That Scotland Office Memo. Who leaked it? And was it actually wrong?

So, interesting times. Some people clearly take the view that the Secretary of State at the Scottish Office is up to something. But the truth may be more interesting than that:

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?

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  • Auldreekie

    There is no problem for the SNP. There is no evidence at all that Sturgeon said what the Telegraph accused her of saying. The memo itself doubts that she did say it. There has indeed been a fabrication of a case against Ms Sturgeon, and it has been by certain sections of the media and by political opponents who have been unwilling to accept the lack of evidence and prefer what they would like to believe. And this has been to the SNP’s benefit, because to the Scottish public this is just more damning evidence of system from which they feel increasingly alienated.

  • Gingray

    Surely the real question should be – what if she is right?

  • Jane Doe

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that the story was manufactured. Both parties to the conversation have stated clearly that the comments attributed to Nichola Sturgeon were false.
    I think it’s a clear case of the Empire strikes back. The SNP leader did very well in the leaders debate and something had to be done quickly to kill the positive media, particularly social media.
    Truth is the SNP are a problem for conservatives, labour & more importantly Whitehall. In the short term they could be beneficial to both the conservatives & labour, but long term they are a very dangerous liability to both parties. Neither have the ability to placate a growing Scottish nationalism and both know that the SNP are high maintenance. The problem is that both may need them. The Conservatives like most political parties will do anything to retain power and they have little to lose in Scotland in terms of seats. That said, they have the flexibility to ask for English only votes and pander to their core vote, which is English

    There is a real danger that the Union is at risk for conservative self interest. Would the conservatives give Scotland independence in the knowledge that they have a huge majority in England? Absolutely, of course they would have to have assurances but yes from their perspective, it must look very attractive.

    The real power is in Whitehall and they don’t have to bother themselves with the petty squabbling of political parties. Prime Ministers come and go, and they are manageable. Whitehall is permanent, fixed and unaccountable and they most certainly have problems with the SNP. They are the real power in London and they will use everything at their disposal to protect the Union. We need look no further than Whitehall for the source of misquotes, lies and scandal. They have been doing this for generations.

    This particular story has got Whitehall written all over it and if I was Nichola Sturgeon, I would kill the story, stop asking for enquiries and work to her own agenda. While the story is still a story, then Whitehall are setting the agenda. Play the game by your own rules and be careful, very careful because they will not give up easily.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Bit unreasonable to expect a civil servant to be named guilty without a proper investigation.

  • the rich get richer

    Dirty tricks by the british establishment… Well I never…. next some one will say the popes a catholic ! ! !

  • MainlandUlsterman

    If it is dirty tricks by “the Establishment” (in favour of the Labour Party?? That’s a first), it is a particularly unsophisticated attempt. Doesn’t feel the right answer to me … I’m speculating of course but this smacks to me of (assuming it is untrue) a Scottish Labour supporter lower down the civil service food chain being opportunist.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The problem for the SNP though is that it is close to the bone. Is anyone really suggesting the SNP *don’t* prefer to have a Tory government in Westminster, for their own political benefit? Seems a no-brainer. And her comments about Ed M not being prime ministerial: I note she hasn’t denied that (nor would you expect her to, I assume it’s what she thinks).

    I hope this incident hasn’t damaged the case against voting SNP if you’re a progressive voter in Scotland. Voting SNP makes it more likely the Tories will be the biggest party in Westminster and will form a minority government. 5 more years of the Tories, Scotland, really? Do you really hate the UK that much? I really hope not.

  • Jay

    And so it begins. NicolaSturgeonAteMyHamster

  • mickfealty
  • Zig70

    If Sturgeon was the leader of labour then they would walk it. The establishment probably see her as a very dangerous character, capable of splitting the union permanently. The English have killed thousands of people for oil in the last few decades. If I was Nicola, I’d up my security.

  • kalista63

    Totally agree and Miliband’s reaction has thrown more egg on his face.

  • ted hagan

    Sturgeon has emerged unscathed from this. It’s Labour, who jumped the gun with their condemnations of her, who are made to look stupid. There is no problem for the SNP.
    The main problems lie with the Scottish Office.

  • ted hagan

    That doesn’t make sense. Labour seem about to lose many of their MPs in Scotland anyway. As for England, well, healthy democracies have a habit of balancing out. Once the electorate sees power going too much in one direction, they tend to sway in the other direction.
    The SNP have difficult choices ahead. They have to strike while they have influence. Five years of boom in the UK and the support for independence could quickly dissolve.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    we’ll see … I think what will be more influential on polling day is whether the thought behind it is true or not – that voting SNP could bring about a Tory government – and having Holyrood, do Scots care enough about Westminster for that to be a deciding factor.

    I think rather than making big play of the actual “revelation”, Jim Murphy’s approach of just reminding people of the consequences of a big SNP vote is the best one. If I were wavering, that would swing it for me. But if Scotland really is in a “screw Labour” frame of mind at the moment, then even this won’t save them – and we’ll have another 5 years of Cameron and Osborne’s reducing of the state and lining the pockets of the wealthy.

  • mickfealty

    Has anyone actually seen this memo BTW?

  • mickfealty
  • Starviking

    I think the SNP look quite hypocritical over this: they had no problem accusing Labour that they were “in bed with the Tories” when that was far from the case. The accusation that the SNP would prefer a Conservative win at least has some logic behind it.

  • Red Priest

    Nope. LibDem SpAd, using links from the Better Together days. Possibly Roddin. Hence Carmichael playing down as “just one of those things” what is after all potentially a significant OSA breach that embarrassed a foreign friendly government.

    And why would Torygraph run it? Simple, they, like everyone, know Tories are, single seat aside, toast in Scotia. And they need LDs to keep their Scottish seats -so a memo that simultaneously makes SNP look dishonest, while stating labour are hopeless is a twofer.

    My instinct is silly Carmichael assumed the French wouldn’t comment, or do a classic “we do not comment’ response. When they came out almost immediately to deny it, it changed the whole complexion of the story to a pro-SNP one, validating the anti-authoritarian wing of their support (“See? THEY really ARE using dirty tricks, etc…”). Thereafter the story quickly became ‘who is trying to pull stunts’ – and carmichael had to own up to his department being the source when the (Tory) Foreign office denied it, but then tried to downplay the importance of it…because it’s his guy who did it, possibly under orders.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    could well be right … is there any news on this?