Scots socialists prepare to take on victorious Sheridan

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The Scottish Socialist Party appeared to be preparing for battle with its former leader, Tommy Sheridan, after announcing that it would be backing the 11 members who gave evidence against him in court against any "witch hunters".

As Mr Sheridan, 42, spent the weekend soaking in his victory in a libel case against the News of the World for alleging that he had taken part in drug-fuelled orgies, the party unanimously backed the witnesses who stood against him and could now face a perjury investigation.

They include five members of the Scottish parliament, who were castigated by Mr Sheridan during the court case, who was awarded £200,000 in damages after a jury found in his favour on Friday.

Mr Sheridan was forced to resign as leader of the party in 2004 after the newspaper published of a series of stories alleging he had cheated on his wife and visited prostitutes, which he claimed in court amounted to the "mother of all stitch-ups" by those within the party.

Yesterday, Mr Sheridan hinted that he would consider preparing to run again for the leadership of the party, saying the chances of him doing so were "as high as 50-50" in an interview with the Daily Record.

He appeared to throw down the gauntlet to Colin Fox, the party's leader, who, along with two of the party's MSPs, Carolyn Leckie and Rosie Kane, testified that Mr Sheridan admitted to attending a swingers club in Manchester.

Speaking of the rifts the allegations created, he said: "It fast became akin to civil war where former friends and allies became enemies and foes - that's the very nature of civil war. Colin Fox has chosen the wrong side."

At one point during the five-week court case, the judge, Lord Turnbull, suggested that a police investigation into whether any members of the party had committed perjury while giving evidence might be necessary.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Lothian and Borders police confirmed that a complaint of perjury had been lodged and will be considered. But the SSP's executive committee said in a statement: "This executive committee gives 100 per cent backing to those SSP members who implemented the decision of the last executive committee."

There will be no disciplinary action against those who gave evidence against Mr Sheridan, with the motion stating: "We reject those witch hunters who have called for disciplinary action and deplore the petulant insults that have been directed against these individuals.

"We believe that those 11 SSP members who publicly defended the honesty and integrity of the party should be supported rather than vilified."