THE SNP’s Europe Minister has said a top EU diplomat who has found himself the subject of the Tories’ "silly political games" will be “very welcome” when he visits Scotland after this Thursday’s election.

As The National revealed on Sunday, Joao Vale de Almeida, the EU’s ambassador to the UK, who is based in London, is looking forward to travelling to Scotland “very soon”.

The senior public servant, from Portugal, was appointed head of the EU’s delegation to the UK last year, a role normally given full diplomatic privileges.

However, Boris Johnson’s ministers have so far refused to give Almeida the special status, saying the EU is not a sovereign power and the prolonged row has reportedly added to ill feeling in Brussels towards the Conservative government.

Now the SNP has intervened to say Almeida should be granted full diplomatic privileges and that he will be “very welcome” in Scotland.

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SNP Minister for Europe Jenny Gilruth said: “While the SNP is focused on getting Scotland through the pandemic and into our recovery the Tories are still playing silly political games with the EU.

“Whether the Tories like it or not, the EU hasn’t ceased to exist simply because the UK has left.

“The EU ambassador should have full diplomatic status and these embarrassing games from the Tories do nothing but cause more harm to the UK international standing. The ambassador will, of course, be very welcome in Scotland when he visits”.

Ambassador Almeida outlined his plan for the imminent trip as he signalled last week he is keeping a close watch on Scotland.

He was asked by The National at an online press conference hosted in Portugal on Thursday for his views on whether he believed Scotland could rejoin the EU.

“We have enormous respect, appreciation and friendship with all our friends in Scotland, those who support the European Union and are committed to European affairs at all levels from business to universities to think tanks,” said the senior diplomat.

“Part of my role and a real pleasure is to keep very close contact with all our friends in Scotland. And I hope to physically visit Scotland very soon. I have been in a virtual visit but not a physical one yet.”

He added that diplomatic protocol prevented him from commenting on “hypothetical scenarios”.

Federico Bianchi, the EU’s head of press and information to the UK, told The National on Monday: “We don’t yet have a date for the Ambassador’s next visit to Scotland, but it will definitely be after the elections.”

The ambassador’s office confirmed he had “not yet” been granted full diplomatic status by the UK Government.

A spokeswoman in his team said: “The full diplomatic status has not been granted yet.”

An spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “We are engaging with the EU on the long-term arrangements for the EU Delegation to the UK.

"The EU, its Delegation and staff will continue to receive the privileges and immunities necessary to enable them to carry out their work in the UK effectively.”

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Foreign Office sources insist they are not restricting the operation of the EU delegation UK and it continues to engage with the EU on the long-term arrangements for the EU delegation to the UK.

However, they added that negotiations are ongoing and it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the outcome of these and insisted that “it is untrue to say that staff at the EU Delegation will not have appropriate status”.

They also say it is not true to say that International Organisations (IOs) are not
offered privileges and immunities similar to those of Diplomatic Missions (DMs).

Diplomatic missions (under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
1961) and IOs (under the International Organisations’ Act 1968) are offered
very similar privileges and immunities, Foreign Office insiders say.

They point out the premises and documents of both IOs and DMs are inviolable and like diplomats, officials of IOs have are immune from prosecution in respect of acts performed in the course of their duties, are also exempt from certain host
country taxes and can import personal belongings to the UK duty-free on arrival.

Sources asay the IO Head of Delegation enjoys similar privileges and immunities to the head of a diolomatic mission: for example, both have certain immunities, are exempt from host country taxes such as council tax or petrol duty, have inviolable residential premises and are exempt from inspection of personal baggage.