MICHAEL Russell has dodged questions about the SNP’s contact with data firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) after fresh information emerged about the party’s dealings with it.

The Brexit minister refused to discuss the full extent of the SNP contacts, and instead said the company was trying to create a “smokescreen” to distract from its own affairs.

Last week, after a former CA employee revealed the SNP had been talking to the firm, Nicola Sturgeon claimed her party had shown “complete transparency” on the matter.

READ MORE: Second key SNP figure caught up in Cambridge Analytica row

However there has since been a drip-drip of new information undermining her claim.

The Herald reported that, in addition to the “external consultant” the SNP admitted met the firm in London, the SNP’s head of IT, Chris Jones, was also talking to CA in February 2016.

It followed CA claiming on Tuesday that the SNP had approached it to discuss work.

The firm has since been linked to a privacy breach affecting up to 87m Facebook users.

Mr Russell told BBC Radio Scotland: “We have never worked with Cambridge Analytica. We have never used any of its services or paid them a penny.”

READ MORE: SNP consultant who met Cambridge Analytica named as key figure in party's digital operations

Asked if the SNP approached the firm rather than the other way round, he dodged the questions and suggested his interviewer ask different ones.

He said: “Cambridge Analytica shot to prominence about six weeks ago when there was a secret film of its chief executive talking about dirty tricks.

“I clearly think what should be asked is not what Cambridge Analytica is saying about the SNP [but] what are they trying to hide about their own work by this smokescreen?

“Because the situation with the SNP is entirely clear. I repeat it. The meeting was set up in London. One person attended on the SNP’s behalf. Attempts by the company to follow up the meeting weren’t reciprocated.

“The SNP has never worked with Cambridge Analytica, its services or paid thema penny. And why? Because they’re cowboys, and clearly now we know they’re lying cowboys.”

Mr Russell was then asked if, as the Herald reported, there was a conference call between CA, Mr Jones and external consultant Kirk J Torrance before the meeting in London.

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He said: “I don’t accept anything Cambridge Analytica said because the attempt going on is unfortunately to distract from the ;links that Cambridge Analytica has with a vast number of others including lots of Tory politicians who are in the company.

“We are absolutely clear: there was nothing wrong in the meeting that took place because we sussed out pretty quickly they weren’t people we wanted to work with.

“I think you should be asking, with respect, what’s Cambridge Analytica trying to hide by this smokescreen, because it’s clearly trying to hide something.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: "This car-crash interview once again makes a mockery of SNP claims to be transparent on its dealings with Cambridge Analytica. 

"Reports by Cambridge Analytica themselves directly contradict what the SNP has been saying for a week now – and what Nicola Sturgeon said at First Minister’s Questions last Thursday.

"Enough is enough. The SNP must answer basic questions over its dealings with Cambridge Analytica – not demand journalists ask them different ones. 

"The SNP could clear up this mess right now by disclosing who attended this meeting and any documentation associated with it.

"Instead Nicola Sturgeon looks increasingly detached from reality by claiming the party has acted transparently.”