IN all the time I have had the privilege of writing for The National, I have rarely ventured into matters personal to me and my family. This column should be about my personal opinions, not opinions about me personally. However, today I intend to break with precedent.

Here are the facts. Alan Niall Macpherson Mickel was my managing partner in the law firm Hamilton Burns, in which I was a partner to the extent of 15%, with Mr Mickel holding an 85% share.

In early 2012, a trust was established. The name of this trust was the Alan Niall Macpherson Mickel Trust and it was a family trust – for the benefit of Mr Mickel’s sister. I was asked to be a trustee by the father, Mr Mickel senior. I agreed to become a trustee.

I derived no personal benefit of any kind from my role as Trustee and no one involved in the Trust, including the beneficiary (Mr Mickel’s sister) and her family, have raised any concerns about the running of the Trust.

This matter came before the Solicitors Tribunal last week, as it was claimed by the Law Society that the Trust was a client of the Firm, and accordingly should have been treated differently for Accounts Rules purposes.

I never understood the Trust to be a client of the firm and I formed this view because neither I nor my managing partner had ever instructed Hamilton Burns in our capacity as Trustees. There were no Terms of Business entered into, no legal advice was offered to the Trustees by the firm at any time, there was no correspondence from the firm to the Trustees, and both Hamilton Burns and the Trustees of the Trust were of the view that there was not a solicitor/client relationship. Above all – and this is important – no fees were ever rendered by the firm to the Trust. Have you ever heard of a lawyer not charging a client?

This was, and is now agreed by the Law Society to have been, “a genuinely held belief”, “not unreasonable” – albeit “erroneous”. The issue was not at all clear cut, as exemplified by the need for the Law Society to take expert legal advice themselves on this matter and from more than one source, including Senior Legal Counsel.

But for my erroneous belief, I would not have faced these proceedings. Everything stems from that one, albeit important mistake. An honest and genuine mistake that I now acknowledge and accept.

I joined Hamilton Burns as an employee in October 2005 and had become a partner by the time I left in May 2015, when I was elected to Parliament as the SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire.

As a lawyer with a 20-year unblemished career, I took my responsibilities seriously. In relation to the Trust, I was satisfied when the firm was routinely inspected by the Law Society Financial Compliance Department on at least two separate occasions during my tenure that, given neither of these inspections raised any of the issues that were subsequently pursued, my understanding that the Trust was not a client of the firm, was a correct one.

However, once I had left the firm and had become an MP, the Law Society inspected the firm again in October 2015 and came to a different view.

As they were entitled to, they looked at matters to establish whether there had been any Accounts Rules breaches, even inadvertent ones.

It was during this investigative period that a tabloid newspaper, in a manner and from whom yet to be established, got hold of information that they considered entitled them to print headlines and speculation of “financial impropriety” in relation to a “vulnerable person” amid suggestions of being “reported to police” – all at the height of the 2017 General Election campaign where I was working to hold my parliamentary seat. These irresponsible reports led to three of my children who were at school, two at primary and one at secondary, being asked by fellow pupils if I would go to prison. They caused more damage than just political and more hurt than they can possibly know.

The same headlines and allegations were repeated across news outlets and were used by political opponents in my former constituency backed by their party machines, to directly challenge my honesty and integrity.

And yet the view expressed by the Law Society’s own Complaints Investigator, following a thorough and detailed investigation that lasted approximately a year, was to conclude to the Law Society that a complaint alleging professional misconduct should not be made by them against me to the Tribunal.

Notwithstanding that expert recommendation, it was.

I write this piece because everyone has the right to defend themselves, is innocent until proven otherwise and should not be subjected to inaccurate reporting, not least during a regulated period in an election campaign.

But it happened to me and last week although I was found in breach and censured it was established in front of a Tribunal that there was; no intent on my part to break any of the Law Society’s Accounts Rules or to act in any way improperly, no dishonesty but an honest and genuinely held belief – albeit a mistakenly held one – that the Trust was not a client of the firm and the Trust funds were not client monies, and that the Trust sustained no loss as a consequence of this inadvertent breach of rules.

The Law Society said: “It is also important to stress to the Tribunal that whilst the Second Respondent (Tasmina) is accepting the accounting failures that were present during her tenure as a Partner and Cashroom Manager, there is no suggestion at all of dishonestly or impropriety on her part in relation to the intromissions with the funds from the Trust ledger.

“It should be stressed that there are no entries which would tend to suggest that any sums were made over personally to the Second Respondent.

“Indeed the Trust it seems has now to a degree gained from the loans made to the firm as it has belatedly received a return of interest, and its interests are also now protected in terms of a security which is held over the First Respondent’s property which security had been put in place during the period when the firm acted for the Trust and intromitted with its funds.”

Many from within and outwith the legal profession have commented on the findings in this case, suggesting that they would not relish such a determination. This is not lost on me.

I made a mistake. But it was in the face of a genuinely held and not unreasonable although erroneous belief, and there was absolutely no suggestion at all of impropriety nor dishonesty. I would hope that now these facts are completely undisputed they will be universally accepted.

I am now turning my attention to establishing the source and motive behind the inaccurate and damaging briefings against me. That much is unfinished business.

Wish me luck!