By Sean Martin
The SNP has asked for clarity after a tense exchange during a Scottish Government committee in which a civil servant working for the Scotland Office appeared to admit briefing several foreign embassies on the UK Government’s stance on independence.
Deputy director (corporate and constitution) of the Scotland Office, Chris Flatt, told Holyrood’s Europe and External Relations Committee that he had spoken to “dozens of embassies” around the world on the issue of Scottish independence and the UK Government’s position on it.

The admission comes after several reports stated that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had been warning foreign diplomats in London about the hazards of Scottish independence.  After a request was made under the Freedom of Information Act, material was released which showed Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael and Europe Minister David Lidington briefed members of the Diplomatic Corps on independence before the publication of a UK Government report.

Mr Flatt, who told of discussions with officials from countries including Russia, America and Italy, insisted he was always careful to mention that the Scottish Government itself carried a different view on independence.

He went on to say that the Russian diplomat he briefed had “expressed great surprise at the Herald story about what the Russian news agency had put forward”.  This was in reference to the January article in the Sunday Herald which carried details that Russian news agency Itar-Tass were reporting Prime Minister David Cameron had sought the backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin in his fight against Scottish independence.

According to the Russian news agency, a government official had indicated that: “Great Britain is extremely interested in the support of Russia, as holder of the G8 presidency, in two vital areas in 2014: the Afghan pull-out and the Scottish independence referendum.”

Mr Putin then appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show in which he was asked about Scottish independence.  Viewers heard the Russian President say: “I believe one should not forget that being part of a single, strong state has some advantages and one should not overlook this,”

Christina McKelvie MSP, convenor of the Europe Committee, pressed Mr Flatt for details of the meetings.   He re

sponded that he was often approached and asked what the position of the UK Government was and that he had briefed several embassies on the matter. 

Mr Flatt added: “I’ve had that conversation with Russian officials, American, Canadian, Belgian, Philippines, Kurdistan, Italians – I mean it goes on because everyone’s interested.”
The official was then cut off from relaying further details by Carmichael, who said he didn’t know “that that’s really something for us to give an answer to”.

Ms McKelvie, MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, has called on both the Scottish Office and the Foreign Office to “come clean and publish the details of all of their briefings” and said the conduct of the Scottish Office demonstrated why Scotland should speak for itself globally.

She added: “Prime Minister David Cameron continually refuses to debate the First Minister in front of the people of Scotland, but he is content for his government to go around the world talking down Scotland’s future behind closed doors.  This speaks volumes about the Westminster approach to the referendum.

“This is the kind of behaviour that shows exactly why the people of Scotland can, should and must vote to become an independent country and represent ourselves on the world stage,” Ms McKelvie continued. “With polls showing support for Yes at a record high, people are coming to the conclusion that Scotland’s future lies with Yes.”


2014-03-21 09:36

So what sort of deal was the UK proposing to Russia?

Support us in preventing Scotland breaking away and we will turn a blind eye to Russian expansionism in Crimea.

Wouldn’t that be what Putin would be looking for in helping Cameron?
2014-03-21 10:28

Well what are foreign Embassies for if not helping other countries to understand your culture?
“Hi, we’re the United Kingdom. We’re deceitful and duplicitous about our friends behind their backs, and we racketeer their Whisky to lubricate our arms deals, so don’t for one minute think any of our principles are non-negotiable. We may not have an Empire, but we’re still every bit as imperialist in our outlook, and we know you need weapons. Come and talk to us. Take ice in your scotch? Best stuff money can buy and here we are giving it away.”
2014-03-21 12:33

The two faces of Cameron,he wants Putin help on the referendum and now is leading sanctions against him over Crimea.I noticed when Chris Flatt started speaking Carmichael soon cut him off was he afraid Flatt was about to spill the beans.
Robert Louis
2014-03-21 13:50

I would suggest anybody interested should watch this episode, as I have just done on the Parliament channel.

As the question is raised regarding the Russian briefing, watch the body language of both Carmichael, and especially, the guy sitting behind him wearing the striped blue tie.

Then watch the body language as Chris Flatt (in their eyes) ‘defuses’ the situation, with his broad sweep answer of briefing many embassies etc..

Conniving??? Oh, yes.

As for the Secretary of state, who is paid over 100k per year, grumbling endlessly about how long he has had to be there, and oh how awfully early he had to get up, I must say, for an equivalent role in industry, such tasks are commonplace. Perhaps Mr.Carmichael should step aside and let somebody with a touch more enthusiasm and energy for the role take the job.
2014-03-21 16:40

I managed to catch it on the Parliament Channel this afternoon, from where Alistair Carmichael was bluffing about Article 49. Riveting stuff.

2014-03-21 14:59

I watched this, there was a suggestion, which could have been taken as a threat in which Carmichael said that Westminster’s support of Scotland into the Eu,would be after negotiations.Some may see that as blackmail.

If rUK does not get what it wants, then they may possibly veto Scotland in the EU. Wow! Shows just we we need to get out of this relationship.
2014-03-21 16:38

I think it’s beginning to dawn on Carmichael that his jacket is on a shoogly peg, come the next General Election in 2015 – if indeed a YES vote on September 18th renders his current Governor General job redundant – as both he and Moore claimed it should be after the devolved Scottish Parliament was set up in 1999!
2014-03-21 22:54

looks like he has lost Putin in his anti-indie strategy. the shear hypocrisy of the EU and the US in this matter is startling (Note that Barroso is in there somewhere) as both supported the fragmentation of Yugoslavia with the ensuing conflict and genocide. Crimea was handed to Ukrain in 1956 by Ukrainian born Khrushchev without consulting the local population. under corrupt and incompetent Ukrainian rule the province went into decline and there was open discrimination against Russians AND Tatars. Putin has returned Crimea to Russian rule. America/Nato does not approve so we must go to the brink of war. The US treats South and Central America as its play things. Let us hear the EU condemn that. Scotland in Nato? We would be certifiable.
2014-03-22 10:12

It’s a known psychological no-no to speak ill of a body to an enquirer and worse, it takes on a whole load of ultra-meaning when you take such ‘information’ to another, without it being asked for no matter the way it is delivered.

In this very obvious case of virtual defamation you can be sure the stock of UK plc has gone right through the floor.

Pernicious numpties from top to bottom.

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