A FORMER leading UK diplomat has criticised Jeremy Hunt for deciding to block Foreign Office support for the First Minister on overseas visits.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard pointed out to The National that embassies serve the whole of the UK “irrespective of party politics and policies”. He made the comments when asked for his views on the Foreign Secretary’s decision this week to withhold logistical assistance to Nicola Sturgeon when she travelled abroad in her role as First Minister.

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.

However when the First Minister visited Brussels earlier this month she did not receive Foreign Office support. Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, was also refused the usual support. One EU27 ambassador earlier this week described Hunt’s decision as “petty”.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon reacts to Jeremy Hunt cutting off support for trips abroad

READ MORE: These are Jeremy Hunt's past 'dodgy dealings' according to the SNP

Lord Kerr underlined the stance taken when he was an ambassador and assisting with diplomatic visits by Labour’s Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Robin Cook and John Prescott during the time when John Major was Conservative prime minister.

“When ambassador in Washington before the 1997 election, I arranged visits by Mr Blair, Mr Brown, Mr Cook, Mr Prescott and other key opposition leaders,” he told The National.

“Prime Minister Major knew, and was entirely supportive. As permanent representative in Brussels before the 1992 Election I had similarly arranged programmes for Mr Smith and other Labour leaders, again with Prime Minister Major’s full support. “

He added: “Her Majesty’s Embassies serve the whole country, irrespective of party politics and policies.”

The National:

Lord Kerr, the architect of Article 50 and a cross-bench peer, has previously been critical of the UK Government’s handling of Brexit.

In July 2017 he accused Theresa May of putting the Union at risk by not properly involving Scotland in Brexit.

The former diplomat who drafted the “divorce” clause allowing member states to leave the EU, accused May of a lack of consultation with Scottish ministers on the Brexit White Paper and the Article 50 letter.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Kerr called on her to “come good” on her promises to build UK positions in the negotiations. “That means making a reality of consultation with the devolved administrations,” he said. “We need less arrogance and more democracy, at home as well as abroad.”

Hunt suggested earlier this week that Foreign Office support would 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”.

The First Minister’s spokesman said Sturgeon had “simply restated the long-standing position” of the Scottish Government on overseas visits. He added it would be “naive to think” Hunt’s comments had “nothing to do with the Tory leadership race”.

He said: “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.”