This Writer is no fan of Alex Salmond, but that won’t stop me backing him to the hilt over this ill-mannered abuse of Foreign Office procedures.
Salmond is right; the Foreign Office should treat all political delegations from the UK equally.
You see, Salmond is right; it really is the United Kingdom Foreign Office, not the Conservative Party Foreign Office.
He is right that the Permanent Secretary to the FO should be making sure that all UK politicians receive equal respect during visits to other nations.
And Philip Hammond? With behaviour like that, he can just FO.
When Alex Salmond flew to Iran to meet Iranian ministers and MPs just before Christmas, he was expecting to be briefed by the resident UK diplomatic team over dinner at the embassy. It did not turn out that way.
Instead, the foreign secretary Philip Hammond’s office sent a message that the Scottish delegation was not entitled to hospitality. To avoid embarrassment, Scotland’s former first minister hosted the dinner at his hotel in Tehran, paying for not only himself and his delegation but British embassy staff, too.
Salmond, who is the Scottish National party’s foreign affairs spokesman, is torn between whether the incident is comic or a piece of political vindictiveness on the part of Hammond’s office.
There is a potential constitutional issue over whether the Foreign Office sees itself playing host exclusively to Westminster delegations, rather than Scottish ones as well.
Salmond, who is a member of the Scottish and Westminster parliaments, said: “It’s a quite serious matter because it indicates the deep politicisation of the Foreign Office under Hammond and his Tory special advisers. The Foreign Office permanent under-secretary should be putting his foot down to make it clear it is the British Foreign Office, not the Tory Foreign Office.
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