Nicola Sturgeon had a very rough time at the UK Covid-19 inquiry in Edinburgh yesterday. A sticky moment in particular was when Scottish cabinet minutes were raised showing that the former SNP leader and her senior ministers discussed how to marshal ‘the experience of the coronavirus crisis’ into a fresh campaign for independence, as Isabel Hardman wrote about here.
But there was another piece of evidence that was arguably more troubling. This was an email that was sent by the office of John Swinney, the former deputy first minister and second-in-command of the Scottish government during the pandemic. The email was addressed to Ken Thomson, then the top civil servant in the Scottish government who urged civil servants to ‘clear’ their messages because they were ‘discoverable under FOI’ and said ‘plausible deniability are my middle names.’ The email was also sent to the offices of the first minister (Nicola Sturgeon) and the justice secretary (Humza Yousaf), among others. It was sent on 19 July 2020. Remember that date.
In the email, Swinney’s official says he is ‘extremely concerned’ about Spain not being added to the list of exempted countries for ‘travel corridors’. He says the Covid prevalence rate has dropped since the decision was taken not to designate Spain a travel corridor country and argues that the authorities there have done more to suppress outbreaks than has been done in England. He goes on to say:
It won’t matter how much ministers might justify it on health grounds, the Spanish government will conclude it is entirely political; they won’t forget; there is a real possibility they will never approve EU membership for an independent Scotland as a result.
For those not well-versed in Scottish politics, the attitude of Madrid towards an independent Scotland’s application to join the EU has been one of the chief anxieties for Scottish nationalists since the time of the 2014 referendum.