THE SNP has called on the UK Government to urgently clarify how many papers have been “lost” from the National Archives.

The Westminster Government was forced to admit yesterday that hundreds of papers have gone missing from the Archives, including documents relating to Northern Ireland’s Troubles, the Falklands War and British dealings with Palestine and Israel after the Second World War.

Perhaps most extraordinary of all, the Zinoviev Letter, which was at the heart of one of the great political and spy scandals of the 20th century, is said to be among the missing documents.

The Letter was produced by MI6 officers plotting to bring about the downfall of the first Labour government.

Published by The Daily Mail four days before the 1924 election, the Zinoviev Letter purported to be a directive from the top Communist official in Moscow calling on British Communists to mobilise support among the Labour Party.

It led to a huge scandal and Labour was ousted from office.

The Home Office declined to say why it was removed from the archives, how it was lost or whether any copies were made. It was claimed yesterday that up to 1000 files may be missing, though whether these have been destroyed or just misplaced is not known.

It has not been revealed how many of the missing files related to Scotland and Scottish affairs, even though the periods for which files are missing included the growth of the SNP in the 1970s and the first devolution referendum.

There is genuine fear among Scottish historians and politicians that UK Government incompetence may harm research into Scottish matters.

An SNP spokesman said: “The loss of thousands of historical records on some of the most contentious and sensitive events in the UK’s past really does demonstrate gross incompetence from the UK Government.

“It must urgently clarify how many papers were taken from the National Archives, were reported lost and then found, how many are still unaccounted for, what the records detail — and if there are any records relating to Scotland included.

“There are also questions to answer over why these records were removed from public viewing in the first place, and the shambolic procedure in place that has led to the loss of thousands of papers.

“The SNP will be seeking answers from the UK Government when parliament returns from recess in the new year.”

Labour’s shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said: “The ‘loss’ of documents about controversial periods in history is unacceptable.

“The British people deserve to know what the Government has done in their name and their loss of these items will only fuel accusations of a cover-up.

“These important historical documents may be a great loss to history — and their disappearance must be urgently investigated.”

Politicians, historians and researchers expressed their view on social media.

SNP MSP James Dornan tweeted: “If it happened in Russia, for example, we’d be up in arms about corrupt governments but hey this is the British way to avoid scrutiny of its past misdeeds.”

Dundee-born former MP George Galloway tweeted just seven words: “It is a state lie, nothing less.

Historian Mark Curtis posted on Twitter: “As a historian, it’s impossible to believe this ‘loss’.” The declassified files themselves show govts’ view the public largely as a threat that could cause elites to change strategy - something that is not acceptable. The threat to democracy is deeply embedded.”

A National Archives spokesman said: “The National Archives regularly sends lists to Government departments of files that they have out on loan.

“If we are notified that a file is missing, we do ask what actions have been done and what action is being taken to find the file.”