FRENCHGATE returns to court today as the Orkney four’s crowdfunding bid to help them unseat disgraced Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael powered past £110,000, including contributions from some high-profile backers.

The four launched their legal action under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 after the former Scottish Secretary admitted leaking and lying about a false memo critical of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

After the first sitting of an Election Court in Scotland for more than 50 years, Lady Paton and Lord Matthews said they wanted to hear the evidence in the case.

Today’s “by order” hearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, which will not be televised, will lay out the ground rules for the trial.

These include its location, which could be Kirkwall; who will be called as witnesses; what time should be allocated for the proceedings; and what standard of proof will be required – either criminal or civil.

A contravention of Section 106 would be a criminal offence, so it appears likely that the more stringent level of criminal proof will be required. Carmichael – a self-confessed liar – will give evidence, as might former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

The People v Carmichael’s crowdfund on the Indiegogo website passed the £100,000 mark on Friday, when Tim Morrison, one of the petitioners, told The National: “It’s incredible and inspirational that so many people care about democracy.”

Last night the total was more than £110,200 from more than 6,100 backers, including high-profile figures such as actor Alan Cumming, author Irvine Welsh and journalist, broadcaster and TV executive Stuart Cosgrove.

The Orkney four have been realistic about the enormity of the task facing them, and said they were preparing for colossal court expenses when Scotland’s only LibDem MP goes to trial.

A spokesperson for the group said: “This entire procedure is unprecedented so costs are also unprecedented. This is a civil action, so there is no public money for funding and the four have no large backers or safety net. The incredible generosity of over 6,000 donors has made the first part of the process possible.

“Every single person who has donated has contributed to the process of cleaning up politics, but it remains nothing short of a scandal that for ordinary voters to undertake this the cost should be borne by them ultimately.

“The crowd-funding initiative is now to refocus to encourage those who can dig deep and often to do so; now is absolutely the time to do this and for those who can to offer what they can when they can.

“The petitioners know that this is a huge ask, but believe that if the effort is spread among the many it can be achieved.”

The average donation is just more than £17, and the petitioners say a substantial fund to cover the trial will be established if each one is repeated.

Cumming said: “The fact that a sitting MP is guilty of such a heinous attempt to discredit Scotland’s leader is something we all should be ashamed of and take action to end immediately.”

Orkney singer-songwriter Ivan Drever said: “This man is not fit for public office and should have stood down some time ago.”

Leith-born Tam Dean Burn, whose work has included the 2007 stage adaptation of Orkney-raised Luke Sutherland’s novel Venus as a Boy, said the campaign was “the most brilliant example of people power I’ve seen in a long time in its determination to hold a politician to account whatever the cost”.

National columnist and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch has described the petitioners as “four brave folk” who have had to

“risk their livelihoods to raise a perfectly valid question about the conduct of their MP and his fitness to hold office”.

She said: “Most commentators predicted their case would be thrown out, but it’s clear Alastair Carmichael has a legal as well as a moral case to answer.

"That can’t happen unless everyone who donated the first time does it again now. In the run-up to Christmas, that’s a tall ask. But what price justice?”