Edinburgh uni professor paid damages by Tory Minister over false claims of supporting Hamas

‘Michelle Donelan made a cheap political point at my expense and caused serious damage to my reputation’

Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan has had to pay damages to Herriot Watt Professor Kate Sang, after the Cabinet minister claimed the professor supported Hamas, following October 7th.

Kate Sang, a professor in Gender and Employment studies, launched a libel case against the minister, alongside her fellow academic Dr Kamna Patel, after the Minister claimed they were sharing “extremist material.”

The case was launched after Ms Donelan shared a letter to social media last October, suggesting the academic had “expressed sympathy for Hamas after its attack on Israel”, as reported by the Mirror.

Further to this, she wrote to the UK Research and Innovations group suggesting that Professor Sang, who had been appointed to the equity board, be removed.

Following a month-long investigation into the academics, it was found that they were not supporters of Hamas and that Ms Donelan had misunderstood Professor Sang’s post.

The damages paid to Professor Sang have been “covered by taxpayers to prevent prolonged legal costs” according to the BBC.

After the libel case, Professor Sang said: “I am delighted that this matter has now concluded, but very disturbed by how Michelle Donelan and UKRI behaved.

“Had they asked me at the start, I would have explained the true position. Instead, Michelle Donelan made a cheap political point at my expense and caused serious damage to my reputation.

I propose to donate part of the damages she has paid to a charity.”

Dr Patel, who also faced allegations by Ms Donelan, has said that the experience has been “distressing”, and that: “There was never any need for UKRI to investigate as it should have been obvious from the start that we had not breached the Nolan principles or expressed extremist views.”

Shadow Science Minister Peter Kyle told the BBC that Ms Donelean’s accusations were a “new low in government standards”.

The University and College Union (UCU) called for Michelle Donelan to resign.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Despite using taxpayers’ money to pay damages and settle a libel claim, Michelle Donelan has failed to actually apologise to the individuals she falsely accused and attacked, or for the damage she has done to the academic community. That she only retracted her allegations after a lengthy legal process makes matters worse.

“These are not the actions of someone who is engaging with our sector in good faith. As the union representing academics, we are forced to conclude that Ms Donelan’s position is untenable. She does not retain the confidence of the academic community, nor is she upholding good standards of professional conduct. She must resign.”

Cover Image via: @michellechippenham and @heriotwattmuseum

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