TRADE union leaders have hit back after an anonymous Scottish Labour figure criticised workers in the civil service, claiming they had been “captured” by the SNP.

The unnamed Labour figure spoke to the Sunday Herald to claim that the civil service had been “captured wholesale”, going on: “The lines between political interest and public service have not just become blurred, they have disappeared.”

Similar allegations appeared in The Times over the weekend, which ran the headline: “How the SNP’ ‘captured’ Scotland’s civil service – and why it matters.”

It followed the Scots Tories calling for an investigation into “politicisation” of the civil service.

The criticism has focused on an email shown to the UK Covid Inquiry by the Scottish Government’s director of external affairs, Scott Wightman.

The email, sent during the pandemic, came during an exchange about whether to add Spain to Scotland’s quarantine list.

Wightman objected to its addition to the list saying that although the decision was being made for health reasons, the Spanish government may hold a political grudge and block a future independent Scotland from joining the EU.

The email was sent on July 19, 2020 and Spain was shortly afterwards removed from the quarantine list, only to be added back on July 25.

A Scottish Labour source told the Herald the email showed “the extent of how pervasive the thought process of constitutional division has become in the civil service”.

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But top trade unionists representing civil servants hit back at the allegations, calling it "dangerous" and saying politicians of all stripes should know better.

Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA public services union, said: "Politicians, whether in government or opposition, have a responsibility to protect the impartiality of the civil service.

“That includes not making sweeping accusations about an entire service based on an individual incident, however legitimate that concern is."

Richard Hardy, trade union Prospect’s national secretary for Scotland, also hit back. He wrote: "The civil service exists to advise on and implement Government policy, it’s not ‘capture’ when they do this.

“It’s very disappointing to find politicians attacking the civil service for doing their job. We are seeing this behaviour far too often recently."

Allan Sampson, the national officer for Scotland for the FDA, penned a piece in the Times in which he argued that “to suggest that large swathes of Scottish civil servants were working in contravention of the civil service code just isn’t based in reality, and is having a corrosive effect on public trust in our institutions”.

Sampson said in his article, which was shared by the FDA: “We’re starting to see a series of attacks that paint civil servants as political operatives seeking to cover up for the government at Holyrood.

“For this to go unchallenged sets a dangerous precedent. A civil servant’s duty of impartiality means they cannot speak up to defend themselves publicly, so it is the responsibility of ministers to defend them.

“We’ve seen this far too often in Westminster over recent years, where politicians have been more than willing to throw their staff under a bus for political expediency.”