Alistair Carmichael admits leaking Sturgeon memo

Alistair Carmichael: Issued apology to First Minister over leaked memo. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Alistair Carmichael: Issued apology to First Minister over leaked memo. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Have your say

ALISTAIR Carmichael faced calls to resign as an MP last night after he admitted responsibility for leaking a memo that claimed Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to remain Prime Minister.

Ms Sturgeon said the former Scottish secretary should consider his position after a Cabinet Office investigation found he was behind the leak of the controversial document during the general election campaign. At the time, its contents were denied by Ms Sturgeon, who accused the UK government of “dirty tricks”.

The memo was regarded as damaging for the First Minister because it appeared to suggest her public promises to “lock the Conservatives out of Downing Street” were at odds with her private view.

Yesterday Mr Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland and the only ­Scottish Lib Dem in the Commons, called the leak an “error of judgment” and acknowledged that the account of the meeting between Ms Sturgeon and the French ambassador was “not correct”.

The Cabinet Office investigation, ordered by the UK’s most senior civil servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, found Mr Carmichael’s former special adviser, Euan Roddin, leaked the confidential memo to the Daily Telegraph – but he had Mr Carmichael’s permission to do so.

The leak inquiry concluded that Mr Roddin’s official mobile phone was used to call a Telegraph journalist and that Mr Carmichael “could and should have stopped the sharing of the memo”. He has written to Ms Sturgeon and the French ambassador to apologise – calling the incident a “breach of protocol”.

I accept that its publication was a serious breach of protocol and that the details of that account are not correct

Alistair Carmichael

Last night Ms Sturgeon claimed Mr Carmichael had fought the election under “false pretences”, because he did not admit to his role in the leak before voters went to the polls.

During the election, Mr Carmichael defended his seat with a narrow majority, reduced from 10,000 to 817 by the SNP.

Yesterday Mr Carmichael admitted he should not have let Mr Roddin leak the memo and accepted “full responsibility for the publication”.

The Lib Dem MP added that, had he still been a government minister, he would have “considered this to be a matter that required my resignation”.

In his letter to the First Minister, Mr Carmichael said: “I wish to inform you that I am taking full responsibility for the publication of that document when I was Secretary of State.

“I accept that its publication was a serious breach of protocol and that the details of that account are not correct.”

He added: “I am clear that this was an error of judgment on my part and wish to offer you my sincere apologies for the embarrassment caused to you and the French ambassador.”

The memo told of a meeting Ms Sturgeon had with French ambassador Sylvie Bermann and French consul general Pierre-Alain Coffinier in February.

The document claimed that Ms Sturgeon had “no idea ‘what kind of mischief’ Alex Salmond could get up to and confessed that she’d rather see Mr Cameron remain as PM (and didn’t see Ed Miliband as prime ministerial material)”.

Last night, Ms Sturgeon said: “Alistair Carmichael has written to me accepting that the account of my conversation with the French ambassador was not correct, and apologising for what was a blatant election dirty trick in having it leaked.

“I accept his apology, but the real issue is that he should be apologising to the people of Orkney and Shetland, because he clearly contested the election on false pretences.

“Mr Carmichael said at the time that the first he was aware of this matter was when he received a call from a journalist, but we now know that this is simply untrue. The false memo was leaked by a special adviser acting under the authority of Mr Carmichael. He knew all about it, but said in public that he knew nothing until a journalist phoned him.

“As well as the original dirty trick, which was bad enough, Mr Carmichael then tried to cover it up – and is only admitting it now because he got caught.

“He needs to seriously reflect on that – and reflect on whether his actions and attempt to cover them up are consistent with his position as an honourable member of the House of Commons.”