SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has categorically rejected the Daily Telegraph’s front page scoop that she told the French ambassador to Britain she would rather see David Cameron win the general election and didn’t see Ed Miliband “as PM material”.
The Telegraph claims Sturgeon made the comment during a meeting with the French ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann, at the First Minister’s office in Holyrood on 26 February.
The paper’s evidence is a leaked Foreign Office document written by a civil servant after the French consul-general in Edinburgh, Pierre-Alain Coffinier, had called the FO to give an account of the Bermann-Sturgeon meeting, which is routine practice in diplomatic circles.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
The leaked memo reads: “The Ambassador … had a truncated meeting with the FM [Nicola Sturgeon]… Discussion appears to have focused mainly on the political situation, with the FM stating that she wouldn’t want a formal coalition with Labour; that the SNP would almost certainly have a large number of seats … that she’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM (and didn’t see Ed Miliband as PM material)”.
As the Telegraph reported, “It appears to confirm growing speculation in Scotland that the SNP would privately favour another Conservative-led Westminster government - which it could campaign against in a bid to stoke up anti-English sentiment and make an ‘out’ vote more likely in another referendum.”
But within minutes of the report appearing online last night, Sturgeon posted a tweet directed at the journalists involved: “Your story is categorically, 100%, untrue… which I’d have told you if you’d asked me at any point today.”
She was backed by Coffinier who told The Guardian last night: “I have looked at my notes and absolutely no preference has been expressed by anyone regarding the outcome of the election. Which suggests neither Nicola nor my ambassador said anything.”
Whether Sturgeon and Coffinier’s denials will be enough to put a lid on this remains to be seen.
Not least there will be questions about a civil servant apparently breaking the Westminster ‘purdah’ – a period that began with the dissolution of parliament on 30 March and lasts until the election on 7 May – to pass on such a highly charged memo.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.