A HITHERTO respected charity came under attack yesterday after its sister company increased from £34,000 to £50,000 an award to lying MP Alistair Carmichael to help with his £150,000 legal bill for the Frenchgate case.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT), a limited company based in York, made what it described as “an initial advance” to Carmichael in January, with “a final further award of £16,000 agreed in March once final liabilities in the case were known”.

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said: “It is sad that a trust organisation, which has done so much good for progressive policies should become associated with an MP who lied through his teeth to protect his position.

“The people they should be supporting are the good people of Orkney and Shetland who risked all to hold the establishment to account. Not the former Secretary of State for Scotland, who has lost all semblance and understanding of honour, integrity and democratic accountability.

“Little wonder that there is public concern about what is being done in the name of Joseph Rowntree.”

JRRT’s better-known stablemate the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), which has stressed repeatedly that the two are entirely separate, has borne the brunt of public ire over the award.

On the JRF Facebook page, Rosemary Liewald posted: “According to your own business ethics information you do not contribute towards legal fees for any of your supporters. Yet today you have handed hundreds of thousands to Carmichael who has been shown in court to be a complete liar by this countries [sic] top judges… ohh shame on you, it’s time the public know exactly who you aligned yourself with.”

Fiona Forbes asked: “Is it true that Joseph Rowntree is paying £50k to Alistair Carmichael MP’s legal fees? If so how can this be justified? If so, how does the foundation think this will sit with members, donors and potential members and donors.

“I’ve long admired the work of the organisation so I am hoping this is either an error or can be justified.”

Such has been the outcry the grant has provoked that JRRT has put a statement on its website about it, along with a series of questions and answers. It said: “The grant made to Alistair Carmichael constitutes less than five per cent of the £1.2m the trust will make available to support political campaigns during 2016.

“The vast majority of our funds go to relatively small groups who campaign for political reform, to uphold civil liberties, protect personal privacy and promote human rights.”

A spokesperson for the JRRT told The National yesterday: “We have made all the statements we intend to on this matter. I am sorry but there is no one available to speak to you.”

The trust said the award – the biggest it has made this year – was given “to uphold existing case law about the circumstances in which a legitimately elected MP can be unseated”.

Four of Carmichael’s Orkney constituents took him to court for lying about his role in leaking a memo aimed at damaging Nicola Sturgeon before last year’s General Election.

Carmichael, a self-confessed liar and the only LibDem MP in Scotland, tried to win damages from the four after accepting in evidence that his own position was dishonest.

However, Lady Paton and Lord Matthews said he told a “blatant lie” during a television interview about the memo, and rejected his case for costs.

Joseph Rowntree – a chocolate manufacturer, Quaker and Liberal – set up three trusts in 1904. There are now four, and JRRT was established as a tax-paying company to “advance the non-charitable aspects of his vision of society”.

It claims its aims include: “To correct imbalances of power, supporting the voice of the individual.”