A TORY minister has written to an SNP MP to address “concerns” around the UK Government issuing a set of instructions to overseas officials instructing them to closely monitor Scottish Government activity abroad.

In April, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly issued a “diktat” to all UK embassy staff around the globe telling them to “confidently” represent “the strengths of the Union” and to ensure that all Scottish Government contact with foreign governments went through his central office.

Chris Law, the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson for international development, raised concerns about Cleverly’s intervention in a letter to the UK heads of mission in May, and also at a committee meeting on Tuesday.

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“The Scottish Government plays a key part in tackling global challenges, including poverty, injustice and inequality,” Law said.

“However, your diktat to UK embassies worldwide advised UK heads of mission to take firm and strengthened approaches to Scottish Government visits, Scottish Government should not have direct relationships with foreign governments, and UK Government officials should be present at any of these meetings.

“Why are you putting these obstacles in place and why are you seeking to damage Scotland’s relationship with partner countries and undermine its international development work?”

In response, Cleverly (below) told the committee that Scotland was free to work “within the very clearly defined parameters of what is devolved and what is reserved”.

The National: Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (Yui Mok/PA)

Asked for evidence that Scottish ministers had not done so, Cleverly said that Alister Jack had outlined some examples to a separate committee and referred MPs to his words.

Earlier in June, Scottish Secretary Jack discussed what he called “transgressions” on the Edinburgh government’s part, including Nicola Sturgeon talking about the “constitutional future of the United Kingdom” in Washington DC.

Separately, Law also shared with this paper a response to concerns he had raised about the UK Government instructions.

In a letter dated June 20, Tory foreign office minister David Rutley – who is responsible for devolution as part of his brief – similarly dismissed allegations that the UK Government was seeking to undermine Scotland’s work overseas.

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“I can reassure you that the FCDO is fully committed to promoting Scotland’s interests overseas,” Rutley wrote.

“The Foreign Secretary’s recent letter to HoMs [heads of mission], and the guidance, sets out for staff many practices which had already been in place, such as the offer to brief visiting devolved government ministers ahead of their visit.

“It also re-affirms the importance of ensuring that competences are respected, and advises how staff ensure that a clear and coherent position on UK policy is given in our communications and engagement with host governments.”

He went on: “I would also like to reassure you that the guidance will not in any way hinder UK Government officials’ ability to work collaboratively and transparently with Scottish Government officials across the full range of devolved areas, nor restrict the Scottish Government’s ability to engage with governments overseas to deliver devolved policy objectives through its international activities.”

Law had written to heads of mission about the UK Government instructions on May 16, and Rutley said his letter should be read as a “consolidated response to each of the letters you have issued to individual posts”.

After Cleverly issued the instructions in April, foreign policy expert Kirsty Hughes told The National that diplomats abroad would “see the Scottish Government being treated like children”.