Crackdown on SNP ministers using meetings with foreign governments to promote independence

The Foreign Secretary is to order a crackdown on SNP ministers exceeding their powers by using meetings with overseas governments to promote Scottish independence and attack Brexit.

The Telegraph understands that James Cleverly is to write to Britain’s embassies to remind them that a UK diplomat should be present during meetings between SNP ministers and foreign governments.

Whitehall insiders highlighted concerns that the Scottish Government is using Foreign and Commonwealth Office resources and relationships to set up the meetings, only to use them to talk down Britain.

They said Scottish ministers had been using the talks in particular to promote independence and criticise Brexit, despite foreign relations being a policy issue reserved to Westminster.

Although UK diplomats should already be present during meetings abroad involving Scottish ministers, it is hoped Mr Cleverly’s intervention will remind both parties that the talks should stick to matters that are devolved to Edinburgh.

Breached the law

His intervention came after the Foreign Secretary held talks on Monday with Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, who demanded action to rein in the SNP.

Lord Offord of Garvel, a Scotland Office Minister, told peers that Nicola Sturgeon’s government had breached the law in its foreign activities by discussing independence.

He told the Lords that the UK Government was “aware” that they had recently been “encroaching” on reserved matters in its foreign engagement on issues such as “separatism and the constitution”.

Warning this was a breach of the Scotland Act 1998, which created devolution, Lord Offord said the situation would be “very closely monitored” by UK ministers going forward.

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