denied any wrongdoing, spoke of her relief at being "completely exonerated" and her disappointment with the SNP leadership's handling of the affair.

Last week Scotland's Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said there would be no criminal proceedings due to an absence of sufficient credible and reliable evidence.

Ms Thomson, who was elected MP for Edinburgh West in 2015, was one of five people named in a report sent to prosecutors last December following a police investigation.

She resigned the party whip when the inquiry was launched but told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that had not been her choice.

Ms Thomson said she had received "no support" at what was a "frightening, disturbing and alarming" time and had been told by SNP business convener Derek Mackay she would need to resign the whip.

"I did protest but I was kind of led to believe that if I didn't do that gracefully things would be even worse and to be honest they were in a pretty bad state at that point," she said.

"It was not my choice and it was not my decision."

The former politician said the party's group at Westminster had been "so supportive" and she had found it "difficult to understand" when the SNP National Executive Committee overruled their calls for her to be readmitted.

She said: "I suppose what I found disturbing was that I had no opportunity whatsoever to speak directly with Nicola Sturgeon and put across some of the key points.

"In other words I had no chance to put across my side of the story and I find that, to be honest, disappointing."

She said an apology would be befitting and when asked from whom, added: "I would say the leader of the party.

"Certainly somebody very senior. Yes, I would greatly welcome that."

Ms Thomson said that if she were to meet Ms Sturgeon she would raise concerns about processes within the SNP.

"It's really important that in a large organisation you have processes that are fair, robust and transparent and I have no idea what the process was because the process seemed to be different for other people to what it was for me and I don't think that's fair."

She also questioned arrangements at the top of the party, with leader Ms Sturgeon married to chief executive Peter Murrell.

"In principle I believe it's a problem. In principle from a corporate governance point of view there is no other organisation where you have the leader married to the chief executive."

Ms Thomson was linked to deals involving Christopher Hales, a solicitor who was struck off for professional misconduct involving transactions in 2010 and 2011.

She told the programme she was not aware Mr Hales had been struck off until it emerged in the press in 2015.

The police investigation centred around so-called "back-to-back" property deals, in which homes are sold or remortgaged immediately or soon after purchase, sometimes at a higher price.

Ms Thomson categorically denied that vulnerable people had been targeted for property deals, adding: "If there's anyone who does feel aggrieved then I can only apologise.

"I would never, ever in any of my business dealings want to diddle someone. It's just not appropriate and it wouldn't be fair."

But pressed further on the moral dimension of such transactions, she added: "Looking back now, to be honest, would I do that again? No I definitely wouldn't."

A SNP spokesman 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."

A couple involved in one of the property transactions told the Sunday Mail newspaper they still felt "stung".

Christine and Billy Troy said they had sold their Paisley flat to Ms Thomson for £37,500 and it had been sold on for £55,000.

Mrs Troy, 62, told the newspaper: "I'm not happy about the whole thing. I feel she preyed on vulnerable people. We were having trouble selling - that's why we sold to them. I wish now we hadn't.

"I believe she should have had some form of consequence."

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: "This unedifying row is further example of the chaos within the SNP.

"Nicola Sturgeon can't be silent on this - she needs to show leadership and set out exactly what she intends to do about this."