Emails claim SNP 'interested' in Cambridge Analytica deal six weeks after meeting

Simon Johnson
The SNP has published emails about its dealings with Cambridge Analytica - PA

The SNP was “still interested” in working with Cambridge Analytica six weeks after the pair met, according to an email released by the party that undermined its claim it immediately dismissed the firm as “cowboys.”

After days of pressure for them to release details of the talks with the firm, the Scottish Nationalists published on Twitter a series of emails between the party and the company in an attempt to draw a line under the controversy.

The SNP said this showed the party had ignored the firm’s emails and phone calls after an initial meeting on February 18, 2016, but “they wouldn’t take the hint.”

However an email dated March 31 that year referred to a phone conversation the previous day about “potential cooperation in summer 2016”.

Livia Krisandova, an operations executive, wrote “it was my pleasure to hear you are still interested in working with SCL Group / Cambridge Analytica”.

She concluded: “Lastly, we have agreed to re-connect in May, and then again in June. By then on behalf of SCL Group / Cambridge Analytica, I wish you good luck in the upcoming elections!”

Although there was no suggestion any work was carried for the SNP, the disclosure last week of the secret talks was highly embarrassing as the Nationalists had urged other parties to come clean about their dealings with the firm without revealing their own.

The emails were sent to Chris Jones, the party’s head of data and technology, who initiated contact with the controversial date analysis company in an email on February 7 that year.

The following day he took part in a conference call with the company along with Kirk Torrance, the SNP’s former new media boss.

The SNP had previously only admitted that an “external consultant”, identified this week as Mr Torrance, had met the company in London. He insisted this week that he had advised the SNP “not to touch the firm with a barge pole, as they were a bunch of cowboys.”

However, this was dismissed by Cambridge Analytica, which said the party was “very keen” to establish a working relationship but that year’s EU referendum intervened.

Publishing the emails, Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “The SNP have provided all the documents and emails we received from Cambridge Analytica to the Information Commissioner.

“To confirm again, the SNP has never worked with Cambridge Analytica, used any of its services or paid them a single penny."

He said the party had written to the Information Commissioner providing documents that undermined claims by Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections that they are different companies.

The SNP published the emails with an accompanying narrative on Twitter that claimed “alarm bells rang” when the firm sent a non-disclosure agreement on February 15.

But the party still went ahead with the meeting three days later. Mr Jones was also due to attend but had to stay in Edinburgh after the party suffered computer problems.

The SNP’s official account tweeted that: “We didn’t want to tell them what we really thought, so we let them down gently – by ignoring their emails…But they kept emailing and calling- we still didn't reply and they wouldn’t take the hint."

The documents show that some emails from Cambridge Analytica were ignored by the party but the March 31 message from Ms Krisandova to Mr Jones was a “brief recap of our phone conversation yesterday.”

She emailed him again on May 26, in the final email released, stating the firm was “looking forward to reconnecting with you this summer.”

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “The more we have learned of their own involvement with the company the more their hypocrisy has become apparent.”

Cambridge Analytica tweeted: “We are pleased that the SNP has now acknowledged that it was Cambridge Analytica who were telling the truth. We didn’t publicly release our email correspondence because we take data protection seriously.”