Leaked Nicola Sturgeon memo was written in Scotland Office

Civil service memo on Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon's private conversation with French Ambassador originated in Scotland Office, it emerges, as Cabinet Office-led leak inquiry gets underway


A confidential memo claiming that Nicola Sturgeon would prefer David Cameron to stay on as prime minister was written in the UK government’s Scotland Office, a Cabinet minister has confirmed.

According to the civil service memo, leaked to the Telegraph at the weekend, the Scottish first minister described Ed Miliband as “not Prime Minister material” in a conversation with a French ambassador. Sturgeon has described the account of the conversation as "100% false", while cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood has launched a leak inquiry.

Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael last night told Channel 4 News that the document originated in the Scotland Office.

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"I understand that the memo in question did actually come from the Scotland Office, but these things circulate within government," he said.

Carmichael also said he was aware of the identity of the civil servant at the centre of the Cabinet Office's inquiry, but defended that person's right not to be named while the inquiry continues.

"This is not somebody in public life, it’s a civil servant – so he’s entitled to the inquiry being done properly," he said.

A transcript of the memo was published by the Telegraph on Saturday, setting out the details of a private meeting between Sturgeon and French ambassador Sylvie Bermann.

The summary of the conversation included a line saying that the Scottish first minister would "rather see David Cameron remain as PM (and didn't see Ed Miliband as PM material)”.

The Cabinet Office-led inquiry into the leak was launched by Heywood on Saturday, at the instigation of the Scottish first minister. The Civil Service code, which sets out the standards of behaviour expected from officials, says civil servants must not “disclose official information without authority”. 

In a statement, Cabinet secretary Heywood said: "I can confirm that earlier today I instigated a Cabinet Office-led leak inquiry to establish how extracts from this document may have got into the public domain. Until that inquiry is complete I will not be making any further comment either on the document or the inquiry."

The row between the SNP and the UK government over the memo is the latest to involve the civil service. Sturgeon last month launched an attack on Whitehall’s impartiality, accusing it of acting in a "transparently party political” manner.

That claim followed the publication of Treasury analysis of her party’s plans to increase departmental spending in the next parliament, while she also took issue with David Cameron's decision - conveyed in a private letter from Heywood - not to allow the SNP pre-election contact with the civil service.

Sturgeon has argued that the latest leak shows "a Whitehall system out of control", and accused the UK government of using the civil service as "a place where political dirty tricks are manufactured and leaked".



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