RISHI Sunak has come under fire over efforts to curb Scottish ministers' international engagement.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wrote to senior British diplomats earlier this month stating that all meetings involving SNP ministers and overseas governments must be organised through the Foreign Office and attended by UK officials and should not be organised directly between Scottish officials and overseas embassies.

He also asking British diplomats to take a “firm approach” to ensure the government in Edinburgh is not using overseas visits to promote independence and undermine UK policy.

The matter has led to anger among Scottish Government ministers who have a network of international offices across Europe working to enhance overseas trade relations and maintain ties with the EU post Brexit.

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It also has hubs in Washington DC, Beijing and Ottawa. The first two are inside the British Embassy offices in those capital cities, while the Beijing hub is located in the British High Commission bureau.

Mr Sunak was pressed today in the House of Commons on the new Foreign Office guidelines by SNP MP for Dundee West Chris Law.

"This week my city of Dundee not only announced its flights will be connecting with Heathrow but also the Scottish Government's commitment to Dundee has been at the forefront of making Scotland a major world economy both bringing investment, jobs and opportunity," said Mr Law, pictured below.

The Herald:

"However, the UK Government seems to have a problem with this. Mr. Speaker, Scotland's international engagement is to be reduced. Despite being paid for through Scotland's wealth and taxes. UK ambassadors and diplomats have been instructed to obstruct the Scottish Government's international engagement with every foreign nation worldwide told not to deal with the Scottish government directly. 

"This Mr. Speaker has already been described as like, quote, 'smacking of a parent trying and failing to control a teenager'.

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"So well, the Prime Minister assure me in the businesses, wealth creators and most importantly, my constituents that want to see Dundee and Scotland prosper. That whilst Scotland's short time left in this unequal union remain, Scotland will neither be back in a box, or bending knee."

Mr Sunak said that his government is "supporting the communities of Dundee" noting that the city received £14 million levelling up fund to support a green transport hub in the city centre.

He said the funding demonstrated that the UK government wanted "to invest in communities in Scotland, and deliver for Scottish people." 

The Foreign Secretary’s letter emerged earlier this month as Angus Robertson, the constitution minister, attended Tartan Week events in the US.

Mr Robertson has been repeatedly criticised for the number of times he is abroad. Last year he was overseas on official business on ten occasions. Scottish ministers made more than 50 international visits to 22 different countries.

Stephen Gethins, professor of international relations at St Andrews University and a former SNP MP, at the time said it was normal for Scottish ministers to carry out foreign visits and there were areas of international policy — such as energy — where the Scottish Government had a significant role to play.

The Foreign Secretary’s letter was also criticised by Dr Kirsty Hughes, the founder of the former think tank Scottish Centre on European Relations.

“It sounds like an irate boss desperately trying to micro manage,” she said.“Of course foreign policy is reserved, but they are taking a fact about reserved policy and turning it into something that makes them look ludicrous.”

The Scottish Government has said the Scotland Act made it clear that the reservation of international relations to the UK did not exclude Scottish ministers from communicating with other countries or regions as long as they did not purport to speak for the UK.