Downing Street has deleted a blog that talks up the economic prospects of Scottish independence, sparking concerns it was actively stifling freedom of speech.
The SNP condemned the move and said it showed the government was “terrified” of the growing support for a Yes vote.
It comes after a high-profile scientist warned the removal of the article, co-authored by a Westminster adviser, encroached on freedom of speech.
Published on the London School of Economics (LSE) website, the blog was co-written by Geoffrey Chapman, who works with the Department for International Trade. The analysis concluded that there are no reasons to suggest an independent Scotland “would not succeed economically”.
The article was removed on April 1 after being used in reports by the Scottish press. A statement on the website said the article would be made available again soon. Eight days on, the article has not reappeared.
Downing Street has not denied that it ordered the deletion, stating only: “This is not the view of the Department for International Trade or the UK government, and the matter is being looked into.” Officials stressed that Chapman is a civil servant who is duty-bound to adhere to standards of “impartiality” and “integrity”.
One SNP candidate at the upcoming election said the move showcased “a chilling glimpse into the mind of a UK Tory government”.
SNP candidate for Paisley, George Adam, told The National: “[Downing Street] doesn’t even deny that it is trying to curtail academic freedom by censoring these views. But all they have succeeded in doing is demonstrating how terrified Boris Johnson and his colleagues are at rising support for Scottish independence.
“There are only so many times the Tories at Westminster can try and hide the reality of a prosperous and fair independent Scotland. The report by Geoffrey Chapman highlighted how Scotland needs the full powers of independence to maximise our potential.
“But the serious questions this episode raises serious questions about protecting freedom of speech will not go away. In a free democracy, people should be allowed to express their opinions and suppression like this tells you everything you need to know about Boris Johnson’s government.”
Dr Mike Galsworthy – a visiting researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and co-founder of Scientists for EU – expressed fears about academic freedoms being suppressed and warned the “paranoid” behaviour of Westminster was a particular threat to Scotland.
He said: “There are an increasing number of areas where we should have the capacity for free and open debate and democracy where we are not getting it in the UK as a whole – and I think there’s a danger of seeing that more acutely in Scotland.”
He added: “Given the behaviour of the government under the control of the Conservative Party … I would say that democracy of the Scottish people is under threat. It will take a very robust rearrangement of some sort in order to set that right.”