ALISTAIR Carmichael has admitted he "misstated his awareness" of a leaked memo which suggested Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to remain Prime Minister.

The embattled Orkney and Shetland MP confirmed in papers lodged at the Court of Session in Edinburgh he knew of the document before it appeared in the Press.

However, he denied breaking electoral law by allowing the memo to be leaked in order to damage the First Minister.

The former Secretary of State for Scotland submitted his defence as campaigners taking him to court reached their fundraising target of £60,000.

Nearly 3,900 people have contributed to the court fund since the effort was set up just over a fortnight ago.

The action against Mr Carmichael is being driven by Tim Morrison, an SNP member from Orkney, who says the campaign needs the sum to cover legal and fundraising costs if Mr Carmichael wins in court.

The case is part of a strenuous campaign to oust Mr Carmichael from his seat after he admitting authorising the leak a month before the General Election.

The memo recorded a civil servant's conversation with the French consul general in Edinburgh, Pierre-Alain Coffinier.

According to the memo, the diplomat said Ms Sturgeon had told the French ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, she wanted to see Mr Cameron remain in Downing Street.

Both the First Minister and the ambassador denied the claim and the memo itself warned that part of the official's conversation with the consul general may have been "lost in translation".

The contents were published in the Daily Telegraph in early April, as Ms Sturgeon was campaigning on an "anti-Tory" ticket.

In his response to the petition lodged by campaigners, Mr Carmichael insisted he had not breached section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which says it is a criminal offence to release a "false statement" about the character and conduct of an election candidate.

He admitted he "misstated his awareness of the leaked memorandum" when he told Channel 4 he was unaware of the memo before he was phoned by a Daily Telegraph journalist.

He also conceded he had made an "error of judgment on a political matter".

A Cabinet Office inquiry established he had authorised his special adviser to pass the document to the newspaper.
But his submission argued: "No statements were made regarding the personal character or conduct of a candidate in the Parliamentary election."

A source close to Mr Carmichael said: "The answers make clear that Alistair Carmichael is opposing the petition".

The petition against him was lodged by Mr Morrison and three others.

He insists the campaign is not politically motivated and in a statement on the fundraising website says: "Of course some SNP members are involved but it is not an SNP campaign."

Mr Carmichael is also facing a formal conduct investigation by Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Hudson.