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SNP uses mini-embassy in Brussels to pitch itself as ‘prospective EU member’

Scotland House flies a Scottish and an EU flag outside its government office in Brussels
Scotland House flies a Scottish and EU flag outside its government office in Brussels - JOHN THYS/AFP

The SNP has used a taxpayer-funded “mini embassy” in Brussels to distribute a new prospectus to EU member states setting out why an independent Scotland should be admitted to the bloc.

The Telegraph can disclose that the Scottish Government’s most senior “diplomatic” civil servant recently wrote to EU countries and institutions highlighting the blueprint.

Martin Johnson, the SNP administration’s EU director in its Scotland House office in Brussels, said the document set out “our offer to the EU as a prospective member state”.

In a concerted charm offensive, he argued that a separate Scotland should be given entry as it would be “well placed to contribute to the shared EU agenda of social justice and the pursuit of a fairer and greener society”.

The civil servant also said that an independent Scotland should be granted membership because of its “strengths in renewable energy, research, development and innovation, our world class colleges and universities, and our vibrant culture.”

But the Scottish Tories argued that Humza Yousaf’s government should not be using public money to promote the break-up of the United Kingdom on the world stage. Foreign affairs and the constitution are reserved to Westminster.

Martin Johnson listed Scotland’s qualities in a blueprint including strengths in renewable energy
Martin Johnson listed Scotland’s qualities in a blueprint including strengths in renewable energy - Scottish Government

Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, said in 2023 it would be “unusual and a bit worrying” if United Kingdom civil servants funded by the taxpayer were being used to try to break up the country.

In December, Lord Cameron threatened to shut down all the Scottish Government’s “mini-embassies” abroad after Mr Yousaf held face-to-face talks about the Gaza crisis with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey.

The Foreign Secretary said it was crucial “that we speak with one voice to the international community” and threatened to withdraw Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) support for SNP ministers’ trips abroad.

Scottish Government international offices are situated in Brussels and British embassies in key locations including Paris, Berlin and Washington DC. SNP ministers have insisted their focus is on boosting trade and Scotland’s reputation abroad.

But Craig Hoy, the Scottish Conservative chairman, said: “This is another clear-cut example of the SNP Government squandering taxpayers’ money selling their independence obsession abroad.

“The function of the Scottish Government’s overseas embassies ought to be to promote Scottish industries and exports; it’s completely wrong for them to be used to promote SNP propaganda papers.”

The Scottish Government published the report on Nov 17 in 2023, the seventh in a series of documents intended to form a new prospectus for independence.

It listed what “Scotland could offer the EU” as a member state, including “contributing to the core values of the EU” and “using our strategic position on the northern edge of Europe” to contribute to the bloc’s security.

The blueprint also pledged that an independent Scotland would work “with EU partners on migration and asylum policy” and welcome artists from the Continent “with the return of free movement”.

On the day of publication, Mr Johnson sent an email to “officials from member states, third countries, regions and EU institutions” that contained a link to the report.

The email, obtained by The Telegraph using Freedom of Information, said the report “sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for an independent Scotland in the EU, outlining the economic, societal and cultural benefits for the people of Scotland, as well as our offer to the EU as a prospective future member state.”

Mr Johnson said a summary of the paper was “available in all official EU languages” and provided a link.

He also included a separate link to the other independence papers in the series, including one that pledged an independent Scotland would immediately revert to burgundy passports even while outside the EU.

“I look forward to continuing a positive and constructive engagement with all of our European and other partners and friends,” Mr Johnson concluded.

A UK Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government should be focused on the issues that it is responsible for and which people in Scotland care about. This is not the time to be talking about distracting constitutional change.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This paper sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for an independent Scotland in the EU, outlining the economic, societal and cultural benefits for the people of Scotland, as well as our offer to the EU as a prospective future member state, and this notification was sent as part of Scotland House Brussels’ regular engagement with EU partners.”

The FCDO were approached for comment.

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