Sebastian Payne

Alistair Carmichael responsible for Nicola Sturgeon leak

Alistair Carmichael responsible for Nicola Sturgeon leak
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During the election campaign the Telegraph reported that Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to remain Prime Minister, after a memo was leaked to them which included an account of a private conversation between Sturgeon and the French Ambassador.

Naturally, the SNP leader was furious and demanded an inquiry. The Cabinet Office has now finished their investigation and concluded that the former Scotland Secretary Alistair Carmichael and his spad Euan Roddin were responsible for the leak. When asked about the leak at the time, Carmichael said that 'The first I heard of this was when I received a phone call from a journalist':

This is what @acarmichaelmp said when asked if he knew who had leaked the #FrenchGate memo. #nikileaks

— Ross Colquhoun (@rosscolquhoun) May 22, 2015

Interestingly, the Cabinet Office has confirmed that the memo did exist and the civil servant believes it was an accurate representation of Sturgeon's conversation:

'He confirmed under questioning that he believed that the memo was an accurate record of the conversation that took place between him and the French Consul General, and highlighted that the memo had stated that part of the conversation between the French Ambassador and the First Minister might well have been “lost in translation”. 'Senior officials who have worked with him say that he is reliable and has no history of inaccurate reporting, impropriety or security lapses. The Cabinet Secretary has concluded that there is no reason to doubt that he recorded accurately what he thought he had heard. There is no evidence of any political motivation or “dirty tricks”.

According to the investigation, Roddin had a copy of the Scotland Office memo and sent it to the Telegraph via his mobile phone. He did so because he believed there was a public interest defence and 'in his view the public needed to be aware of the position attributed to the First Minister':

'Alistair Carmichael confirmed that he had been asked by Mr Roddin for his view of the possibility of sharing the memo with the press. Mr Carmichael agreed that this should occur. He recognises that, as a Secretary of State, he was responsible for his own conduct and that of his Special Adviser. He could and should have stopped the sharing of the memo and accordingly accepts responsibility for what occurred; and no-one else had any involvement in the leaking of the memo.'

Carmichael has accepted he was wrong and released a statement this afternoon:

'I had not seen the document before it was published in the Daily Telegraph, however I was aware of its content and agreed that my special adviser should make it public. I should not have agreed this. It was an error of judgement which I regret. 'I accept full responsibility for the publication of the document. I have written today to the First Minister and to the French Ambassador to apologise to them both. 'Had I still been a Government Minister I would have considered this to be a matter that required my resignation. I have therefore informed the Cabinet Secretary that I will decline my ministerial severance payment.'

Sturgeon will undoubtedly continue to insist that her views were misrepresented by the memo. However, the fact that an independent investigation has shown she did say she'd prefer Cameron to be PM makes for an interesting postscript to the election. For Carmichael, who is now the only remaining Lib Dem MP north of the border, this revelation is a bitter conclusion to his time in office. Update: Nicola Sturgeon has now tweeted a copy of the letter she received from Carmichael. In it, he appears to suggest that the details of the account are not correct. This seems somewhat at odds with the findings of the independent report.

I have received letter from @acarmichaelmp apologising for leak and accepting that contents of memo not correct

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 22, 2015