FORMER Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale should be quizzed on her honesty after discrepancies emerged in her defence of a £25,000 defamation action, a sheriff has heard.

A lawyer acting for nationalist blogger Stuart Campbell told a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court that Ms Dugdale had made crucial statements which were “not honest”.

Mr Campbell, who runs the controversial Wings Over Scotland website, is suing Ms Dugdale in an unprecedented legal battle after she accused him of making homophobic remarks – a claim he strongly denies.

The row started after Mr Campbell tweeted about Tory MSP Oliver Mundell, whose father, the Tory Scottish Secretary David Mundell, came out as gay in 2016.

He wrote last year: “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner."

In a newspaper column, Ms Dugdale said she was “shocked and appalled to see a pro-independence blogger's homophobic tweets”.

But Craig Sandison QC questioned Ms Dugdale's motive in writing the piece.

He said she had changed her position since the start of the defamation action, initially claiming she did not know Mr Campbell was behind the blog, or that he was pro-independence.

The lawyer suggested she actually held a “great deal of ill-will” towards Mr Campbell due to criticism he had made of her in the past.

He wants to quiz Ms Dugdale in court, and urged Sheriff Kenneth McGowan to reject attempts by the MSP’s legal team to have the action dismissed.

Ms Dugdale’s lawyer, Aidan O’Neill QC, accused Mr Campbell of “lowering political debate to the level of five-year-old playground abuse”.

He suggested the blogger had gone “running to the court” and could dish it out but couldn’t take it, despite describing his own style as “caustic and trenchantly critical”

He said Ms Dugdale’s condemnation of the tweet as “homophobic” was fair and honest comment.

The issue, he argued, was not whether Mr Campbell was homophobic, but that the tweet could be perceived as such.

He said: "It's that he is willing, as part of his apparent contribution to political debate, to use language that can be perceived and felt and understood and honestly commented on as homophobic.”

The lawyer said Mr Campbell should have "broad shoulders and thick skin" since he had set himself up as a political commentator.

He said: "The pursuer claims he is the most widely read blog and there's all sorts of stuff about how terribly important he is in his own pleadings."

Mr O’Neill said Mr Campbell had described the tweet as “intended, although caustic, to be jocular”, and that he had then pointed to his history of supporting gay rights.

The lawyer added: "This might be called the 'some of my best friends are Jews' defence."

He argued Mr Campbell had needlessly referred to David Mundell’s sexuality in order to hold it up to ridicule, "because he thinks it's funny, because it's jocular”.

But Mr Sandison attacked the strength of Ms Dugdale’s defence, and insisted the innuendo in her article was: "You are a homophobe."

He said: "My Lord is being asked to adopt a pick ‘n’ mix attitude, if I can call it that, as to what the law in Scotland actually is."

He also questioned how Ms Dugdale could make reference to Mr Campbell’s history of controversial remarks as justification for implying he is a homophobe, if her position was initially that she didn’t know who he was.

He said that while it was true that those in the public arena must have thicker skins, this did not extend to any attack on their personal and private character.

It is not that his client is a "cry-baby or a man of excessive sensibility", he argued, but that he was subject to a personal attack that simply wasn't true.

Sheriff McGowan will now consider the arguments and reserve judgment until a future date, when he could dismiss the action or move to an evidential hearing.