More confusion from the SNP this morning, as Constitution Secretary and SNP president Michael Russell has contradicted Nicola Sturgeon over the party’s position on holding a referendum to rejoin the EU after declaring independence. Asked if an independent Scotland would hold a second vote on Europe, Russell said:
“I think that that would depend on the circumstances of the time and what the requirements of the time are. […]There are circumstances in which you could say it would be desirable to have a re-endorsement of it.”
Yet just two weeks ago at the SNP’s manifesto launch, Nicola Sturgeon made it clear that a second EU vote “was not [her] policy”, and that a vote for independence signalled support to re-join the EU immediately. This is the second time in the last week that an SNP MSP has contradicted the party leader on their signature policy…
The Government has published a surprisingly frank letter from Michael Gove to SNP External Affairs minister Michael Russell, in which he explicitly states the “political level contacts that the Scottish Government, including the First Minister, have had” with EU negotiators have “negatively affected the negotiating dynamic”. Sturgeon’s Government has repeatedly sidestepped UK channels to talk to the EU directly.
In the letter, Gove writes that:
“I should record that we have been disappointed by the political level contacts that the Scottish Government, including the First Minister, have had during the period of the negotiations with the EU’s UK Task Force and specifically the EU’s Chief Negotiator. In the view of our officials, this kind of contact, and specifically the discussion of sensitive issues under negotiation is, and has been, detrimental to the overall UK position and has negatively affected the negotiating dynamic.
In particular, the EU appears to have concluded from these contacts that EU offensive asks (for example on fisheries access and the permanent maintenance of the status quo on unfair Common Fisheries Policy quotas) are outcomes the Scottish Government, and perhaps even more damagingly, Scottish stakeholders, support. This is highly regrettable and damaging to UK interests including in Scotland.”
While Sturgeon’s flirtations with Barnier have long been discussed, this is a significant intervention with the Government officially acknowledging the damage they have done. The meetings have been extraordinarily brazen given the Scottish Government has no legal competency over foreign affairs. Read the letter in full below…