British Embassy caught asking Spanish press to undermine Scottish independence


  By a Newsnet reporter
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is facing claims it is trying to urge foreign newspapers to publish anti-independence articles after correspondence from the British embassy in Madrid, urging newspapers to publish criticisms of Scottish independence, was revealed by a newspaper.
According to the Sunday Herald a letter from Simon Montague, director of communications at the embassy, was published in its entirety this month in the English language newspaper, the Tenerife News.  The letter asked the publication to print a Home Office press release citing the “challenges” that will accompany Scotland leaving the Union.

It read: “Dear Editor, Given the likely interest among your British resident audiences – whether Scottish or otherwise – I am forwarding you a press release issued by the Home Office today.

“The paper … explores the challenges which an independent Scottish (sic) could face in assuming control of its borders and considers the difficult choices that the people in Scotland would have to face on issues such as citizenship and nationality.

“It will be a choice between the continuity and security of being part of the UK or the uncertainty and risk of leaving it.”

The SNP has slammed the letter and accused the FCO of using its influence in order to try to stir up hostility towards independence overseas.

SNP MP Angus Robertson said: “Our embassies should be promoting our interests abroad but instead, under instruction from the UK Government, they are actively seeking to undermine Scotland.

“This is exactly the kind of behaviour that demonstrates why Scotland must be able to represent our own interests as an independent nation on the world stage.

“That the UK Government is going to these lengths to scaremonger on independence is another indication of how desperate and worried the No campaign has become.”

Westminster have waved away the accusations as “nonsense” stating that the FCO frequently assists Scottish ministers with foreign visits in which they promote independence.

A UK Government spokesman said: “The letter in question simply points out the UK Government has published an analysis paper, nothing more.  It is information for people living abroad.

“The UK’s embassies work hard for our country’s interests, including promoting Scottish trade and protecting Scottish citizens.

“The FCO frequently facilitates overseas visits by Scottish Government ministers where they can promote their policy of independence should they choose.”

It emerged last month that the FCO Devolution Unit, set up in 2012, while set up to promote the Scottish government’s interests, was now also being used to handle feedback from other nations on the prospect of a Yes vote, assisting Westminster to source allies who can ask questions about Scotland’s membership of international bodies such as the EU or NATO in the event of a Yes vote.