First Minister demands urgent assurances from David Cameron over GCHQ spying on MSPs

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Prime Minister David Cameron to seek assurances following reports that GCHQ has reversed a long-standing policy of not intercepting the communications of MSPs.

The Daily Record today published an excerpt from an internal GCHQ document, showing that the “Wilson doctrine” – which applies to the surveillance of parliamentarians’ communications – does not apply to “the interception of communications of Members of the European Parliament or devolved assemblies”.

The Wilson doctrine applies to all forms of interception that involve an application to the Secretary of State for a warrant.

It continues to apply to MPs and appears to have applied to MSPs and other devolved legislatures until new guidance was issued in March 2015.

Prime Minister David Cameron

The document came to light as part of an ongoing case at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) in London, where Caroline Lucas and Lady Jones of the Green Party of England and Wales are pursuing allegations that the Wilson doctrine was breached in order to capture their communications.

Counsel for the pair, Ben Jaffey and Jude Bunting, said of the new guidelines: “All protection for devolved legislators has been removed.”

Mr Jaffey said he agreed exceptional grounds could justify the interception of an MP’s communications, but “strict safeguards to protect parliamentary communications are an important bulwark for the protection of the public interest”.

Ms Sturgeon argued in her letter that the application of the Wilson doctrine “is just as important for MSPs as it is for MPs”.

She asked the Prime Minister a number of questions, including whether the reports are correct and whether MSPs’ communications have actually been intercepted.

She also sought immediate confirmation that the intelligence agencies will treat MSPs in the same way as Westminster members and confirmed that the Scottish government was not consulted on changes to the doctrine ahead of the apparent change in policy.

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