Scotland’s civil service has been “captured wholesale” by the SNP, a senior Labour source has claimed.

The accusation comes after an email shared with the UK Covid Inquiry showed a senior official warning ministers during the pandemic that holding Spain to "a much higher level of scrutiny” when judging travel exemptions could have an impact on an independent Scotland being allowed into the EU.

"It won't matter how much ministers might justify it on health grounds,” Scott Wightman, the Director of External Affairs said. “The Spanish Government will conclude it is entirely political; they won't forget; there is a real possibility they will never approve EU membership for an independent Scotland as a result."

The Herald:

READ MORE: Tories demand probe into 'politicised' Government officials under SNP

The message, sent to Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and other senior figures, has already sparked a row, with the Scottish Conservatives writing to Permanent Secretary John-Paul Marks asking him to investigate.

A Labour source told the Herald on Sunday: "That a civil servant would not just think this way but contribute it to a policy discussion shows the extent of how pervasive the thought process of constitutional division has become in the civil service.

“They have been captured wholesale and the lines between political interest and public service have not just become blurred, they have disappeared."

They also described it as a “terrible take on international relations".

“The idea that a Spanish government would set a decades-old week-long slight in the chaos of a pandemic ahead of the threat of domestic secessionist movements is risible.

“It calls into question the quality of advice ministers are receiving as well as the loss of perspective and clear analysis.”

The day after Mr Wightman’s email, Scotland lifted its restrictions on Spain, before then reinstating them five days later alongside the rest of the UK when Covid numbers there worsened.

The Scottish Government has insisted both decisions - which were announced by then Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf - were taken on the basis of epidemiological evidence.

READ MORE: Civil servant said Spain may block EU entry if travel not allowed

In a letter to John Paul Marks, the Scottish Government's Permanent Secretary, Tory MSP Donald Cameron said an independent Scotland applying for EU membership could not possibly be within the remit of a civil servant in a devolved administration.

He asked Mr Marks if he therefore considered it had been “an expression of a political view”.

Urging Mr Marks to enforce the Civil Service Code, which requires staff to be politically neutrality, Mr Cameron said the apparent impartiality risked undermining public trust.

Commenting on his letter, the Tory MSP added: “Much of the evidence at the UK Covid Inquiry points to an alarming and unacceptable politicisation of Scottish civil servants working for the SNP Government.

“Civil servants have a duty to be politically neutral yet it’s clear that many are, or were, acting in the SNP’s political interests. This is wrong.

“Of course, the danger of civil servants ‘going native’ is not helped when SNP ministers deploy them on areas that are outwith the Scottish Government’s remit, such as their independence propaganda papers.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic the prime focus and intention of Ministers, clinicians and officials across the Scottish Government was to protect the people of Scotland from the harms of Covid 19, as noted in the closing statement made to the UK Covid 19 Inquiry Module 2A hearings. 

"The Permanent Secretary will respond to the letter received in due course.”