SNP Westminster leader in dark about meeting with controversial data firm

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford yesterday said he had been unaware that his party had met with the controversial political consultancy accused of harvesting the Facebook data of millions of the site’s users.

Mr Blackford admitted “it would have been better” had he known about the meeting held between the SNP and Cambridge Analytica.

Mr Blackford’s remarks came as opposition politicians demanded answers from SNP chief executive Peter Murrell on the meeting his party had with the controversial company.

Labour’s Neil Findlay has written to Mr Murrell – who is also the husband of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – asking him to reveal who from the SNP met with Cambridge Analytica and what was discussed at the meeting.

The fact that the meeting was held came to light this week when Brittany Kaiser, the former business development director of Cambridge Analytica, told MPs the company met the SNP for “pitches and negotiations”.

The SNP has maintained that contact with the company was limited to a political consultant having a single meeting with the firm and that no work was carried out for the party.

Mr Blackford said: “I regret the fact that a meeting took place with a consultant, but that’s all it was.

“When the issue came to light, inquiries were made … we tried to examine our own record. It would have been better if that information was available earlier.”

Mr Blackford’s comments will fuel suggestions of strain between SNP MPs and SNP HQ over the issue.

Ms Kaiser informed the Commons culture, media and sport committee about the meeting in response to a question from SNP MP Brendan O’Hara. Mr O’Hara was visibly surprised when he was told a meeting had taken place.

The revelation led to the SNP being accused of hypocrisy, because its politicians have repeatedly demanded full disclosure from other parties of their dealings with the firm.

In his letter to Mr Murrell, Mr Findlay asked who the political consultant was who took part in the meeting, and who in the SNP had commissioned him.

Last night a SNP spokesperson said: “The SNP has never worked with Cambridge Analytica at any point. The question the Tories and Labour must answer is, did they?

“In evidence to the digital, culture, media and sport committee on 28 February, Cambridge Analytica claimed to have pitched to every major political party in the UK.

“All that is known so far is that the Liberal Democrats and SNP rejected their sales pitch. Labour have said nothing, and the Tories have a multitude of different links to the firm.

“It’s now for these two parties to come clean about their links to Cambridge Analytica.”