A former deputy leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party has called on the spooks to stay out of the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future.
A former deputy leader of the Scottish National Party has called on the spooks to stay out of the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future.
Margo MacDonald, now an independent MSP, has argued that she believes MI5 agents are already operating undercover within the SNP as part of the security service’s remit to protect the UK “against threats to national security”.
In 2007 Scotland on Sunday revealed that classified government documents showed that secret service and special branch agents and officers infiltrated the SNP in the 1950s in an attempt to undermine efforts and support for independence.
Many nationalists believe the same occurred in the 1970s when Scotland’s oil boom raised fears in the heart of Whitehall that it could revive calls and support for independence.
The Sunday Herald has quoted MacDonald’s letter to Andrew Parker, director general of MI5, as saying:
“I will be obliged if you can give me an assurance that UK Security Services will not be used in any respect in the lead-up to the Scottish referendum on sovereignty, unless, of course, the Scottish police have sufficient evidence to justify normal responses to potentially overtly criminal acts.
“I do understand that the Security Services are vital to all the countries and regions of the British Isles and the potential for law-breaking may be heightened during the forthcoming campaign.
“As action on the Security Services’ part is calculated to keep communities safe and aid cohesion, I would welcome an assurance from you that this will continue, and that no other consideration will inform your Department’s work.”
Fuelling the suspensions likely to be felt by many in the nationalist movement, Crispin Black, a former intelligence adviser to Tony Blair and the Joint Intelligence Committee, has argued that MI5 will in all likelihood have the referendum debate and campaign on its radar.
Arguing that the vote next year is likely to have a knock on effect in Northern Ireland, Black was quoted in the Sunday Herald as saying:
“My guess is that MI5 would have the referendum on its radar, primarily to ensure its fairness. There’s definitely a national security angle to Scottish independence that the security services would be aware of, but my sense is that they would be stopping dirty tricks, rather than trying to initiate them.”
A spokesperson for Better Together told Left Foot Forward:
“The idea of MI5 getting involved in the referendum is pretty fanciful.
The real issue is what happens to our security and intelligence services if we separate from the UK. The nationalists need to bring forward credible answers to this important question, not more bluff and assertion.”
Both the Scottish government and Home Office declined to comment.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.