By Richard Percival
Nicola Sturgeon has been pestering President of the European Commission (EC) Ursula von der Leyen and other Brussels officials with letters and emails in a desperate attempt to get Scotland to rejoin the EU, leaked correspondence seen by Express.co.uk shows.
About 25 letters and emails released under Freedom of Information laws between January and November last year reveal SNP ministers have been holding discussions with EU officials making the case for Scotland to rejoin the EU. But Ms von Der Leyen refused Ms Sturgeon's apparent request for a role in the negotiations.
In a letter obtained by Express.co.uk, the EC chief said: "As you are aware, the European Commission will only negotiate with the Government of the United Kingdom. I understand that you are in contact with Michel Barnier… he will be happy to meet you again." Ms Sturgeon has had at least two sets of talks with Mr Barnier this year, most recently in August.
Ahead of a meeting between them in February, her team emailed to ask if it would be "possible for a photograph to be taken of Monsieur Barnier and the First Minister after their meeting for social media purposes". The First Minister's letter appears to have been part of an orchestrated campaign to influence the Commission with roughly 25 emails and letters exchanged between the Scottish Government and EU officials.
Disgraced former Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, Finance Minister Kate Forbes and Migration Minister Ben Macpherson all wrote to incoming EC members. The letters and emails were released by the Scottish Government under Freedom of Information laws between January and November this year. Richard Leonard, former Scottish Labour leader, told Express.co.uk: "What this reveals is a First Minister more interested in photo opportunities and pretending to be the head of an independent state, when what the country needs is someone prepared to use the powers of devolution to save jobs, build houses, invest in our schools and protect our NHS."
Dean Lockhart MSP, the Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman, added: "As the UK Government continues to do everything it can to secure a deal, it looks like the SNP has been constantly trying to interfere in the negotiations. At every point, the SNP have shown they are not interested in trying to get a deal that is good for Scotland and the whole UK. The EU has made it perfectly clear. It is the UK Government they are dealing with and the SNP should respect that."
The First Minister recently pleaded with Eurocrats claiming Scotland was being dragged out of the EU against its will. Ms Sturgeon made the plea in a desperate message sent to newspapers across the continent including The Irish Times and Italian Newspaper Le Corriere. She said she hoped Scotland could "join you again soon as an equal partner as we face the opportunities and challenges of the future together". First Minister Sturgeon also reiterated the SNP's call for an independent Scotland to join the EU.
In the column, Sturgeon said: "For too long, successive UK governments have taken Scotland in the wrong direction, culminating in Brexit and the introduction of legislation that had threatened to break international law, and which still undermines the Scottish parliament. It's no wonder so many people in Scotland have had enough. We are committed to a legal, constitutional route to becoming an independent state."
Commenting on the correspondence, a spokesman for Scotland's Constitution Secretary Michael Russell, said: "The Scottish Government will always stand up for Scotland's interests, and we make no apology for doing so. The Tories have dragged Scotland out of the EU against our democratic will, and it is beyond belief that in the midst of a pandemic and recession Boris Johnson is determined to force on Scotland a low-deal, or even a catastrophic No-deal, Brexit outcome. It is little wonder that, as shown in poll after poll, independence is becoming the settled will of the people of Scotland."