19
Apr
17

Crowdfunder to help Andy Wightman fight defamation case

Andy Wightman has launched a crowdfunding appeal to help support his fight against a defamation case being brought against him by Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC. The pursuer is also seeking an astonishing £750,000 in damages and if successful, would render Andy bankrupt which would result in him being ineligible to continue to serve as an MSP.

We’ve known Andy for several years, before he was elected as an MSP for the Scottish Green Party. He’s been a long-time and vocal supporter of this blog and we’re proud to count him as both a professional colleague and as a friend. His earlier work such as this, this and this sets the framework within which illegal raptor persecution takes place in Scotland and goes some way to help us understand why it is still so prevalent.

We’ve blogged about Andy before, a year before he became an MSP, and our opinion of him has only strengthened since he became a politician. We don’t just admire him, we’re in awe of him.

Here’s what we wrote earlier:

Andy Wightman is a class act. He’s an agitator, a truth-seeker and a fearless revolutionist, but achieves this with a charm and courteousness not often associated with anarchists. Combine that with his capacity for meticulous research and analysis and the result is devastating‘.

This charge of alleged defamation came as a shock to many. Andy is not someone who routinely slurs or makes defamatory commentary like a certain tabloid columnist; he is an honourable, thoughtful, principled man who has integrity and decency in spades. It’s not overly melodramatic to argue that if he loses this case, and loses his position in the Scottish Parliament, it will be a travesty of justice and we’ll all be the ones who lose.

If you’d like to support Andy’s crowdfunding appeal, please click HERE where you’ll also find some background to this case and a few words from Andy about how the funds will be used.

Thanks.

UPDATE 21 April 2017: Just a day and a half after launching, the crowdfunder has raised over £25,000. Legal proceedings have begun in the Court of Session. See Andy’s blog update here

UPDATE 3 May 2017: Crowdunder target extended to help Andy Wightman fight defamation case: here

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41 Responses to “Crowdfunder to help Andy Wightman fight defamation case”


  1. 1 Peter Shearer
    April 19, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    I do admire Andy although I have struggled to find out exactly what happened in this case. Was the ownership and the connections of Wildcat Haven ever properly established? Are they indeed a genuine enterprise?

    • 2 lothianrecorder
      April 19, 2017 at 11:38 pm

      As I recall there was a lot of info public domain when news about the case first came out in Feb, which was certainly illuminating, but it seems it seems the main blog entry itself is now password protected, you may be too late…but you will still be able to find some relevant information via relevant key words above..

  2. 3 Thomas David Dick
    April 19, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Done..and commented….”This is such a blatant attempt by the landowning establishment of Scotland to gag someone who is merely trying to show the public the reality of Who Owns Scotland…that I have to support Andy in any way I can…the real travesty here is this use of our justice system to push the selfish agenda of a tiny minority within our society.”

  3. April 19, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    Donated. Good luck against these swines, Andy.

  4. 5 Jo
    April 19, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    I cannot believe that this case may actually go forward …… I’ve followed as much as I can from the beginning and feel very much that it is a shameless attempt to suppress information which should be freely available.

  5. 6 SOG
    April 19, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    I’ve made a small contribution. If there is money left over afterwards, I’d prefer mine to go to the Greens, or any other good cause that Andy chooses.

  6. 7 crypticmirror
    April 19, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Donated. This is just further proof the current legal system is nothing more than a tool of the land owning classes to inflict neo-feudal control on Scotland. Shut up, tug the forelock, play nice, and they won’t try and break you. Point out the inherit injustices in our land, and they will use their cash and control of the legal system to destroy a person.

  7. 8 Mike Rafferty
    April 19, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    Andy is currently one of the brightest political talents in Scotland.

    I will be supporting him all the way.

    Outrageous bullying tactics by Wildcat Haven.

  8. 9 Steve Webster
    April 19, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Wildcat Haven is no plutocrat landowner. It is a small team of committed people who have spent a lot of their own time and money trying to save the wildcat in the wild, They’ve worked with schools, with volunteers including vets, they’ve been monitored and approved by Humane Society International. They began working in Ardnamurchan in 2008, long before there was any other initiative or much interest in the wildcat. I’ve known them since 2013.

    Andy’s blog attacking them came as a total shock to me, and I believe to them. Whatever he says about it, the effect was to make Wildcat Haven appear as nothing but a sleazy scam. Imagine for a moment you had been out in all weathers, over several winters, on your own time, spending your own money to save a wildcat very few people in Scotland appeared to care about ; and just when you were beginning to get some good coverage on tv and in the press, and some more substantial donations, you saw yourself labelled as a bunch of parasitic con artists, That is the effect Andy’s blog had, and after it, over a year of trying to be reasonable met with a constant barrage of smears and insinuations, and time after time, Andy’s blog thrown at anything they tried to raise about the wildcat. Lesley Riddoch said on twitter the blog said everything anyone needed to know about Wildcat Haven. I profoundly disagree, and I wonder how often she condemns anyone like that without doing her own research.

    I happen to agree with Andy Wightman on just about every public position he takes on everything except this one. I also totally support Wildcat Haven in their ultimate ambition to make all the highlands north and west of the Great Glen healthy wildcat territory.

    The constant sorrow for me in this affair is that I am sure Andy and Wildcat Haven are on the same side in the wider picture of the urgent need for regeneration of the highlands, and both refuse to see it.

    I also admire and support the work of Raptor Persecution. I take no pleasure in standing against the comsensus here. I would point out that Raptor Persecution, like the equally excellent Parkswatch blog, hit hard, name names and relentlessly pursue the corruption and abuse holding sway over our uplands, and no one threatens them with court action, because what they report is accurate and true. I think Andy made a mistake with Wildcat Haven.

    • 10 Thomas David Dick
      April 19, 2017 at 11:05 pm

      I admit I don’t know all the ins and outs of this case [most of the public probably don’t and we can’t of course discuss it all here with a case ongoing ] – but threatening an elected MSP with bankruptcy cannot be the right way to handle this dispute….it seems a very odd way for a “small team of committed people” to conservation, to behave.

      • 11 heclasu
        April 20, 2017 at 1:49 am

        I totally agree TDD! Andy Whiteman is too valuable an asset for conservation in Scotland to lose. Surely, Wildcat Haven must see that! Time, I think, for both parties to be ‘man enough’ to get together around a table and sort out their differences face-to-face, rather than take this, to me, misguided action further. The wildcat killers must be rubbing their hands in glee!

    • 13 lizzybusy
      April 20, 2017 at 12:04 am

      This is a tragic situation. It seems to me that both Andy Wightman and the Wildcat Haven are doing great work.

      Here’s an excerpt from a website I checked out to find out more and to clarify the difference between Wildcat Haven and the officially supported Scottish Wildcat Action. The comment below certainly made me pause for thought, as has your contribution. Thank you.

      Having said that, the level of damages is outrageous!

      “http://peterbevis.com/wildcat/

      “I am a supporter of Wildcat Haven. You do not state that the new government backed “Scottish Wildcat Action” project is just a joint venture by the landowners and zoos. They want to clear the Highlands of all cats, wild or feral and reduce the Scottish wildcat to a zoo animal where it can no longer take grouse from the shooters. Pretty sick stuff. Wildcat Haven is the only way forward for the Scottish Wildcat.

      “Scottish Wildcat Action” is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, the National Trust for Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland, the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.”

      • 14 JP
        April 20, 2017 at 10:12 am

        Ah yes, Peter Bevis, what a guy.

        In March 2017, two days after Andy was served with a summons for [alleged] defamation action, Bevis submitted a formal complaint about Andy to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland.

        Bevis got the following response from the Commissioner that he then posted on his twitter feed in a hissy fit:

        PUBLIC STANDARDS CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MEMBERS OF THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT, COMPLAINT AGAINST MR ANDREW WIGHTMAN MSP

        31 March 2017
        To: Dr Peter Bevis, York House, Victoria Street, Alderney, Guernsey, GY93TA

        Dear Dr Bevis,

        Thank you for your complaint dated 23 March 2017 against Mr Andrew Wightman MSP which I have considered.

        Your complaint alleges that Mr Wightman has acted in a manner which is in breach of section 7.1 of the MSP Code of Conduct (“the Code”) in that he has engaged in activity that is not appropriate and consistent with the standing of the Parliament and which would bring Parliament into disrepute.

        You advise that his alleged conduct is around his harassment of your company Highland Titles Ltd through social media channels. You have advised me that such conduct preceded, and has continued since, his election as an MSP.

        In dealing with your complaint, I am obliged to follow the procedures set out in the Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Act 2002. These require me, as a first step, to determine whether the complaint is admissible.

        In order to be admissible, a complaint must relate to facts which, if proved, would amount to a breach of the MSP Code of Conduct. Also, I can only investigate complaints which are within my remit. There are several categories of complaint which are explicitly stated to be outside my remit. One example is that the Presiding Officer of the Parliament deals with alleged conduct within Parliament itself or, in some instances, alleged conduct on the part of an MSP whilst engaging with a constituent on an individual case.

        As regards your complaint, I have to point out that not all conduct by an MSP is covered by the Code of Conduct. You have referred me to paragraph 7.1 of the Code. This is contained in Volume 3 which contains guidance to MSPs on suggested behaviour which they should follow. That volume of the Code, however, does not set out any duties or responsibilities which can be regulated. Conduct which can be regulated is contained in Volume 2 (sections 1 to 9) of the Code. I realise that this may not be immediately clear from an examination of the Code of Conduct.

        In this instance, I am not aware of any Code provision which could be considered to have been breached in the circumstances set out in your complaint. The Code of Conduct for MSPs makes no provision for regulating an MSP’s conduct in situations such as you have complained about. Accordingly, I am obliged to dismiss your complaint as not being admissible or relevant.

        I appreciate this explanation will offer you no comfort, but I hope that you will realise that I must operate within the powers conferred on my office.

        I have noted your indication of the judicial steps you are taking about Mr Wightman’s alleged conduct and would confirm, for the avoidance of any doubt, that I have no role or jurisdiction in any legal remedy which may be open to you in relation to Mr Wightman’s alleged conduct.

        I am also required by the above Act to notify Mr Wightman of the complaint and of my decision. I will therefore forward a copy of this letter to him.

        Yours sincerely
        Bill Thomson
        Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland

      • 17 Alex Milne
        April 20, 2017 at 11:19 am

        The level of damages is not outrageous, really.
        Some of the people behind Wildcat Haven have likely raised millions of pounds by their actions over many years.
        As they do not wish scrutiny of the business model, (Let’s be clear here, I’m not talking about wildlife haven work on the ground here) they have decided as a next step in protecting their interests, to threaten a defamation case. Linking to what seems on the face of it, to be a perfectly acceptable body who could possibly be run as a charity, but isn’t, is a good start for anyone whose first interest is not in the body.
        On the one hand, I’d like it to go to court so that the business model, and the actions of some people who may be connected to Wildlife Haven, are brought clearly into the public domain. It may be that in court, people could be forced to reply truthfully as to their connections to some activities.
        To drag Andy Wightman into this, from the mild statements he has made, seem to me to be the outrageous thing about this.

        • 18 RaptorPersecutionUK
          April 20, 2017 at 11:27 am

          £750,000 in damages would be a record for the Scottish courts, according to an article in the National:

          http://www.thenational.scot/news/14958419.MSP_Andy_Wightman_vows_to_fight___750_000_defamation_suit__to_the_utmost_/

          • 19 Alex Milne
            April 20, 2017 at 1:04 pm

            Indeed.
            Justifying damages of £750,000 for what appears to be on the face of it a CIC doing a minor job in conservation could be a problem. However I suppose they could try to show how their loss is near £750,000 including damages by reference to previous and current activities.

            [Ed: they have to prove defamation first!]

        • 20 lizzybusy
          April 24, 2017 at 5:10 am

          I totally agree with you and will be donating to Andy’s crowd fund appeal precisely because of what you have said.

          However, the little information I’ve found about Wildlife Haven’s work does appeal to me. Their land re-distribute model appeals. Their conservation work appeals. Their educational work appeals.

          [Ed: this part of comment deleted, i.e. the part that discusses Wildcat Haven’s purported business policy]

          Suing Andy Wightman seems like an extremely harsh and intimidating approach to a good man who has raised legitimate questions about land ownership issues.

    • 21 crypticmirror
      April 20, 2017 at 2:26 am

      If it is so dedicated to doing good then how come it is not a charity and instead is some sort of for profit corporation then?

      • 22 lizzybusy
        April 20, 2017 at 11:08 am

        A CIC isn’t a charity but it’s status allows it to apply for grants. If it goes bust (unlikely here!) all assets have to be donated to a charity or community group.

        My concern is the secrecy of the accounts.

      • 25 Messi
        April 20, 2017 at 5:52 pm

        Nothing wrong with a CIC – lots of long-established charities are opting to switch to this entity type now it’s an option (Portland Bird Observatory, for example). Lynx Trust UK is also a CIC, and appears to involve the same O’Donoghue pair, and, as far as I can see, they’re doing great work.

    • 27 Jo
      April 21, 2017 at 8:15 pm

      Whilst I understand your sentiments Steve, I also understand where Andy is/was coming from. Any ‘team’ raising money should consider that they may be open to scrutiny and must be accountable. I have to say I was possibly interested in their scheme when it was first advertised (for grandchildrens’ birthdays, etc) but had many questions about it and life in general took over so I didn’t follow anything up. It does concern me that xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx and having seen the total assets, I do wonder how WildCat Haven will foot the bill for the action they have instigated. I too feel that £750K is an outrageous amount to be able to justify and do not feel that they are acting in their own best interests.

  9. 28 Steve Webster
    April 20, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Wildcat Haven is a community interest company, a CIC. There are websites devoted to helping people choose whether to become a charity or a CIC ; it’s not a big distinction as far as I can see. Some charities have set up CIC trading companies to handle income generation and asset handling.

    There are charities paying their CEO four times the total operating budget of Wildcat Haven. The SNH wildcat action plan spends as much on PR.

    Obviously it’s not in Wildcat Haven’s interest to drive Andy out of Holyrood and into bankruptcy. Why they have claimed such a sum in damages is just the kind of stuff that happens when lawyers get involved, I guess.

    Should it come to court that claim will surely change. I just hope it won’t come to court. I hope we all try to help resolve the situation without the help of the courts, and try to understand the matter before judging it. My opinion is that Wildcat Haven has suffered damage, the people in it have been hurt, and what matters more, the wildcat has suffered because of it. They deserve a fair hearing ; if they can’t get one anywhere else, they will try to get it in the courts and the national media.

    For now it appears both sides at present are confident in the strength of their case.

    I would ask both to reflect that one side’s lawyers is wrong. It won’t be the lawyers who pay for their mistake.

  10. 29 Alex Milne
    April 20, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Andy Wightman is not the only person to have questioned (note, not defamed) Wildcat Haven.
    One thing, above all others, says what this is about.
    £750,000. The fear therof.
    This group do not like being questioned. There is money to be made.
    It is possible that there are good reasons why they should be questioned.
    I can’t quote any of the internet sites which have questioned some of the people behind Wildcat Haven, because they are probably defamatory. There is no way to know if they are true.
    You would need to search online.
    If Wildcat Haven had registered as a charity, stated it’s differences with the “official” wildcat organisation, and raised their money in a more conventional way, there would be no issue. They didn’t.
    As I can’t believe that this action will proceed, as it is likely doomed to failure if it does, I’ll wait until nearer the finish date before contributing.

  11. 30 Peter Shearer
    April 20, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Well at least all that explains why I have found it hard to get to the bottom of it!! It is difficult to understand from what is being said, why no compromise can be reached.

  12. 31 Steve Webster
    April 20, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Wildcat Haven evolved out of the Scottish Wildcat Association, which started up over ten years ago, long before any other organisation in Scotland dedicated to saving the wildcat.

    Wildcat Haven started up in 2008, at which time they were assisted in finding out who owned land in Ardnamurchan by Andy Wightman.

    The SNH led wildcat action plan started up about three years ago. Wildcat Haven was invited to join it, and at first was pleased to do so, and happy the wildcat was finally getting more attention. Once they saw what the plan was, they left it, as some other organisations have done.

    Wildcat Haven has made it very clear on many occasions, on many platforms, where they differ from the wildcat action plan. They don’t agree with captive breeding. They are concentrating on neutering, vaccination and release of feral cats, starting from the peninsula of Ardnamurchan, moving north over a continuous area staying west of the Great Glen, with the ultimate target of making the entire highlands west of the Great Glen free of fertile feral and domestic cats all the way up to Sutherland and Caithness. It’s ambitious, but it makes sense. Last winter they also began work in Caithness, where they were mostly welcomed by local people and schools. All they have to do now is meet in the middle …

    The wildcat action plan has designated six “priority areas” scattered across the highlands, where they are following the same strategy of trap, neuter, vaccinate and release of feral cats. Within these areas they offer free neutering of domestic cats. Outside those areas they have a Scotland wide license to trap wildcats for captive breeding in cooperation with the zoo industry.

    No one has ever tried captive breeding and release of wildcats. The survival rate on release could be dire. But instead of a monitored trial release of a few captive bred wildcats, they’re expanding into a large scale captive breeding program, and building pens at Highland Wildlife Park to facilitate it.

    The action plan ends in about three years ; after that, they are only committed to continuing captive breeding. That will leave six priority areas as islands in a sea of fertile ferals. According to their own recent press releases they have 80 wildcats in captivity. Last year they only produced 16 healthy kittens. I have asked many times why that is ; they don’t answer.

    The wildcat action plan has stated it may when it chooses go trapping wildcats in Ardnamurchan to remove them for captive breeding. That would wreck nine years work by Wildcat Haven in establishing a growing wildcat population in Ardnamurchan and beyond.

    In my experience asking Wildcat Haven questions is not a problem. Asking the wildcat action plan questions is another story.

    You could try asking them about this, for example ~

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rare-wildcats-neutered-by-keepers-nw3w30rkc

    [Ed: Steve, having read Andy Wightman’s original two blogs (which are now password protected for legal reasons) he was not raising questions about the conservation policy of Wildcat Haven. Rather he was asking questions about the legal status of the business model (selling ‘souvenir’ plots of land to raise funds) and the company’s links to an offshore tax haven. Issues of scrutiny and accountability seemed to be Andy’s focus, not the conflicting conservation policies of the two wildcat conservation groups]

    • 32 Steve Webster
      April 20, 2017 at 1:24 pm

      [Ed: comment deleted. This is a live case so the fine details of what Andy wrote in his original blogs cannot be discussed here]

    • 33 Messi
      April 20, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Gosh – how I wish I could see what Andy actually wrote! I have to say that I have sympathy for both ‘camps’ here but I do wonder why on earth Wildcat Haven is pursuing such an aggressive legalistic route. It makes me wonder if they have something to hide – but I’ve seen nothing written here to convince me that they do!

      The real problem here seems to be territorial bickering by two initiatives doing good work! But I’d love to know what Andy’s blog actually said!

      [Ed: thanks Messi. We’ve had to edit out a large chunk of your comment as we can’t publish discussions like yours, as interesting as it is, at this stage of proceedings]

  13. April 20, 2017 at 11:25 am

    I read about this before it became password protected.

    [Ed: rest of comment deleted. This is a live case]

  14. April 20, 2017 at 11:55 am

    I read about this before it became password protected.

    [Ed: rest of comment deleted. This is a live case]

  15. April 20, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    I read about this before it became password protected.

    [Ed: rest of comment deleted. This is a live case]

    • April 20, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      Sorry for multiple postings, there appeared to be a glitch somewhere.
      It is a shame that we can’t debate with Steve Webster for legal reasons as it gives an imbalance on the post. I have kept fairly up to date with this and so Andy got my donation, no question!

  16. 38 Harris Keillar
    April 20, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    Donated. Very good to see that it’s hit over £17000 already and along with most of the other posts, it would appear a huge pity that WH is taking this action, given the work that they do.

  17. 39 Mike Rafferty
    April 21, 2017 at 12:11 am

    I suspect wildcat haven may come out badly in this…….even if they win their case people in scotland generally dont like bully boy tactics and rottweiler lawyers.

    A bizarre amount of money makes me suspect wildcat haven have used this tactic before.

    Trump tactics……

  18. 40 SOG
    April 22, 2017 at 8:59 am

    I hope Andy is now confident that he has more support available if he needs it. Those who don’t know of it might benefit from reading about the Alistair Carmichael court case, where support was raised with an average contribution of about £15, ISTR.


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