FORMER Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael today admitted leaking a diplomatic memo about Nicola Sturgeon’s opinion of Ed Miliband during the election campaign.
The leak suggested Nicola Sturgeon told the French Ambassador she wanted David Cameron to remain as prime minister.
Liberal Democrat Mr Carmichael conceded he should not have agreed to the document being made public by his special adviser, Euan Roddin.
Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood ordered an inquiry into how the note, which claimed that Ms Sturgeon told ambassador Sylvie Bermann that she would prefer to see Conservatives remain in power after the general election, got into the public domain.
The Cabinet Office investigation concluded that Mr Carmichael “could and should have stopped the sharing of the memo” and added that he “accepts responsibility for what occurred”.
Mr Carmichael, who is now Scotland’s only Lib Dem MP after the party lost 10 of its 11 seats north of the border, said that, while he had not seen the document before it was published by the Daily Telegraph, he was “aware of its content and agreed that my special adviser should make it public”.
He stated: “I should not have agreed this. It was an error of judgment which I regret.
“I accept full responsibility for the publication of the document.
“I have written today to the First Minister and to the French Ambassador to apologise to them both.”
Mr Carmichael added: “Had I still been a government minister, I would have considered this to be a matter that required my resignation. I have therefore informed the Cabinet Secretary that I will decline my ministerial severance payment.”
Ms Sturgeon, the SNP leader, tweeted that she had received a letter from Mr Carmichael “apologising for leak and accepting that contents of memo not correct”.
The Liberal Democrat had already confirmed that the memo, containing an account of a private meeting between Ms Sturgeon and the French ambassador, was written in the Scotland Office.
The note went on to say that Ms Sturgeon said she did not think Labour leader Ed Miliband was ‘’prime minister material’’.
At the time Ms Sturgeon insisted that the contents of the memo were ‘’100% untrue’’.
The leaked document was written by a British civil servant following a conversation with consul-general Pierre-Alain Coffinier regarding a meeting between Ms Sturgeon and Ms Bermann, who was on her first visit to Scotland in February.
In his letter to the Scottish First Minister, Mr Carmichael said: “I wish to inform you that I am taking full responsibility for the publication of that document when I was Secretary of State.
“I accept that its publication was a serious breach of protocol and that the details of that account are not correct.”
He added: “I am clear that this was an error of judgment on my part and wish to offer you my sincere apologies for the embarrassment caused to you and the French ambassador.”