Monday, September 19, 2005
Agent provocateurs within SNP ranks during the 70's
Thank you for the kind messages I have received. I am still not remotely in blogging mood, but I have just received the following text from a trusted blogging colleague via email and I thought that it was worth publishing online, because my correspondent says that, for some reason, it was not published in the online edition of the Sunday Herald newspaper. I can't even be motivated to check that, or any other details out, but I'll take their word for it.
For my many two fans, I may be back soon, personal circumstances permitting. In the meantime, I have to say that the only blog I have read all week was www.politicalbetting.com - they had a good post on the Livingston and Cathcart by-elections a few days ago (plus yet another story doubting Gordon Brown's accession to the Throne of State: Could Charles Clarke upset the Gordon Brown succession?), and I am expecting more good coverage from Mike Smithson (from whom I also learn that the admirable blogger Anthony Wells, of UK Polling Report (see my sidebar) has been snatched up by YouGov). I eagerly await the bookies starting the books on those two contests!
Anyway, to the Sunday Herald story in hand. Here is the text as I received it:
"Not available online (21st August)"
Government SNP files sealed for 50 years
Government files on the Scottish National Party have been sealed for 50 years. Fuelling accusations they contain evidence of a state backed “dirty tricks”campaign to thwart independence.
A series of documents dating from the mid-70’s created just as the party was about to suffer a catastrophic collapse in it’s vote- have been marked “closed or retained” because they are deemed too sensitive to release.
More than 30 files on the SNP created by Harold Wilson’s Labour administrationare held in the national Archives in Surrey, the main government repository of public records. But while most are open to the public, it has emerged that a number covering a crucial period in the party’s history have been withheld.
Four files from the Home Office, the department responsible for national security, have been closed under the 30 year rule. One, however headed Scottish National Party: General from 1974-1976 has had it’s contents sealed for 50 years- a decision that can only be taken by the Lord Chancellor and a special advisory committee when a file contains especially sensitive information.
Another retained file which was closed in the 1970’s is entitled North Sea Oil: Scottish National Party.
The revelation that the government is holding secret files on the SNP last night sparked a major political row, with the party leadership in Westminster and veteran party members demanding the real release of the documents.
It will also add fuel to long held suspicions that Harold Wilson, under pressure from major SNP gains in the 1974 general elections, sanctioned the use of agent provocateurs to infiltrate and discredit the party.
Many nationalists active during the period have for decades laid the blame for the almost cataclysmic disintegration of the party’s vote over the following years on the activities on the intelligence services.
Nationalist MSP Christine Grahame , who has been an SNP member for 35 years andwhose office discovered the sealed files, said “It is frankly outrageous that the state is withholding these documents. I am certain their reasons for doing so will be connected to a long suspected dirty tricks campaign which was waged against the party by British unionists who were frankly in a panic about the rise of the SNP.”
Alex Salmond the SNP leader said: “One asks what the government has to hide in withholding the files. It does lead to the suspicion that the then Labour government was up to no good. They have no business keeping files on democratic political parties. I suppose it just tells you how paranoid the Labour government of the 1970’s and perhaps it’s Tory predecessor were.
”Rumours about agent provocateurs within nationalist ranks in the 1970’s haveraged for decades. It has been claimed that one such figure was Major Frederick Boothby, an ultra-nationalist who set up the 1320 Club - named after the date of the Declaration of Abroath. Boothby who began recruiting young men to the extremist cause in the 1970’s, published a magazine which contained instructions for bomb making and began a terror group called the Army of Provisional Government, giving himself the code number 01 and the nom de gurre, Clydesdale.
Adam Busby, the founder of the Scottish National Liberation Army, was another recruited by Boothby in the 1970’s. Busby too, it is claimed, was working forSpecial Branch.
It is known that government and police agents were used within the trade union movement in the 1970’s and nationalists believe, similar tactics were employed to stop any further gains by the SNP. By the end of the two general elections in1974, the nationalists had 11 MP’s and 30% of all votes cast in Scotland.
Labour, meanwhile, had just scraped a workable majority and the party in Scotland had suffered a major split.
In 1979- only five years later the SNP vote in the general election collapsedand the party spent a decade in the political wilderness.
Last night, however, political opponents accused the SNP of “ paranoia”. A Labour Party spokesman said “The SNP appears totally paranoid. All the evidence shows they are absolutely no threat whatever to the British state.
”A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said “This is a typical knee-jerk response from a party that refuses to accept that it has lost the argument and continues to hold a minority view.
”A spokeswoman for the national archives said she could not discuss why specific files had been closed, but added that documents were generally withheld because they contain sensitive information about national security or because they contained individual’s personal details.
”A spokesman for the department of constitutional affairs, formerly the Lord Chancellor’s department said, all requests under new freedom of information lawsto open files would be “considered” but that sensitive files would remain closed.
I particulartly liked the wee bit from the Tory spokesman about "minority views". It's the way you tell 'em.
It seems to me highly likely that this is true. This was in the 70s when MI5 were subverting the Wilson government & the Thorpe trial where the 2 major witnesses, Scott & Bessel, had at least connections to the secret service (not so clearly as Paddy Ashdown who was recently outed for those unaware of his membership before, during & after being Lib Dem leader).
Having myself done an FOI Act query as to the legal advice given about the Yugoslav War & been told that the government refuses to say if they even bothered to check & on a previous occasion whether there were UK officers involved in the Krajina Holocaust (there were certainly US) I take as a working assumption that people who refuse to deny guilt probably done it.
However deliberate subversion of parliamentary democracy by the secret services, with or without cabinet approval, is a bad thing & should be exposed & rooted out. The fact that the Scots media have decided that this is something on which they do not report is shameful.