Coulson could be called to give evidence in perjury trial

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The Independent Online

The former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, may be called to give evidence at the perjury trial of former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan and his wife Gail.

There has been mounting speculation about Mr Coulson play a part in the prosecution since it was reported last week that the Prime Minister's director of communications had given a statement to lawyers acting for Mr Sheridan.

The trial, which is due to last up to eight weeks, will begin at Glasgow High Court on Monday. Mr Sheridan was charged with perjury and attempting to persuade someone else to commit perjury in connection with his successful defamation claim against the Sunday newspaper in 2006 when Mr Coulson was editor of the London edition of the paper. It was alleged that Mr Sheridan had cheated on his wife with a former prostitute but a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh, where he represented himself, found in his favour and awarded £200,000 in damages.

The former MSP, who made his name in his home city by opposing the imposition of the poll tax, was charged with perjury the following year after a lengthy police investigation into his conduct at the trial. Mrs Sheridan was also charged with lying under oath and will appear in court alongside her husband. Supporters of Mr Sheridan set up a fighting fund to help him to clear his name and are expected to turn out to give their backing to the controversial politician.

Mr Sheridan, 46, cut his teeth in politics in the 1980s when he joined Militant while studying economics at Stirling University. He was expelled from the Labour Party in 1989 during Neil Kinnock's purge against the hard left but later founded the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) for which he was twice elected to the Scottish Parliament to represent Glasgow. In 2006 he formed a new party Solidarity. Mr Sheridan will be represented at the trial by Maggie Scott QC.

Mr Sheridan, the son of a former Rolls-Royce shop steward, built his political support where he grew up on the back streets of Glasgow surrounded by like-minded members of the Scots-Irish community. It was while at his Roman Catholic secondary school, Lourdes Academy, that he met his future wife Gail, the daughter of a care worker, when they were both aged just 14.

The former classmates eventually married with a full tartan church wedding in 2000 by which time he was one of the most instantly recognisable politicians north of the border. During the libel trial the long-serving British Airways air hostess, dubbed the first lady of Scottish socialism, was a magnet for the photographers' lenses as she supported her husband throughout wearing a succession of elegantly tailored outfits. But despite the glamorous image she also stood for the SSP as a Glasgow councillor in the Cardonald ward where the couple live and she was a union representative during an industrial dispute at the airline in 1997-8.

In 2007 Mr Sheridan hosted The Tommy Sheridan Chat Show at the Edinburgh Fringe. He interviewed a series of guests at Gilded Balloon as well as discussing the highs and lows of his career.

After leaving Holyrood, Mr Sheridan hosted his own radio show and appeared on Celebrity Big Brother. He stood in the 2009 European elections as a candidate for the NO2EU party which polled less than 1 per cent of the vote.