Alistair Carmichael receives death threat over Syria vote

The Courier reports today that the Police are investigating a death threat sent to Alistair Carmichael that is believed to be related to his vote in favour of airstrikes on Syria. The threat was received at his constituency office last Thursday.

The “abhorrent” threat is believed to relate to Mr Carmichael’s backing for air strikes in Syria and officers have deemed it serious enough to offer safety advice to the former Scottish Secretary.

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “Officers in Kirkwall are making inquiries following correspondence received at the constituency office of Alistair Carmichael. Safety advice has been given.”

Police are understood to have ruled out any link to terrorism in connection with the letter. Mr Carmichael said he could not comment while the police investigation was ongoing.

A Scottish Liberal Democrat spokeswoman said they hoped police would catch the person behind the letter, which was received by Mr Carmichael’s office on Thursday.

She said: “A threatening letter related to the recent vote on Syrian air strikes was sent to one of the constituency offices and was reported to police. These kind of comments are abhorrent and it’s only right that the police investigate who is behind them.”

While this is a serious actual threat, you do have to wonder about the sense of perspective of some cybernats. In a Facebook conversation about the failure of the election petition against Alistair, the Yes Shetland Facebook account and another poster are debating the merits of arranging a “hit.” I don’t think they were talking about going for the Christmas number one.


 As MSP for Orkney Liam McArthur said:


There appears to be a collective leaving of the senses. How has no-one on this site said ‘hold on a minute…,’!?

Posted by Liam McArthur on Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Given that Tim Morrison has demanded the removal of this image for being out of context in the comments below, I thought it would be useful to point you to the Yes Shetland page where they have been happy to host this exchange between themselves and Darren Burt for a whole day now.

There are some things you just don’t joke about. You would think that someone moderating that site would have thought to themselves that this is just not appropriate. You would think that a Twitter account for the Yes campaign (which still exists) would think a bit about the reputational damage they might be doing to their organisation. You can just imagine how much they would be complaining if the boot was on the other foot.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Absolutely disgraceful.
    Hope the perpetrators are found and suitably punished (and embarrassed).

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Dec '15 - 12:33pm

    It is important that these threats are taken seriously and that those found guilty of the offence are given punishments that will deter others from behaving similarly.

    I think that we should all congratulate and thank our MPs for their bravery. I remember that a Labour MP was stabbed in his office, yet our MPs continue to make themselves available to their constituents in ways that make them vulnerable to attack from unstable individuals. Well done them.

  • Of course these things are terrible for thoer receiving them, and in this case I would point out this is one where the news is coming out once the police has actually considered it sufficiently credible to investigate (it seems to be a minority of these stories that have actually been assessed as credible by the police before they appear in a headline).

    Though I still wonder if it would be better to have the investigation before passing public comment on it. The tendency of some to make claims of threats having been received then there is no action, it could easily give the impression to those inclined to make them that these things are not going to be taken seriously.

    If the stories were to come out a little later when the police had either decided that it was not possible to identify the perpetrator or to announce when an arrest is made. I’m not sure the current approach of early announcement is helpful.

  • Nationalism the world over consistently descends into violence and thuggery and it is clear the Scottish Nationalism is no different.

    This is why liberal s and democrats the world over must always reject nationalism and favour humanitarianism and internationalism.

  • @Jayne Mansfield. It was Lib Dem MP, Nigel Jones who was stabbed and his assistant killed by a man with a samurai sword.

  • @psi – normally I’d agree, but I doubt it’ll take Sherlock to work out the perpetrator here.

    @Antony Hook – well said, completely agree.

    This episode has been quite an insight into the bullying culture within the Scottish Nationalists. Whilst Carmichael made some terrible errors of judgement, the people that want him replaced seem shockingly illiberal, undemocratic and completely bereft of perspective.

  • Matt (Bristol) 16th Dec '15 - 2:15pm

    Yes, the Scots Nats have some nasty supporters. Yes, there is a general drive towards extreme, fantasist and hateful language in politics that social media is at best not helping with. Yes, threats against all MPs should be thoroughly investigated.

    But let’s tone down the overall ‘nationalism is always taboo and turns inevitably to nastiness’ rhetoric and black-and-white thinking. Democratic national self-determination is a liberal principle, (albeit one we shouldn’t enshrine and deify to the highest of unassailable heights). Were the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Hapsburg Empire or the secession of the Irish Republlic illegitimate acts in their very conception? Has East Timor left the circle of democratic nations because it seceded from Indonesia?

    Was it inherently wrong to imagine these nations having the potential to become separate nations? Patently, no. Therefor it is not possible to say, as Anthony Hook does above, that ‘Nationalism the world over consistently descends into violence and thuggery’ – there are positive and negative nationalisms.

    Nationalism that cannot imagine a dialogue with other political expressions in a democratic society and declares those who do not (or will not be permitted to) subscribe to the preferred national identity to be un-persons is clearly flawed, dangerous and leads us down a potentially totalitatiran path.

    But ALL nationalism? Come off it! There may well be such people lurking around the edges of several parties in the UK including (but not only) Sinn Feinn, the SNP, UKIP, The BNP, the UUP, DUP and the Tories. (It’s not possible to say that this spirit has completely captured the guiding principles of all these parties, though. That would be jumping to false assumptions.)

  • Richard Underhill 16th Dec '15 - 2:23pm

    “Mr Pennington was killed defending Lord Jones from Robert Ashman, who it later emerged suffered from paranoid psychosis. He had a long-running housing dispute, which he felt his MP had let him down on.”
    Pity about the anachronism in the Gloucester Citizen, which too easily creates ambuguity.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Dec '15 - 3:13pm

    I’m sure a Labour MP was stabbed as well? Stephen Pound?

  • @Caron Lindsay
    Do you mean Stephen Timms?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Dec '15 - 4:06pm

    @ Chris: You’re right. He was stabbed in revenge for the Iraq war.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Dec '15 - 4:09pm

    @Tim Morrison: Nobody is suggesting that the petitioners wish Alistair any harm. However, the image does seem to speak for itself. The exchange between Darren Burt and Yes Shetland doesn’t need any wider context. It is clear.

    We will not be submitting to your unreasonable demand for its removal. Imagine trying to bully a website into removing something that shows the appallingly ugly attitudes of some of your supporters.

    And people can judge the context for themselves on the Yes Shetland Facebook page.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Dec '15 - 4:36pm

    Is there no way that the source of these threats can be traced?

    When we use the internet, I thought that we all had a personal ID.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Dec '15 - 4:37pm

    @Jayne The threat came in by letter, I think, so that’s not traceable.

  • Ah life in the Scottish islands!!!!!!

  • Matt , you make interesting points but so do others like Anthony . I am half Italian , and about a quarter Irish . I know , with that background, and a degree in ,and love of history and politics , the differences the form s nationalism can take , which I am sure many , do , too . The composer , the late , great , Giuseppe Verdi was a Liberal , and a nationalist , as were many in 19th c Italy . But their nationalism was all about unity , bringing together a fragmented group of mini states or principalities. It had as much or more in common with a pro Union view , now . In Ireland , if justice and human rights could have been paramount for catholics made to be protestant , Irish nationalism might never have emerged , strongly , or if ever . Home rule with religious freedom , might have kept the Union together . Well done Gladstone , nice try . But we live in different times . Together now , is better in countries with such strong histories of consent for the governed . We are not Serbia with Kosovo , or Russia with Georgia or China with Tibet . Scottish nationalists , in their manner and views , like the extremists of the anti war movement ,would have us think that the uk is , and that Scotland is . We should not let that lie go by without the truth being told .

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Dec '15 - 6:30pm

    @Tim Morrison: I wondered what you meant when you said that we hadn’t published your “evidence” because I hadn’t seen any. I went and had a look. The reason your comments weren’t published was because they were very high on unsubstantiated innuendo and very low on any actual detail that could be backed up by fact.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Dec '15 - 6:55pm

    We haven’t removed the image. For some reason it’s not showing up on my machine, but I would not want people to think that we had given in to your unreasonable demand.

  • Eddie Sammon 16th Dec '15 - 7:43pm

    I’m planning on rejoining again early in the new year partly because of the Syria vote. More of the public backed the strikes than did not, even if it fell to below a majority, according to the polls.

    From the Lib Dem perspective, it says that the party isn’t just lurching to the left. Tim seems to understand the small business problem too, which was still around under Clegg going by the contents of the manifesto.

    More needs to be done though to make the party a more electable force. I’m sorry Alistair had to put up with this and I’m glad the police are looking into it.

  • Would be good to have you in the party Eddie , I say that not because of your comments here , but , having read you many times , I like your common sense approach . It would be a disaster if the party were to lurch left or right . It s robust ,mainstream , radical centre and moderate centre left direction, we need , broadly where so many are at , within our British voter profile . We differ in the party and out , on issues , but a lurch we do not need .

  • @Caron Lindsay
    “Nobody is suggesting that the petitioners wish Alistair any harm.”

    That’s not entirely true. I’ve no tremendous feeling either way in this – for Carmichael or Morrison- but the comments below the article link in many places Nationalism with violence. The reason for this is that the article clearly yokes together two separate things – the actual death threat, which I see no association with the Nationalists, but rather with Syria, and the joke – in poor taste – regarding the hit. Morrison, through the comments ‘has no-one on this site’ and the appearance of his name above that of the man who mentioned the ‘hit’, is right to feel an attempt at guilt by association.

    By all means take Morrison to task for what he has done and said; take Darren Burt to task for what he has said; in the highest degree criticise the writer of the death threat letter. But if you place all three under the same heading ‘Alistair Carmichael receives death threat’ you’re going to blur the issues in the minds of those commenting – and I wouldn’t characterise that as a very liberal thing to do.

  • Eddie Sammon 16th Dec '15 - 10:24pm

    Thanks Lorenzo!

  • Peter Watson 16th Dec '15 - 11:51pm

    @Bolano 16th Dec ’15 – 9:59pm
    I echo everything you have written here.

  • Bolano is absolutely right.

  • Matt (Bristol) 17th Dec '15 - 10:31am

    Lorenzo, yes, the Sots Nats do put a lot of work into making it sound (unjustly) like the UK is an occupying power. But there is still a distinct step from that to Anthony’s over-hyped point that nationalism ‘always leads to violence’. That’s just dumbing down the debate.

  • @bolano

    Exactly the point.

  • Disappointed to see a continued attempt to blur the issues. In this piece, the Nationalists are introduced into an article ostensibly about the death threat over the Syrian vote; in the follow-up piece, ‘the strange priorities of Yes Shetland’, an article about the Nationalists sees the introduction of the death threat over the Syrian vote. These are two separate issues. Linking them is a rhetorical device usually utilised by the Tories and UKIP, or in the popular press – for example when crime and immigrants are brought together in one article.

    Nationalists are, I’m sure, just as prone to violence as any other general political grouping. But to continue linking the two things is not within the finest traditions of independent, Liberal thought. By all means take the Nationalists to task for the violence they offer – but don’t try and spice things up by throwing in Syria. I appreciate that being a Lib Dem member in Scotland does colour one’s view of the SNP – but to – a few, I’m sure – of those of us outside Scotland, this looks like a lack of objectivity, and a tad touching on the obsessive. Play the ball, not the man.

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