Some people have concluded that my thoughts on the Sturgeon Memo as previously posted were amiss – see the Comments. Am I accusing key people of lying?
“It seems to me the overwhelming probability is that this document, whether it purports to be a FCO or Scottish Office document, was originated by the Security Services, possibly with the active collusion of someone in the Scottish Office, or equally possibly without their knowledge.
Whatever it purported to be, it never entered the normal civil service distribution systems, as the FCO would have a copy, and it would have raised alarm bells all over the place as seriously weird and improbable. It is in that sense a fake, even if it were physically produced inside the Scottish Office.”
That is Craig Murray over at his site, now desperately trying to attach his loopy conspiracy theories to reality.
Yes, it was after all a document originating in the Scottish system and not an MI5 plant! But there is an MI5 plant in the Scottish Office writing it! So it’s fake. Even though it’s real! #emitsbubbles
The memo (or at least the extracts from it as published) is now established as being a real one emerging from inside the Scottish government system (as I predicted):
So the issue (leaving aside the prosaic explanation for how the memo found its way to Whitehall (if it did) and thence to the DT) boils down to three questions:
Did NS say something (guardedly or otherwise) to the ambassador about her views on Miliband/Cameron?
Did the French CG give a sense of that exchange to the hapless Scottish bureaucrat?
Did the HSB record what the French CG said accurately?
None of us know as we weren’t there. We are unlikely to get the chance to cross-examine the participants under oath with precise questions to check what EXACTLY they are denying, and to compare their several interpretations of what was said by whom.
Therefore we all guess, based on our own long experience of leading and recording diplomatic conversations where we have such long experience.
I see no reason to believe that the HSB made up that final thought. So as I said in my blog post, my conclusion is that Sturgeon DID say something along those lines to the French ambassador (eg quietly while strolling out of the meeting or otherwise in the margins or on a ‘please don’t note this down!’ basis), to the point where the French CG found that remark specifically worth mentioning in his later telephone debriefing for Scottish colleagues.
NB that it is a crucial diplomatic Objective for the French ambassador to report to Paris what is going on in the UK in these elections and how far the result will affect France. Anything leading to Scotland leaving the UK would have all sorts of vivid ramifications for France and the EU. So the ambassador will have been straining every diplomatic guile to get NS to reveal privately her views about the likely outcome and her views on the Scottish response to different outcomes. That’s what diplomats do. It’s usually easy to get people to talk frankly and indeed unguardedly, the more so if they have no reason to think that their words won’t get into the newspapers. Not everything said in such exchanges will be recorded ‘officially’ during the meeting.
So it strikes me as highly likely that NS and the ambassador had a frank word about the way the election would unfold and how NS would respond to the rival possibilities of Cameron/Miliband winning. Why wouldn’t they? Two senior professionals doing their jobs. Therefore the CG mentioned this on the telephone in his friendly debriefing as one of the main points of interest at the meeting.
But (as I also noted in my first posting) it is ALSO possible that the HSB did NOT note down completely accurately what the French CG said (ie missing a gloss or an emphasis or even getting the basic thought wrong) EVEN IF the conversation was being written up in good faith. And in fact the HSB thought that this part was a bit strange, so made a caveat in the record itself!
Real memo. Genuine attempt to record in summary form the conversation accurately enough. Leaked by someone being naughty, as all such leaks are. No MI5. No nutty conspiracies.
All the subsequent denials involve no-one lying. They are using normal political/diplomatic technique to be 100% precise and as necessary 200% evasive. Thus the French CG:
Asked if any of it was accurate, he said: “I’m not going to disclose that. My comment is very clear. There has been no preference expressed regarding the outcome of the elections.”
He wisely refuses to explain precisely which parts were accurate and which not! QED. But no preference (sic) was expressed regarding the outcome of the election. That, of course, is not the same as NS wondering aloud whether E Miliband is likely to be a good PM.