NICOLA Sturgeon has branded Jeremy Hunt “childish and pathetic” after he denied her Foreign Office support on an overseas trip in case she promoted independence.

The First Minister’s office said Mr Hunt was helping to make the case for independence by showing why Scotland need to represent itself.

It also suggested the Foreign Secretary was trying to "flex his muscles" in the Tory leadership race with the stunt.

Mr Hunt launched his bid for Number 10 on Monday behind a picture of a Union Jack and the slogan "Unite to Win".

Ms Sturgeon is in Brussels today to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker and EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

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She also gave a speech at the European Policy Centre on the Scottish Government’s support for continued EU membership and opposition to Brexit.

The UK Government ordinarily provides diplomatic and logistical support to the devolved governments on overseas trips, assistance that was integral to Ms Sturgeon’s recent visits to North America and China.

However the Telegraph revealed Mr Hunt had taken the highly unusual step of refusing to provide Foreign Office support in Brussels as Ms Sturgeon was promoting a position at odds with the UK Government's.

Whitehall confirmed the Foreign Secretary had “requested that the Scottish Government provide its own logistical support for this visit”.

Asked about the move, Ms Sturgeon told BBC Scotland: “I understand that’s the Foreign Office position. It’s pretty childish and pathetic if it is the case.

“It’s not causing me to lose any sleep, it’s not really making any real practical difference to my meetings here today.


“But I do think it offers a bit of a window into just what’s going on in the Conservative party right now, where they’re not only ignoring Scotland’s interests but they’re trying to undermine the Scottish Government in standing up for those interests.

“It’s quite a remarkable and extraordinary state of affairs.”

The FM’s official spokesman said the Foreign Office’s support would have been minimal in Brussels, as the Scottish Government already has a permanent office there which assisted.

He said: “Obviously Jeremy Hunt is in the middle of a Tory leadership contest and feels the need to flex his muscles.

“The Tory leadership contenders seem to be lining up one by one to do our work for us.

“If it’s not Boris Johnson making a horrendous gaffe on tax, it’s Jeremy Hunt proving why Scotland should represent itself internationally.

“If the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] are now saying openly that they’re refusing to give Scotland the same level of support and representation as they would the rest of the UK, then it surely demonstrates more strongly than ever why Scotland should be represented independently. So thanks, Jeremy.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon brands Conservative leadership contest a ‘horror show’

Mr Johnson yesterday caused an outcry with plans for a tax break for the well-off which would have seen national insurance bills rise by up to £3000 in Scotland, but not England.

A UK Government spokesman said: “The UK Government’s extensive network of diplomatic staff regularly provides support to the UK’s devolved administrations for visits relating to areas for which they have a devolved responsibility.

“However a balance must be struck to avoid supporting activities intended to campaign for policies contrary to HMG’s position.

“On this occasion, the Foreign Secretary has requested that the Scottish Government provide its own logistical support for this visit.”