UK government 'doctored' no-deal Brexit documents, claims MSP

The UK government has been accused of "doctoring" its Operation Yellowhammer documents to downplay the risk of a no-deal Brexit.

Nicola Sturgeon has revealed the title of the Operation Yellowhammer no-deal Brexit planning documents has been changed.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the Conservative government had been “caught red handed” after Nicola Sturgeon admitted that the Yellowhammer report the Scottish Government received was entitled "base scenario".

Yesterday the UK government released a version of the same document, but which was entitled "reasonable worst case scenario".

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Boris Johnson's government had resisted the publication of the Operation Yellowhammer document, but lost a vote on the issue in the Commons on Monday, prior to the suspension of Parliament, so it was compelled it to do so. The six-page document, which was written in August, had previously been leaked, and warns of disruption at channel crossings for at least three months, an increased risk of public disorder, and some shortages of fresh food and medicines.

The front page of the Scottish Government's copy of Operation Yellowhammer planning documents, shows it is a "base scenario".

Cabinet Secretary for no-deal preparations, Michael Gove had also previously tweeted that “Yellowhammer is a reasonable worst case scenario NOT our base case of what will happen”.

But today in First Minister's Questions, Nicola Sturgeon revealed that the document had originally been titled "base scenario"

Answering Mr Rennie, who asked if any of the published information was new to the Scottish Government, Ms Sturgeon said: "The publication of the Yellowhammer planning assumptions lays bare for the public the horror of a no-deal Brexit and it's shocking it's taken so long for that information to be published.

"In terms of Yellowhammer what we have seen in the Scottish Government is what was published, the only difference I can confirm is in the title of the document. The version we have has the title base scenario rather than reasonable working scenario as appeared on the document published last night. It's for the UK government to explain if there's any significance to that.

"We have been expecting an update of that document which is dated second of August but we haven't yet received an update."However, under questioning from Mr Rennie, the First Minister confirmed that the document was previously presented to the Scottish Government in August under the title “base case scenario”

Mr Rennie said: “The Conservatives have been caught red handed. They have doctored the Yellowhammer report just before publication in order to minimise the political damage to them.

“This is reprehensible but all too predictable from this cavalier Conservative Government. Michael Gove needs to issue an immediate statement with the original document which has not been doctored.”

After the revelation, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard called for Mr Gove to "come clean" over his conflicting accounts around the Yellowhammer papers.

He said the Cabinet Secretary had to answer why he has dismissed the papers as an "old document" when they were first leaked to a newspaper, why the title changed when they were made public yesterday, and why was a section on refineries and fuel availability redacted?

He said: “The Tory government may have shut down Parliament to avoid scrutiny, but it cannot continue to duck from its responsibilities or accountability over its chaotic and damaging Brexit plans.“The Yellowhammer documents have exposed not just the devastating impact an extreme Tory Brexit will have on the UK, but it has also exposed Michael Gove’s conflicting and misleading remarks over the nature of the documents."

He said that although Mr Gove had "previously dismissed the documents as old" they had been revealed to have been "drafted up" after Boris Johnson took office.

He added: “And while the document is identical to the leaked version over a month ago, the government has appeared to have changed the title from a base case scenario to ‘reasonable worst-case'."There are serious questions to be asked of Michael Gove about what appear to be intentionally misleading comments - he must come clean. This is a rogue Tory government that has lost all authority, Boris Johnson must immediately recall Parliament and his government must be held to account."