A SCOTLAND Office civil servant was behind the leaked memo that claimed Nicola Sturgeon wants David Cameron to remain as Prime Minister.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has fingered an official in his own department for releasing the note.
But the Lib Dem refused to name the individual now at the centre of a Whitehall inquiry and a furious political row.
“Alistair Carmichael is a UK Cabinet Minister and so must be in no doubt about the seriousness of the probe now ordered by the UK’s top civil servant.
“If Mr Carmichael has information about who produced a document containing this false account or indeed about who then leaked it – whether it is from within his own civil service department or elsewhere – then he must provide that information to Sir Jeremy Heywood as a matter of urgency.”
Carmichael said it was “absolutely right” that Heywood had launched an inquiry into the leak – but he flatly refused to identify the civil servant who drafted the document.
The Scottish Secretary acknowledged that the inquiry may take some time to report but said: “I see no reason it shouldn’t be done fairly quickly.”
He added: “These conversations take place between government officials and diplomats all the time and it’s important people can have confidence in the confidentiality of them. [emphasis added]
What makes this interesting politically is that the public testimony of both Scotland’s First Minister and the French Consul seem to contradict the official notes made by the, as yet nameless, Scotland Office civil servant.
But the naming of the state official who took the notes is hardly material to the case of who actually leaked the document to the Daily Telegraph, unless it can be successfully proven that they were one and the same.
So the deeper problem for the SNP may lie in the existence of the report itself, and the First Minister‘s immediate response to it. Which was to dismiss it as a fabrication of the truth.
What if she is wrong?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty