False Memos and French Farce

By Mike Small

The British media is in dire need of some redemption this Easter, as print and broadcast outlets have ended up embarrassing themselves in their desperate urgency to smear Nicola Sturgeon and shape an election they see running out of their control.

At least one of these newspapers has quite a track-record in recent years. It’s ‘incredible’ how the Telegraph has been at the heart of political intrigue for years, leading on the expenses scandal and more recently with Peter Oborne’s resignation and description of the Telegraph’s economic coverage “a form of fraud on its readers”. The paper hit shocking depths that few others could compete with during the referendum and published a frankly shameful piece by Fraser Nelson yesterday celebrating food banks as a solution not a problem, and an expression of the (lesser heard of) Big Society in action (‘David Cameron should not be afraid to talk about food banks’).

Writer and journalist Ian Fraser, he of the excellent Shredded: Inside RBS, reminds us how the Telegraph’s Scottish editor, Alan Cochrane, viewed his role during the referendum. Cochrane’s diary of April 15 2014 reads, after Alistair Darling asked him to spike an unhelpful column: “Jenny said I should do what Darling asks. It’s not really very good journalism but what the hell does journalism matter. This is much more important.”

Whether the paper emerges as dupe or instigator of the Sturgeon smear remains to be seen. Certainly the papers Scottish Political Editor Simon Johnson seems to have gone awfy quiet. Does it matter who it was? Andrew Wilson writes in Scotland on Sunday: “The latest farcical Westminster village story on leaked French diplomatic statements, denied by all involved, won’t change a single vote.” Well, it might actually. If the Lib Dems are caught red-handed their demise as a political force in Scotland will be nearing completion. Political cludeo is well under way.

But Michael Marten brings up a deeper point, writing: “It seems the “leak” comes from Scottish Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael’s Scotland Office (you know, the one that “…ensure[s] the smooth working of the devolution settlement in Scotland… represent[ing] Scottish interests within the UK government and… represent[ing] the UK government in Scotland”)”. Both the media and the civil service are rocked by this, though it has, admittedly seen the better elements of journalism jolted into action. Over at the Sunday Herald, Paul Hutcheon seems to be closest to nailing it down, writing:

“Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Herald at the French Consulate, Coffinier said he told an official at the Scotland Office about the meeting. He ruled out Scotland Office director Francesca Osowska, but said: “It was one of her colleagues. I’m not wanting to disclose [who] because it’s not in the Press.” Told other parts of the UK Government were blaming the Scotland Office, he said: “I’m not going to help them to get one of my friends, because these people are my friends, to help pin it down on him – or her.” Asked how the memo came into the public domain, he said: “That you have to ask the Scotland Office.”

CBxyT9SWEAAHyHtWell whoever it is a Panelbase in today’s Sunday Times puts the SNP up four and Labour down two (SNP 45% LAB 29% CON 14%) – which would re-establish Scotland as a Tory MP-free zone, a potentially useful strategic and symbolic coup. It’s in this context that we can expect more of the same from the establishment and their media allies.

The visceral responses we’re witnessing comes as response to an unconventional threat, led by an articulate and popular woman at the head of a movement that’s out of control in a country they can’t dominate. As Kevin McKenna notes “The difficulties begin when you are dealing with something you don’t understand. Something adjacent to fear materialises and this leads to hostility.”

Reflecting on the fact that the movement and surge doesn’t reflect the orthodoxy of self-interest and growth but a potential sea-change in values and priorities he goes on: “What if, alive to the pitfalls and uncertainties that lie ahead, they are happy to sustain a measure of deficit in their own finances for several years to come, trusting that, in return, an investment is made in the economic future of the country by delivering policies that will lift their neighbours out of poverty? If this were so, then we are indeed living through a revolution.

That is indeed a crisis for our political elites. It would mean not just that their attempts to smear and distort will be exposed in an era of media openness, but it would present them with a deeper crisis of legitimacy. If the scare stories about economic uncertainty don’t work any more because we are already experiencing economic uncertainty and are beginning to reject the models and values put to us, then this Easter will be remembered long after this smear fades in the wake of the coming change.

Comments (70)

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  1. alistairliv says:

    Last July I speculated on what might happen if there was a narrow(ish) No vote.This was my conclusion:

    If the referendum campaign has revitalised and politicised civil society in Scotland, the conflict between popular and parliamentary sovereignties will not go away. At the same time, unless there is an economic miracle, the social tensions created by perpetual austerity measures will increase. It is likely that the Labour party in Scotland’s support for the No campaign will weaken it. This will be especially so if, following a win for No, promises of further devolution are not delivered. A new Left party in Scotland could then start to win Westminster elections. This in turn would create a demand for UK Labour to move to the left or open up a space for the Green party or a new English and Welsh Left party.

    Such prospects may seem impossible now, but then so did the possibility of a Scottish independence referendum a few years ago. Which ever way the vote goes on 18 September, the dam which has held back revolutionary constitutional change in the UK since Edmund Burke’s time now has a crack in it. Right now, the dangerous idea that the people are sovereign has only a trickle of support. But if the crack widens, the trickle will become a flood.


    What I did not anticipate was the surge in SNP support after the No vote. However it does now look as if, as I speculated, a No vote would start opening up cracks in the constitutional structure of the UK. The last time Scotland had such an influence on British politics was when Charles I was king…

    1. Connor Mcewen says:

      Seen a blog on postal voting from DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST FEDERATION.Long winded but interesting on levels of interference in postal votes in Referendum in Argyle and Bute.

      1. Catherine says:

        Do you have a link?

    2. Wee Jonny says:

      Liking the dam analogy.

  2. MBC says:

    Is this crude attempt to smear Nicola Sturgeon by somebody who doesn’t understand the current mood of Scotland having any traction at all in Orkney in Shetland? Does anybody know?

    If so, we have our likely culprit – Alistair Carmichael.

    Not only did this leak happen under his watch but he and the Scottish Office have not commented on this saga.

    1. Connor Mcewen says:

      Who is this Danus Skene SNP manny? ? is he running against Cheechmichael.?

      1. Spongification says:

        Danus Skene is the SNP Candidate running against Carmichael in Orkney and Shetland. There has been a ‘Northern Isles Alliance’ formed on Facebook between individuals and groups to support Danus in his bid, including the Greens.

        Danus is on Twitter and Facebook and there is now Crowdfunding if you want to help us out!

        Spread the word and hopefully after decades of Lib Dem domination and political stagnation, we can make a difference!

  3. steelewires says:

    This morning the Telegraph article concerning the “leak” (There was no leak, it was a complete fabrication) contains this statement, “.. when challenged, refused to say that she thought Mr Miliband was ‘Prime Ministerial’.” What a dirty continuation of the smear! The Telegraph really ought to be sued.

  4. Frank Casey says:

    The Daily Mail and the so called Zinoviev letter in 1931 sprung to mind. On that occasion the smear was launched at the optimum time to maximise damage to the Labour party’s electoral hopes. On this occasion the yellow press have totaly miss-managed it.

    1. preacherman says:

      But the Zinoviev letter didn’t actually damage Labour, In fact they gained 1 million extra votes in that election! what it done was damage the liberals who had been supporting labour previously and made sure the tory vote was holding strong resulting in a landslide for them!

      I think there may be more going on behind the scenes than a simple let’s smear nicola campaign!

  5. John Mooney says:

    Perfidious Albion at its hopeless lack of insight, helped by the “Useful idiots” normally called the Lib/Dems.All the unionist parties have done is to shoot themselves in the foot as the latest polls show,this cartel of clowns could not organise the proverbial piss up in a brewery,the whole fiasco appears to have the pathetic Carmichael,s ineptitude all over the affair.Sic a parcel of rogues in a Nation!

  6. Jake Gittes says:

    Nicola questions the central tenet of trickle down economics. Enrich the one percent through tax cuts, QE / asset price inflation and low interest rates and they will make the rest of us rich. The entire thesis of Thatcherism and it’s illegitimate child, New Labour, which have held sway as a political orthodoxy for 30 years is crumbling.

    Trickle down has instead delivered, inequality, poverty, debt and corruption. Suddenly the British people are hearing that there might be an alternative. No wonder she must be silenced or at the very least discredited. The Black Flag operation on Saturday needs to be seen in that context.

    1. Voline says:

      False Flag, you mean? A Black Flag operation would be one by anarchists. I doubt either MI5 or the Liberal Democrats contain many of them.

  7. IAB says:

    I actually think this will strengthen support for the SNP

    1. JBS says:

      I agree. Firm up present support and add to it.

  8. Jim Bennett says:

    Excellent article as usual.

    It’s useful to speculate that this is UK Government direct interference but it’s probably more mundane than that. The civil servant author cast doubt on the “Nicola supports Cameron” claim in the memo. However, she reported the conversation to her political masters. Said political masters save the memo up for use in the election campaign, then they leak it. To be honest, if the situation was reversed, I’d do the same thing.

    The leak will never be traced but is likely to come from one of Carmichael’s special advisors. For what it matters, my thoughts are this is political pot stirring rather than an state intelligence inspired piece of jiggery pokery. Mind you, I wouldn’t put it past them!

    Zinoviev letter anyone? http://www.theguardian.com/politics/1999/feb/04/uk.politicalnews6

    1. Dean Richardson says:

      ‘State intelligence’. An oxymoron, if ever there were one.

  9. Not affect any votes? Oh yes it has, hundreds more joining the SNP, and loads of people donating to fighting funds to unseat anyone not SNP, with particular emphasis on Mr Carmichaels seat. That crowd funder was languishing a bit, it is now fulfilled.

    What I like about these responses, is it chimes with my own personal outlook on this, don’t get mad, get even. Get out there and make sure we do everything we can to halt this almighty piss take, by elected politicians who should treat the position as a privilege, not as some personal plaything, slush fund, or game to be played.

  10. jacquescoleman says:

    Excellent article Mike. Particularly apt is the sentence:

    “The British media is in dire need of some redemption this Easter, as print and broadcast outlets have ended up embarrassing themselves in their desperate urgency to smear Nicola Sturgeon and shape an election they see running out of their control.”

    Your piece has just reminded me that the Telegraph apparently only phoned Willie Rennie the leader of the LibDems in Scotland before publishing. And as Alistair Carmichael is the LibDem Scottish Secretery, and the French Consul spoke to a person at the Scottish Office, it is not difficult to make a case that the leak was from there, and, in my view, from a VERY senior person there. The only remaining question is…was the last para of the leaked document added to the ‘note’ just prior to the leak, as it doesn’t seem to fit in with the earlier paras shown in the Telegraph?

    1. MBC says:

      If my theory is correct – that someone falsely added a paragraph to the end of a genuine and innocuous memo – it will allow them to deny that any such note (as was published in the Telegraph) exists.

      A white lie, but technically that would be a true statement.

      Our thrust must therefore be to demand to see the note which the official produced whom Mon. Coffinier states he spoke to at the Scotland Office, as was reported in the Sunday Herald today.

  11. Alastair says:

    Government Health Warning.

    Lets look at lessons from history. For history reflects human nature and traits. And history put into a personal scale – my history, my father’s history, my father’s father’s history, my father’s father’s father’s history. This gives history a tangible scale that the individual can touch.

    We rightly praised ourselves during the Scottish Referendum that the campaign was model. No violence, civic unrest, subversion,with discussion, argument, voice, rational and inclusiveness – Scotland at its best.
    The result was No but the movement grows exponentially in momentum, membership and expectations.

    I fear that we could be pushed into a rerun the Irish experience.

    We are trying to exit the UK in a democratic way by relying on UK democracy and the Establishment’s willingness to accept the will of the Scottish people. Play fair and allow when the rollercoaster now running comes back into the station with a clear will of the Scottish people – to determine our own destiny.

    Ireland – history of my father’s father. Rebellion, bloodshed, murder, subversion, generations of terrorism and the worst form both sides.

    India, America – history of my father’s father’s father. Rebellion, bloodshed but with inevitable results. The most heinous periods in the demise of the Empire.

    Australia, New Zealand – history of my fathers father were both were mature enough in culture, economy for a smooth transition.

    So UK establishment. Look at your history. What is it to be?

    Ask your father or if you are lucky your fathers’ father what’s inevitable.

  12. Jjohn Mason says:

    Time for a statement directly from Carmichael, both in a personal capacity, and as the seeming “boss”of the alleged offending official.
    We simply don’t need Westminster dirty tricks in our new, still-coming, free and Independent nation….responsible to the Scottish people, and not a newspaper or any corporations.

  13. Frederick Robinson says:

    The mountain that’s being made out of this molehill makes me wonder whether it’s not the opposite of what it appears, i.e. a campaign to (a) keep Nicola Sturgeon in the headlines, (b) ensure she emerges from this non-event innocent as the driven snow. It’s as valid a conspiracy theory as the idea that a casual comment that may or may not have been said in the terms attributed is politically of deep significance. The sundry motives attributed to the politically quite logical eventual intervention of the UK (Coalition and Labour) leaders in the Referendum campaign (was the rest of the UK to simply stand by while Scotland unilaterally broke it up? A majority eventually thought ‘No’) could potentially have been considered equally, if not more, significant, and poisonous. It didn’t (and doesn’t) stop such conjecture.

    1. jacquescoleman says:

      “The mountain that’s being made out of this molehill”

      Are you politically naive? Of course Yessers are pumping this up for your reasons a) and b). And also because revenge is sweet, and it’s all the sweeter because it’s the London Media’s, the Establishment’s and Scottish Labour’s asses that are being being kicked. So off with your nonsense and leave us to have fun.

  14. oldbattle says:


    Dust has in pollutants made from the detritus of debris, waste matter, discarded matter, refuse, rubbish, litter scarps, flotsam and jetsam, rubble and the wreckage of times past. Taken up in handfuls, dust can become a weapon of distraction. ‘Dust in the eyes’ leads to blindness or restricted vision when one is unable to see the enemy clearly in order to fight back with vigour. Dust is made up of dead, discarded matter blown from the past.
    So now I begin to understand more than dust. I now begin to comprehend the meaning after 40 years of knowing the words of TS Eliot’s line: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
    For Eliot is indicating the source and basis of fear in this dead discarded debris of history: a detritus of yesterday’s ideas, political solutions and refuse!

    The stoor of history is being thrown in our eyes. Establishment stoor of lies thrown in our eyes to blind us. But there is more.

    The dust of failed foreign policy: the stoor of old cold-war defence strategies not fit for purpose in the 21st century; handfuls of neo-liberal market economics built from Hayek and cheap Gulf Oil. All these dusty old shibboleths are being thrown at us in handfuls from across the spectrum of the UK election campaign.
    I can understand the right of centre filling their briefing sheets with this wreckage of the past but when Labour offer us the dust mites of some rebranded , repackaged tawdry discourse of failed Brown/Darling marketism we know that it is time to sweep out this polluting past.

    In the struggle for sovereignty we must begin with sovereignty of the mind and then of the imagination. This is what Nicola Sturgeon is offering with impressive clarity and audacity.

    From this position of personal strength we may create the necessary community of consciousness from which we can win power in May. But first we must understand Eliot ‘ I will show you fear in a handful of dust”.

    1. douglas clark says:


      That was very deep.

      Seriously fascinating comment.

    2. Alastair McIntosh says:

      T.S. Eliot. Sovereignty of the imagination. Community of consciousness……

      Thank you, I’m loving this depth of exploration in which “we shall not cease….”

      “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” (T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets)

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        New masthead quote …

        1. oldbattle says:

          T.S. Eliot. Sovereignty of the imagination. Community of consciousness…… Sorry but the lines don’t come from TS Eliot but from my very close friend indeed relative, TM Cross

  15. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    The unionist parties and their media apologists behave as if social media doesn’t exist.

    I’m convinced that this latest smear will increase the SNP vote. They didn’t attack Salmond but Sturgeon. A politician who is now a rare bread. Someone who is trusted.

  16. Iain More says:

    I don’t buy any Brit Nat papers and haven’t done so for years. A plague on all their houses. I did buy todays Sunday Herald and quite frankly I thought their Editorial tame. For me they missed the point because if they had seen the post GE Debate QT then they would have heard Gove say that he would prefer Millibland to have a majority than to let SNP have any say in Brit Govt policy.

    Why would he say such a thing, well I guess that is Toryspeak for we have Millibland and Labour in our Corporate Fascist pockets.

  17. emilytom67 says:

    That is what they fear most honesty/openness/integrity,they are so steeped in the black arts/deception/perversion they have no spirit no soul and they do not even recognise these,they are sociopaths to a man/woman.When the miners entered into a battle with the same establishment they faced the same enemy as we do both labour/tory,whether you agreed with Scargill or not they employed the offices ofMIi5/6 and the CIA to paint him as the devil incarnate,it was all lies? but they split the workers then destroyed them,they had their “patsy” in Roy something or another from Nottinghamshire who was lauded and praised by Thatcher and the establishment only to be shafted after the deed was done,nothing new there then.The thing was that Scargill was secretly admired by them because he couldn,t be bought.Scotland through the ages has had it,s fair share of”Kings Shilling” men and there are plenty of them about,plenty who will stoop to the lowest,beware my friends we have a “lang Scots mile” to walk.

  18. Darien says:

    Alistair’s contrived ‘revenge’ for his embarrassing “help me Rona” episode backfires….badly.

  19. douglas clark says:


    Whether the paper emerges as dupe or instigator of the Sturgeon smear remains to be seen.

    Willing dupe?

    Given your quote about the lovely Mr Cochrane?

    Running, without verification, a piece without at least attempting to get a reply is duplicitous. I am never very happy with journalists saying “We attempted to contact the person we have just scandaled, liabled, every book in the Bible, however we got no reponse”.

    Whilst that is open to misuse, not even attempting to do so, puts them completely in the seventh circle of journalistic hell.

    In war the first casualty is truth. We need to recognise that it is a war they have embarked on.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Yeah, I don’t doubt it, but I think they may be the monkey, not the organ grinder

      1. douglas clark says:

        Could be. Interesting,

        I accept you might be right with:

        but I think they may be the monkey, not the organ grinder.

        So who is organ grinding?

        Our leader from the Northern Isles looks a tad too smug, but that is just me. It is completely obvious that Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael knows nothing and will continue to know nothing until the sheep come home over the braes of the Orkney and Shetland electorate in a month or so’s time.

    2. Drew Campbell says:

      I agree. While the spooks’ fingerprints are all over this, the Telegraph’s failure to to approach the FM, the French Ambassador or the French Consul for a response before publishing is not just very poor and irresponsible journalism but is clear complicity in a fabrication. Add to that their undue haste in going to print less than 24 hours after Nicola Sturgeon’s undoubted triumph in the debate and subsequent warmth of response from ordinary voters in England then it became clear that from their point of view a nuclear option was required and quick.

      The real fallout will be measured over the next week or so: which way will the wind blow?

      1. oldbattle says:

        There is a character portrait of the UK state’s gross paranoia when faced with was is deemed ‘dangers to the state’ in FRANCES STONOR SAUNDERS
        The Hobsbawm File, available on-line from LONDON Review of BOOKS.

        Grab it quick before the next edition. It contains a detailed description of the level of UK spook interference in the life of one quiet (radical) academic man who from 1935- 95 was red-listed while thousands of minute bits of his life were stolen, examined and stored and used to hurt him all his long life.

  20. macart763 says:

    An inquiry….hmmm.

    According to Mr Carmichael ‘these things happen’. No biggie this whole Civil Service breaking their remit (again), catastrophic journalistic failure and compromise. Its all filed under ‘just politics’, ‘all in the game’. Ministerial collusion, smear, falsehood, bit of a lark really.

    No, I don’t think so either.

    This is Westminster politics in all its glory. So yeah, they’re going to have an inquiry which at worst will result in some fifth rate suit falling on his sword and at best may see someone have some really harsh language fired off in their direction. The instigators of the smear won’t even break a sweat. They’re investigating themselves FFS.

    They will be held to account and punished however. The electorate will hold them to account on May 7th and pass judgement on those who ‘play games’ with their perceptions, their lives and their futures. The punishment should fit the crime, so let’s take a few livelihoods as recompense for all the ordure they make us swim through. Anywhere between thirty and fifty should make the point. It depends on how forgiving the judges are when they get up out of bed that day.

    1. Clootie says:

      “The intent of enquiries is that they spend years taking minutes” 🙁

      1. macart763 says:

        Best observation of the whole weekend Clootie and that’s exactly what will happen.

  21. We’re meant to trust them with our country, yet they can’t organise a smear… Carmichael must resign. “These things happen” is not a valid excuse.

  22. ayetalks says:

    I think I have a good explanation for the elements of this ‘memo’ that are conspicuously not Sturgeon – the ‘Alex Salmond’ mischief stuff and the Miliband isn’t PM material stuff.
    They sound very much like questions and conversational items that might have been put to the French CG, rather than things he has reported.

    He has admitted the person at the Scotland office is a friend of his. When asked about this, there was a notable difference in his demeanour. When asked about whether Sturgeon said these things – his face was serious and he was quite straightforward in his comments. However, when asked about how he thought these comments might have ended up in the account, he was slower to respond and had a noticeable smile on his face and he was very much more careful with his words.

    I think this conversation has been a chatty and quite informal one and I think these comments are not things Sturgeon has been said to say. Rather I think they are questions that were asked of the CG by the civil servant.
    Imagine –
    SO CS “So did Ms Sturgeon give any indication of what mischief Mr Salmond was planning to get up to in London?”
    French CG “No”:

    So the answer to a question from the conversation between the two of them, becomes an entry into the notes. If the memo is then compiled by somebody else, this then becomes material which the memo writer finds unlikely to have come from Ms Sturgeon.

    Just a thought….

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      I trust that the French CG will be recalled to Paris for such undiplomatic behaviour, confounding a general election in his host nation.

      Did anybody notice how sheepish he looked? There was a blase, aloof intellectual air to him, almost a sense of bemusement, like one of those postmodernists for whom reality, including that of nature, is nothing more than a social construction that can be deconstructed and reconstructed at will.

      Put them out in a rowing boat in the middle of a Hebridean storm, I say: then we’ll test the resilience of their social constructions of reality.

      1. MBC says:

        He did look bemused. But he also agreed to answer questions by a Sky reporter (James Matthews) who interviewed him on his doorstep at 9am on the the Saturday morning of the Easter weekend. And despite this determined interrogation by Matthews, he stuck to his guns that Ms Sturgeon said nothing of the kind. He was most clear about this in his rebuttal. Many others would simply have declined to comment, hid behind diplomatic immunity or some such. So I take my hat off to Mon. Coffinier. The Scottish Office has however stated that it doesn’t comment on leaks. I know who I think is acting with the greater integrity and transparency. Mon. Coffinier’s government probably does not support the SNP’s independence agenda given the fear that other submerged nations across Europe might seek the same, including in France, so this makes it doubly honourable that he was prepared to speak up for the truth.

        1. Alastair McIntosh says:

          Thanks for pointing that out, MBC. Wouldn’t want to do him down unfairly – Hebridean storm or otherwise!

  23. George Gunn says:

    The BBC are still referring to it as a “leak” when in fact it was a fabrication. Is that just another “one of these things”?

    1. douglas clark says:

      Have we, suddenly, been allowed to comment on the BBC’s shit?


      The concept of them and us, the right to reply has been comprehensively destroyed by a complete failure to allow it?

      That is what damns the BBC. Not that they tell their own stories, that is bad enough, but they silence any opposition on their own web opinions?

      That damns them as a fair forum. There are others that fail that sort of criteria, but they largely limp along.

      You cannot comment on a BBC Scotland political piece. It is as ridiculousa piece of censorship, akin to getting voice overs of what Gerry Adams may, or may not have said.

      Does anyone recognise how restricted we have become?

      I ask, and I despair.

    2. Alastair McIntosh says:

      Yes, discourse analysis of the MSM on this is fascinating. The emphasis over the w/end was all on “Sturgeon denies….” – thereby placing her on the back foot and creating a sense of “no smoke without fire.”

      I remember in the early 1990s the Scottish Nationalist writer and professor of energy policy at Strathclyde, by this time a fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology, Malcolm Slesser, took me to a meeting in the Scottish Office to discuss with officials his proposal for replacing income tax with energy tax. As we went in the Scottish Office doors he turned to me and said, “Welcome to the Colonial Office, Alastair.”

      At the time I was a bit puzzled, even slightly shocked. Now I can think of the Scotland Office by no other name.

      1. MBC says:

        Before devolution, the Scotland Office and Secretary of State for Scotland occupied a peculiar double position of being Scotland’s voice in the Cabinet and Scotland’s department at Whitehall, as well as being Westminster’s voice in Scotland. Some particularly strong and assertive Scottish Secretary of States like Tom Johnstone, who occupied the position during the war years, were able to use this insider double agent status to win powerful concessions for Scotland from Whitehall. Johnstone was able to get Churchill to back hydro-electric schemes in the Highlands for instance.

        Even Tory Secretary of States tried to get concessions for Scotland, in the main, in order to boost their electoral chances in their constituencies in Scotland. But that was back in the days when they had them. No doubt Carmichael will have bern using this influence to win concessions for Orkney and Shetlands. His record in doing so must therefore be balanced against the influence his post holds.

        But since devolution, and the elimination of the Tories, and now, of Labour and Lib Dems (probably) the rationale for the Scotland Office being Scotland’s voice at Whitehall seems superfluous, and increasingly it is acting exactly as Slessor viewed it, as colonial control over Scotland.

        It should now be abolished.

  24. Douglas Robertson says:

    This piece by Zoe Williams in the Gaurdian adds a bit more as is is both thoughtful and sharp by taking you through the thinking that makes an obvious lie become acceptable in our very peculiar, narrow and nastypolitical world. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/05/sturgeon-memo-westminster-nasty-machinations

  25. macart763 says:

    Well I was almost right. It appears a fifth rate suit has been ‘fingered’. Better than harsh language I suppose.


    Who knew?

  26. Ewan McColl says:

    What is to prevent the telegraph grassing on the liberals or civil servant?

    A demand of the SNP if all goes well in May, should be immediate closure of the Scotland office and end to the Scottish secretary’s role, what purpose do they serve, more importantly, whom do they serve, certainly not the Scottish people.

    How does carmichael expect the Scottish Goverment and ministers to work with him if he behaves like a two faced cowardly lying shite without morals. Bet his wife and kids are really proud of him.

    Ewan McColl

  27. douglas clark says:

    Interesting development:

    PA/Getty Alistair Carmichael says a Scotland Office civil servant is responsible for leaking the memo
    Alistair Carmichael says a Scotland Office civil servant
    A SCOTLAND Office civil servant was behind the leaked memo that claimed Nicola Sturgeon wants David Cameron to remain as Prime Minister.
    Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has fingered an official in his own department for releasing the note.
    But the Lib Dem refused to name the individual now at the centre of a Whitehall inquiry and a furious political row.
    Carmichael, who remains in charge of the Scotland Office during the general election campaign, said yesterday: “I know the person involved but I’m not going to go beyond that.
    “This is not somebody in public life, it’s a civil servant – so he’s entitled to the inquiry being done properly.”
    The leaked memo claimed that First Minister Sturgeon privately told French ambassador Sylvie Bermann the SNP would rather see a Tory government – and that she didn’t see Labour leader Ed Miliband as “prime minister material”.
    Sturgeon immediately dismissed the report as “100 per cent untrue” and called for a high-level probe into the leak.
    The UK’s top civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, has since launched an inquiry.
    Sturgeon has accused Whitehall of “dirty tricks” over the leaked memo.

    Alistair Carmichael has not ‘fingered’ an official? I say this toungue in cheek. He has fingered himself..

    For I doubt that this is now released as anything other than a specifically timed smear. This has Alistair Carmichael’s mitts all over it. It is, possibly his idea of revenge for Ms Sturgeon making a fool of him on broadcast TV.

    Well, that is unravelling at the speed of light.

    Are Orkney and Shetland safe anymore?

  28. douglas clark says:

    Incidentally, I think the civil servant is coming in for more opprobrium than he or she deserves,. The aforesaid civil servant said they doubted the story.

    It is not the civil servant that should be the target here, it should be whomsoever released it to the Telegraph. I doubt the aforesaid civil servant would have done that, especially with the caveats at the end of their memo. Indeed, had I written that memo, I would be disgusted at the way it has been twisted for policical purposes.

    Frankly the civil servant appears to have found the whole story as unbelieavable as I do..

    Could we concentrate on the more likely sources of this, which includes, but is not limited to SPAD’s, the Right Honourable Alasdair Charmichael, SPADs working for the aforesaid lovely man, the beloved Mr Cochrane and other peope who think democracy is just a joke? It is a wide field to investigate….. I even left out some very odd people in the Scottish Labour executive.

    My bad.

  29. Lawrence says:

    The anger felt by many at such an obvious smearing campaign is understandable but I feel is being misdirected solely towards the press. Mud slinging we should have expected from The Telegraphy and the like but for James Cook to be pleading “I`m just the messenger” when simply doing his job and fact checking would have saved him and the BBC all this grief.

    The point being missed is our society is built on trust, trust in our elected representatives to act on our behalf, the civil service to implement the wishes of our representatives, law agencies to enforce them and finally a free press to hold the others to account.

    Over the past few years the trust we have in our elected representative has been eroded by scandal after scandal, the press have proved themselves to be just as self-serving and with the final bastion the BBC in the past year revealing its true colours. The worst and the most worrying of all is the supposedly neutral civil service not once but twice in the past 8 months blatantly interfering in the democratic process and trying to subvert will of the people.

    If and it looks likely, a large number of SNP MPs are elected, how can they be expected to trust the Westminster civil service and how can we trust our representative to act on our behalf when we doubt very piece of advice given to them.

    The French Ambassador`s unusual step of publicly announcing that the report was untrue, is the only reason from the Westminster civil service to be taking action. They acted because of what this could and will do on an international scale, diplomatic business will become impossible if a visiting foreign dignitary can`t trust that their meeting with British officials won`t end up on tomorrows front page.

    The dangerous precedent set by Sir Jeremy Heywood means the only way to install any trust back in the civil service is for him to resign as soon as a new government is in place and for an independent public inquiry to be set up to look at the way the BBC`s news is edited.

  30. Douglas Robertson says:

    Francesca Osowska, the new head of the Scotland Office, who interestingly had served under Sturgeon when she ran the Commonwealth Games and before that Regeneration and Housing will know who did what. Press and others should ask her.

    Also during the referendum a delegation of Civil Servants from that Office came one Friday to Stirling University to state at a closed meeting of invited academics just how university research funding would be destroyed by independence. It did not seem odd to those attending event that this was not a politician saying this, but rather civil servants from Nick Clegg’s Office, and it was hosted by one Andrew Miller, of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Seems that the Scotland Office have a very politicised breed of civil servants.

  31. Barraload says:

    A wrong and stupid act by the Telegraph and all concerned.

    However I am not alone in thinking that this is the political calculation of the SNP and I’ve said so elsewhere in comments

    A Tory govt elected mainly in England, preferably supported by UKIP, adds fuel to the nationalist’s sense of grievance and increases pressure for another referendum or even UDI.

    However, meantime we get further cuts in public spending that hit the rest of the UK poor the hardest. This does not seem to concern the SNP as all that matters is the cause of independence

    SNP then tack towards the “red Tories”, the party they are intent on destroying in Scotland and say hey we’ll help you form a UK govt. I truly hope Labour say get lost and leave the SNP to decide how to vote as they see fit.

    Meanwhile will the Lib Dem vote collapse. Their MPs enjoy a large level of personal support and their on the ground operations are generally thought to be excellent.

    1. Douglas says:

      Okay, genius, if the SNP really want the Tories, why are they talking about reforming the House of Lords and offering an explicit pact to Ed? Why not just do nothing? No doubt, another cunning plan…

      Nobody in Scotland wants the Tories, some of us don’t want the Red Tories either…utter garbage you guys come out with….it’s not thinking you people do, it’s called rationalisation…

      1. Barraload says:

        So, I was just thinking, you don’t care who forms the next UK government?

        1. Clootie says:

          I don’t accept tht you were thinking.

        2. Douglas says:

          You don´t think, you type…

          1. Barraload says:

            It appears if you don’t buy into the group think on this site then you don’t think. This closed end narrative is characteristic of any sect.

            Surely no-one denies that if the SNP achieve their goal of obliterating Labour in Scotland then (1) we are more likely to get a Tory govt or a tory led coalition as a direct consequence (this is a matter of arithmetic and not ideology) and (2) Labour should not enter coalition with a party who so hates it.

            Any views?

    2. Jim Bennett says:

      Barraload, I don’t accept your assumption that more SNP seats mean a more likely Tory Government. Look at the latest Betfair odds based on 35+ SNP seats (an astonishing 1/4) – a minority Labour Government at 9/4 with the Tories at 3-1. Dated April 6th. Betfair’s (owned by a Tory) analysis is unequivocal that an Labour minority supported by the SNP is the likely outcome.

      It’s a matter of betting cash, not ideology. Talk’s cheap – it takes money to buy drink!

      As for your question about Labour having a coalition with a party that hates it. Two things:
      a) hasn’t stoopped the Tories who despise the LibDems
      b) No one, NO ONE, is talking about an SNP Labour coalition.

      1. Barraload says:

        I don’t understand betting but if we get a minority about government i hope it finds common cause without any support from nationalists whose sole purpose is to break up the UK

  32. Rory McNaughtan says:

    Politics is about consulting with like minded people, stating your agreed position and then engaging with people publically to unite round that vision with the objective of obtaining their vote. TRUSTt is core to the precess

    Seems that the liberals’ view of politics is not to have a position on anything (voting reform raison d’être is no more), wait for others to come up with ideas so you can criticise, smear, steal, adapt and use as your own, pay for local contractors to put up signs and deliver bogus surveys.

    The liberals find themselves in a desperate poison of their own making, i.e. political demise. This demise centres round TRUST, nobody TRUSTS them anymore – simple as. I find it reprehensible and despicable that a party without TRUST would seek to spread that MISTRUST unjustly to other parities and individuals to save liberal necks.

    The superiority the liberals put forward is particularly galling when you hear Pious the 1st, 2nd & 3rd (ashdown, campbell & steel) waxing lyrically how everyone else is tainted with westminster bar the liberals. The liberals are part of the westminster machine, junior partners.

    labour, tories, uk civil service and uk media are all part of the corrupt westminster system, the lesson learned but not taken onboard by Scots until September 2104 forwards is that Scots should not TRUST labour, tories, uk civil service and uk media.

    TRUST is key!

    Rory McNaughtan

  33. Lochside says:

    I gave up reading all the puerile comments on ‘Wings’ on this latest revelation about Carmichael’s admission. That is one reason I almost never comment or read that site anymore.

    The fact is that Carmichael’s statement nearly 48 hours after the concerted campaign of lies and innuendo against Sturgeon is unforgiveable in a ‘Democracy’. He sat on this information while she was put through the media mincer. He now tries to diminish this act of criminal behaviour by suggesting it ‘happens’.

    The problem is that with a media hell bent on stopping the SNP and the Independence movement at all costs, that there is no channel for public anger over this to force Carmichael to act sooner. The SG seem impotent. The French Government probably hopes it blows over. The British Government?….well as the hand in the glove manipulating such crude and dirty tactics..what would we expect?

    With the revelation that the head of the Civil Service, McPherson, saw it to be his duty to obstruct democracy, how can this latest dirty act be seen as anything but the latest in a line of attack from within the State’s own ‘impartial’ bureaucracy. Hitherto seen as an impossibility by many poor fools such as I.

    We were under sustained attack during the REF campaign. It never stopped. We must ensure as many SNP MPs at the G.E. as the only way to push the British State on to the ropes. O/T some people at Argyll and Bute SNP have done valuable digging on the postal ballot and their conclusions are mind-blowing! If only we could get the SG to request an enquiry into the postal ballot at the REF. For instance why did 4 constituencies report 96% plus returns?……a world record!..Yet the Electoral Commission felt this wasn’t worth commenting on.

  34. MBC says:

    Carmichael has refused to attend Holyrood committees to answer questions before the now. Shows what he thinks of Holyrood I think. As for the FM, I guess his view was, ‘let her stew’. But I also guess he never said anything because nobody asked him until the Sunday Herald did yesterday.

  35. Donnie McLetchie says:

    “Last week Dave Cohen wrote An English Labourman Speaks. He wants to continue the dialogue and here responds to the comments it provoked.”

    Perhaps Dave should reflect on milliband’s and murphy’s responses to smearing political opponents using civil servants, state broadcaster and tory press?

    Donnie McLetchie

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