Nicola Sturgeon will continue to argue for Scottish independence on overseas visits despite moves by the Foreign Office to withdraw official support for such trips.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK Government was "not going to offer support to Nicola Sturgeon if she goes abroad to drum up support for independence".

The comments came as Mr Hunt is battling former London mayor Boris Johnson to become the UK's next prime minister.

He has been accused of trying to boost his Conservative leadership campaign by withdrawing the support.

READ MORE: Jeremy Hunt cuts off overseas support for Nicola Sturgeon to protect the Union

The row first erupted when the the Foreign Office refused to support Sturgeon’s trip to Brussels to meet Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, two weeks ago.


The first minister gave a speech attacking Brexit and extolling her government’s pro-EU, pro-independence stance.

Nicola Sturgeon's spokesman said "The First Minister is not going to be prevented from saying what she thinks in terms of Scotland's future.

"That is the essence of being a democratically elected leader, you are able to chart a course for the country and say how you think it should be governed, that's part of the job "If Jeremy Hunt's position is that Scotland shouldn't be afforded the same level of representation overseas as rUK (the rest of the UK), then he's making our case for us –he's making the argument for independence and for Scotland to represent itself internationally.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon calls Jeremy Hunt 'childish and pathetic' after Brussels snub

"Jeremy Hunt is in the middle of a leadership campaign against Boris Johnson so this would appear to relate to that."

He added: "Jeremy Hunt is making our argument for us."

The First Minister's office hit out after Mr Hunt told the Daily Mail: "It had come to my notice that there were trips that the Foreign Office was facilitating that were being used to give a platform for independence.


"So we are not going to offer support to Nicola Sturgeon if she goes abroad to drum up support for independence and that is exactly why I am the prime minister that she least wants because she knows I won't allow our union to be broken up."

Normally, ministers from the Scottish Government or other devolved administrations can get help from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with travel, setting up meetings or using facilities such as the British embassy network.

In future, it has been suggested this will only happen when Scottish ministers are making trips relating "to areas for which they have a devolved responsibility" and if they "avoid supporting activities intended to campaign for policies contrary to (the UK) Government's position".

Ms Sturgeon's spokesman said the First Minister had "simply restated the long-standing position" of the Scottish Government on overseas visits.

READ MORE: Jeremy Hunt: Preserving the Union comes before Brexit

He added it would be "naive to think" Mr Hunt's comments had "nothing to do with the Tory leadership race".

Nicola Sturgeon's spokesman added: It's quite an extraordinary state of affairs for a would be Tory Prime Minister, who espouses the values of the union, to actively suggest that Scotland should not have the same level of representation as the rest of the UK.

"Whatever happens it is not going to stop the First Minister of the Scottish Government representing Scotland internationally - that is part of the job and that part of the job will continue regardless.

"Let's wait and see how real this actually is.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We have not been notified of any change in policy by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the established practices which have now been in place for 20 years.

"We continue to operate as normal."