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Diplomatic privileges revoked from SNP in independence crackdown

3 min read

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Taxpayer-funded jollies abroad by SNP Scottish Government ministers face a major roadblock after Foreign Secretary James Cleverly announced new rules to prevent the party from pushing its agenda with foreign diplomats. From now on, Foreign governments will have to go through Mr Cleverly’s department in Whitehall if they want to meet with SNP ministers. 

The move comes after the Scottish Government set aside £35million pounds in its budget this year for “international and European relations”, despite the Scottish devolution settlement granting no formal foreign policy powers to Holyrood. 

In a letter to UK diplomats, seen by the Mail, James Cleverly said the UK must take a “strengthened approach” by telling other countries not to arrange meetings with SNP ministers without the involvement of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). 

Overseas “heads of missions” have also been given marching orders to gather information about any potential SNP visits to their country and report back to Mr Cleverly’s departments, in an attempt to enforce new rules set out last March that UK diplomats must always accompany SNP ministers on overseas trips. 

Mr Cleverly wrote: “I recently met with the Secretary of State for Scotland and share his concerns at [Scottish Government] ministers continuing to use overseas visits to promote Scottish separatism and undermine [UK Government] policy positions.

“Since my meeting with Angus Robertson in November, such instances are still taking place. I would therefore like you to take a strengthened approach to SG ministerial visits to ensure devolution settlements are respected overseas.”

He added: “It is critical each of the governments of the UK adhere to devolution settlements.

“This means the devolved governments do not encroach on matters legally reserved to the UK Parliament and UKG when engaging with international interlocutors.”

Angus Robertson, the SNP Culture and External Affairs Secretary, is due in the US to celebrate Tartan Week this weekend. 

Mr Robertson – often dubbed “Air Miles Angus” – has a record of jetting abroad to criticise the UK government with foreign diplomats. 

In Slovenia last September, it is claimed he voiced concern about UK government policy on Northern Ireland, the Bill of Rights and SNP independence plans. 

In Paris last October, he reportedly criticised UK policy on EU law and student funding.

The same month he discussed independence with Iceland’s Prime Minister at talks in Reykjavik. 

Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “Air Miles Angus is forever gallivanting across the globe at the taxpayers’ expense talking up the SNP’s bid to break up the UK.

“This is a proportionate response from the Foreign Secretary. SNP ministers should be focused on the real priorities of the Scottish people, like the cost of living crisis and NHS waiting times.”

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Stephen Kerr MSP also added his support to the move, saying: “This couldn’t come soon enough. It’s a shame- and an embarrassment for Scotland- that this step is needed.”

Lord Frost congratulated James Cleverly for “this long overdue first step”, though warned: “We should soon go further though.”

According to an FOI release last year, the Scottish government spends over £9million on offices abroad, with 36 members of staff manning the operations. 

The largest of the offices in Brussels has 18 members of staff and costs £2,467,000 to run. 

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