UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps reportedly discussed sensitive information linked to a private flight from Inverness to Moscow while sanctions were in place against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, an FOI has revealed.

The Tory government minister has been involved in “secret communications” discussing confidential information shared by at least one unnamed foreign country, the Press and Journal reports.

The newspaper requested the UK Government release memo’s relating to the incident which sparked fury in February, but was refused amid claims that it could damage diplomatic relations connected to Russia’s invasion.

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We previously told how a private charter jet was allowed to take off from Inverness airport on February 26 - just two days after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.

At first, the Department of Transport (DFT) tried to shift the blame onto Inverness airport for disobeying a Notice of Air Missions regulation which banned flights between the UK and Russia as part of a sanctions package.

However, the P&J later revealed a memo which appeared to show the UK Government approved the flight, not the Highland aviation authorities.

Shapps publicly accused the Highlands airport of having “failed to comply” with the Russian flight ban on social media, but later faced calls to apologise when it emerged that Border Force, the police’s Special Branch and air traffic controllers cleared the take-off.

The National: Shapps initially blamed Inverness Airport for allowing the charter to take offShapps initially blamed Inverness Airport for allowing the charter to take off

Inverness SNP MP Drew Hendry said the latest revelations around the controversial flight showed the circumstances getting “murkier and murkier” and urged Shapps to explain why the flight was allowed to depart in the first place.

The passengers on the Estonian-registered private jet have not been named, but it is understood that a family of three were on board at the time of departure.

It has now emerged that Shapps was privately discussing sensitive information in connection with the flight at around the same time.

The P&J reports that the Scottish Government released its ministerial communications regarding the flight under FOI, but that the UK Government has refused twice.

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The first refusal came on grounds that it would be too time-consuming and expensive to collate the information. A second request from the newspaper asked for disclosure of Shapp’s communications relating to the flight on February 26, 27 and 28 of this year.

The DFT’s response to this request reads: “To release this information could have detriment to the UK’s world standing and ongoing diplomatic relations relating to the wider Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The detriment would be caused by countries not trusting the UK with their information and in some cases be in breach of international conventions of sharing information between countries.”

The department also said releasing the communications would be of detriment to the “free and frank advice given to the minister to aid collective ministerial decision making at a Cabinet committee”.

The National: Hendry said Shapps should apologise for "scapegoating" Inverness airportHendry said Shapps should apologise for "scapegoating" Inverness airport

Inverness MP Hendry said of the latest developments: “This whole episode gets murkier and murkier – the UK Government has now confirmed it has secret communications relating to this private jet flight from Inverness to Moscow but is refusing to release the material.

“Grant Shapps must not only apologise for scapegoating Inverness Airport. He must also explain why this flight was allowed to take off in the first place.

“For as long as Tory ministers continue to keep the details of this flight secret from the public, suspicion will rightly grow as to what they have to hide.”

The flight left Inverness just two days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and only 12 hours after a ban on Russian flights was put in place across UK airspace.