An official inquiry will take place into the leaking of a memo which suggested SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to remain prime minister, the cabinet secretary has announced.
In a statement, Jeremy Heywood wrote: “You have asked me to investigate issues relating to the apparent leak of a Scotland Office memo that forms the basis of this morning’s Daily Telegraph story. 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 Daily Telegraph reported this morning that the SNP leader told the French ambassador to the UK that she did not see Ed Miliband as “prime minister material” and that “she’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM”. The quotes are said to come from an official memo prepared by a civil servant after speaking to France’s consul general in Edinburgh, Pierre-Alain Coffinier, who was present at the meeting.
Sturgeon has denied saying the words quoted in the memo, and that she wished to discover “how did it come to contain such an inaccuracy and how did it get into the hands of the Tory-supporting Daily Telegraph?”
Mr Coffinier has also denied that the ambassador and Sturgeon discussed who she wanted as prime minister. “At no stage did anyone comment on their preference regarding the elections,” he said earlier today.
Ed Miliband said: “I think these are damning revelations. What it shows is that while in public the SNP are saying they don’t want to see a Conservative government in private they’re actually saying they do want a Conservative government. It shows that the answer at this General Election is that if you want the Conservatives out the only answer is to vote Labour for a Labour government.”
My colleague Stephen Bush has more on the likely fallout here, as well as the suggestion that the leak may have come from the office of Scotland secretary Alistair Carmichael, with the aim of helping the Lib Dems hold on to their 11 Scottish seats. The BBC’s Scotland correspondent James Cook concurs that some of Sturgeon’s alleged comments are not as revelatory as they might first appear. “OF COURSE there are some SNP strategists – I know, I’ve spoken to them – who say in private a Tory victory would hasten independence,” he tweeted today.
Former Labour spinner Damian McBride gives his take on the news here, and asks the following pertinent question: “Are Sturgeon, the Ambassador and the Consul General disputing the entire version of the conversation reported in the Scottish Office memo, or just the line about the First Minister’s supposed preference for David Cameron as PM. Did she say, for example, that “she wouldn’t want a formal coalition with Labour”; that “the SNP would almost certainly have a large number of seats”; that “she had no idea ‘what kind of mischief’ Alex Salmond would get up to”; and that she “didn’t see Ed Miliband as PM material”. If those four points are accurate, then it makes it all the more remarkable that the fifth point (about the preference for Cameron) was not. If, on the other hand, all five points are disputed, then it raises even more serious questions about how this account of events found its way into the official FCO memo.”