Diplomatic handbagging

The British civil service, we are constantly told, is impartial and carries out the task of running the institutions and organs of the British state in a neutral, quietly efficient, and Great British Fairness sort of a way. You know, like the BBC.

But the British civil service is not so neutral after all. The British ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, tweeted last week on the official account of the British embassy saying “Scotland is a part of a United Kingdom with a united future”. He added “find out more”, giving a link to the UK Treasury’s paper on the independence referendum – that would be the paper whose relationship to the economic prospects of an independent Scotland are similar to Erich von Däniken’s relationship to astrophysics. The paper is another of those collections of half-truths, misleading statistics, and outright myth dressed up as a serious investigation. It’s the Chariot of the Treasury Gods.

Sorry, that’s unfair. Erich von Däniken does actually agree that the vacuum of outer space exists, whereas the UK Treasury is hoping no one notices the vacuum between Danny Alexander’s ears. And Erich does have more in the way of substantive evidence that beings from outer space have visited us than the UK Treasury does that an independent Scotland will be financially better off with UK Governments spending our resources on making London a global city. You only have to look at the drive-by Tories of the cabinet on their trips to Scotland to realise that alien pod people already walk the face of the Earth. Oh… and UK Defence Minister Philip Hammond did warn that an independent Scotland would have no means of defending itself from “threats from outer space”, because we’ll no longer have access to RAF jet fighters which can, apparently, shoot down a mother-ship from Alpha Centauri because the MoD possesses technology to put the fear of god into a civilisation that’s thousands of years more advanced than ours, just like Neanderthals could throw rocks and fend off an invasion of tanks. Actually, this analogy is getting worse and worse the more you look at it.

But back to the undiplomatic Simon. Scotland is currently engaged in a democratic debate about our future. Simon has certainly noticed that, although the Foreign Office is clearly struggling with the “democratic” part of the statement. We have a clear case of UK diplomats seeking to influence the outcome of a democratic vote, a vote which is legal, peaceful, and entirely in accord with the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom.

Can you imagine the outrage that would be generated in the UK media if the British ambassador to Spain had tweeted during a General Election campaign that the United Kingdom had a Conservative future? Politicians and political commentators would be lining up and calling for him to be recalled to London so that the mandarins of the Foreign Office could whack him over the head with a diplomatic bag. But that is exactly equivalent to what Simon Manley has just done. From the UK media and the watchdogs of government standards, there’s not a word.

The defence given by UK politicians on the rare occasions that they are challenged by the UK media about their campaign to recruit foreign politicians, businesses, and money to shore up their crumbling credibility in Scotland – which is to say, never – is that the UK diplomatic corps is acting in the UK national interest. This is a defence which raises some very interesting questions of its own, and if anything only increases the depth of the undemocratic mire into which the Westminster parliament is sinking.

What is the UK national interest? Who gets to define it? Perhaps I’m naive, but I’d always assumed that in a democracy, the national interest was decided democratically. The ballot box is the expression of the national will, and the national interest follows from decisions made by citizens during the ballot. The national will of the UK, or any other democracy, is what its citizens say it is, otherwise we live in an oligarchy, a dictatorship, or a clerical state. Or in Scotland as part of the UK.

We are currently in the official campaign period for the referendum. The topic of the UK’s national interest with respect to Scotland’s future is being actively debated and discussed by people in Scotland – by voters who are UK and EU citizens who have the legal and constitutional right to decide what their national interest is, not civil servants. And if citizens in this part of the UK decide that Scotland’s national interest is best served by independence, then by definition that is also the national interest of the UK, and alternative arrangements must be made accordingly. The citizens of the UK will have spoken. It’s not for Simon Manley or the civil servants of Foreign Office to pre-empt the decision and tell us otherwise, especially if they are acting on instructions from the very same elected politicians whose future is being decided by the vote.

Simon’s simple minded tweet was spotted by a UK national resident in Spain, who wasn’t best pleased to be told by a UK civil servant what was in his national interests. Christopher Carnie has written a letter of protest to the British embassy in Madrid. He’s given permission for his letter to be republished. Here it is:

20th June 2014

 Dear Ambassador,

As we enter the final phases of the referendum in Scotland, could I ask you to be strictly neutral on this issue?

I have heard that the UK Government is seeking the opinions of other governments and companies, organisations, and individuals in other countries about the possibility of Scotland becoming an independent nation. There have been reports that the UK Government is engaged in a campaign to solicit support for the anti-independence cause from abroad. I was shocked to see that yesterday you tweeted from you @SimonManleyFCO account that “Scotland is part of a United Kingdom with a united future.”

I am writing to express my unhappiness that the UK Government is seeking to influence the democratic decision of the people of Scotland in this manner. It is inappropriate for a Government to seek foreign support in order to undermine a peaceful, democratic, and legal debate amongst its own citizens.

But if Your Excellency is actively soliciting opinions on Scottish independence, I would like to state my belief that the independence of Scotland would be of immense benefit to Scotland and to the remainder of the UK.

I understand that the Foreign Office has been briefing Embassies on the independence debate. I have read a number of papers produced by the Civil Service and am dismayed that UK taxpayers’ money, mine included, is being used to produce such uneven commentary (you will have read the coverage of the recent Treasury paper and its exaggerated claims of the cost of setting up Government ministries in Scotland – claims refuted by the academic on whose work the paper was supposedly based).

I hope that you are not being briefed with this partial, biased material.

I and many Scots in Spain and Catalonia support independence and look to you to represent fairly, on behalf of all you constituency of still-British citizens, a debate that deserves clarity and depth.

Please pass this letter on to the Devolution Unit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.


Christopher Carnie

Christopher has also contacted the SNP’s Westminster spokesman Angus Robertson to inform him of the actions of the UK Embassy in Madrid, and to urge him to ask a question in the House of Commons. Christopher’s email to Angus is as follows:

Dear Mr Robertson,

 As SNP Shadow Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, you will be aware of the activities of UK Embassies abroad in promoting the “Better Together” political line.

 The UK Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, Tweeted yesterday, 19th June at 21:04 the following message on his account @SimonManleyFCO: “Scotland is part of a United Kingdom with a united future. Find out more in @hmtreasury’s latest paper: http://bit.ly/1kQpoiH #indyref”

 A friend here in Spain, Pilar Aymara Fernandez, is coordinating a campaign to write to the Embassies about their biased projection of the argument. I have written to the Ambassador.

 Would you consider tabling a Parliamentary Question to the FCO on the issue? For example:

 To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has briefed UK http://t.co/jFipiv1F7t Ambassadors to represent the debate on the Scottish Referendum fairly; and if he has briefed, instructed or otherwise required Her Majesty’s Ambassadors to represent one side of the Referendum debate, to lay before Parliament these briefings; and if the actions of Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Spain in tweeting, on 19th June 2014 at 21:04, a personal opinion on the Referendum were duly authorised by his Department.

 In a separate email, I will attach copies of the Ambassador’s tweet, and my letter to him.

 Many thanks, Mr Robertson, for your help in this matter.

 All the best

Christopher Carnie

Pilar Aymara Fernandez is co-ordinating a grassroots campaign, Solidarity with Scotland, to challenge the misinformation and manipulation of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its diplomatic corps. These diplomats are paid for by supporters of Scottish independence as much as anyone else, and they are obliged to represent our interests too – not the narrow party political interests of Westminster. And this is the case even when all the main UK political parties are in agreement.

If you are reading this outside the UK, or if you have friends and family outside the UK, take part in the Solidarity With Scotland campaign and make sure that Scotland’s voice is heard. Scotland’s national interest lies squarely in having a debate about Scotland’s future without undue foreign influence manipulated by the UK government.

Find out more at http://www.solidaritywithscotland.com/

30 comments on “Diplomatic handbagging

  1. cuddyback says:

    Manley man doing Manley things. I notice that he’s Brittish Ambassador to Spain and Andorra. I wonder how that pans out if he’s such a “united” fan?
    Or perhaps he’s worried that he might have to share his residence in Madrid with some uncouth Jock?

  2. Chris Jack says:

    Political neutrality UK-style. We will not forget.

  3. gerry parker says:

    Sneaky, that’s what they’re best at.

  4. mary vasey says:

    Jeez they make me so angry….. please thank Mr Carnie for his terrific letter and of course Polar for his support. Not forgetting your brilliant article. Excellent all round. Thank you

  5. I wish to find difference with you, just for a nuance of opposition, but I cannot. Nail, head bang.

    Her Britannic Majesty’s Representative in Spain is there to represent her Britannic Majesty and not her upstarting nematodes of politicians. The barrier between the Civil Service and the Political Creptocracy which is Westminster is no longer sound.

    The Civil Service, and long since the “Police and the Military,” has become politicised by successive governments in the UK.

    Does anyone think that the EC will kick Cameren etc in the cojones over this?

    NF Chance (in French) or Spanish or whatever.

    Little fleas have smaller fleas upon their back to bight them
    Smaller fleas have smaller fleas,
    ——and so infinitum..

    After we vote Yes, they will all become our best friends and advisors.

    fek em

  6. My avatar will be changing, when I can work how to do it.

    It will reflect my feminin side which we are current;ly seeing in fragrant profundace on WGD’s site.

    Come on wummin, come oot o the wherever ye are hiddin.

    Yer kids, parents and grandweans need you, not to forget the bugger in front of the tele, who was like a Greek God, once.

  7. […] The British civil service, we are constantly told, is impartial and carries out the task of running the institutions and organs of the British state in a neutral, quietly efficient, and Great Briti…  […]

  8. macart763 says:

    In the national interest.

    The four scariest words in politico speak.

    How much carnage and how many freedoms have been suppressed ‘in the national interest’?

    Doesn’t bear thinking about.

  9. blindingmemory says:

    Strangely the BBC haven’t given any exposure to a major demonstration in London today against the Government….. too busy reporting on a warehouse fire & those wee pesky terrorists rascals! (Bless ’em they’re no happy unless they are breakin’ ‘hings.) Good on our wee English Muckers down South… Get them Telt! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrwt_bcKmYI&feature=youtu.be

  10. anne says:

    They are reaching into the bottom of the barrel. The big problem seems to be that they will be dredging up the sludge soon. August, when they get desperate! Edinburgh Festival maybe – loads of visitors and a definite feel-good factor throughout the area, with probably lots of pro-independence stuff going on. Just my humble considered opinion, though. Hope I may be wrong, but dirty tactics have become the norm from WM!

  11. […] The British civil service, we are constantly told, is impartial and carries out the task of running the institutions and organs of the British state in a neutral, quietly efficient, and Great Briti…  […]

  12. Pam McMahon says:

    The bottom of the barrel is just a piece of wet wood. Nothing to panic about. If this debate has done nothing else (although God knows, I hope it has) it has demonstrated in the clearest terms to the electorate of this country how much and by what means they are manipulated and controlled by state agencies. The reputations and credibility of journalists, broadcasters, government agencies, the CBI; etc, have all been destroyed through their own actions, and will never be recovered.
    We seriously need an independent newspaper and broadcaster in Scotland in the sorry event of a No vote.

  13. setondene says:

    Not surprised by this. For many years I worked for a public sector organisation that disbursed monies to various organisations. It required strict political neutrality of its staff and had a clear code of conduct for that. A few years ago I noticed that one of my colleagues (who, like me, could influence events at national – UK -level) was an active Labour councillor. I expressed my uneasiness with this and was told not to worry about it, it was none of my business. I left them eventually but that particular colleague became the convener of a Scottish local authority. Neutrality is strictly for nationalists it seems.

  14. kininvie says:


    Just to clear up a couple of points. The neutrality of the civil service is between governments. So it must serve whichever govt is in power, without favour.

    But when a given govt is in power, it is the role of the civil service to implement that government’s policy. The policy of the current UK govt. is that Scotland should remain part of the UK.

    So, the unfortunate Simon Manley is carrying out government policy, as he is paid to do. He may not like it; we may not like it – but that is his job. There’s no point in blaming the messenger.

    Rather, you need to blame the hypocrisy of politicians who say ‘it is a matter for the people of Scotland to decide’ while at the same time adhering to a policy which makes clear it is anything but.

  15. Thanks, wee ginger dug! A nice wee bite, in the ankle of Mr Manley. All the best, Chris Carnie

  16. […] We also know that the organs of the state are being used against us, David Cameron constantly seeks statements from foreign leaders to validate his position and as was reported last year, embassies were being used to brief against Scottish independence. More recently yet more diplomatic deceit was being carried out by a civil servant who is supposed to also be our man in Madrid. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s