14 June 2009


A bit of enjoyable, winking journalism in the Sunday Herald today, reporting “secret” US Government files which the journal has got its type-print stained mits on. The sirloin of the story – although a lean cut – impressionistically and briskly quotes sections of cables apparently generated by the American consulate in Edinburgh’s Regent Terrace and forwarded to their fellows in the Embassy in London. The subject of the memos? The Maximum Eck, Alex Salmond. The article suggests that the cables “expose” an “obsessive interest in Nationalist plans to break up the UK”. The interest presumably being exposed isn’t Mr Salmond’s – who is not terrifically coy about his secessionist peccadilloes – but the other-Atlantic end of things.

Casting a leery eye across the rest of tale, the promising dirk-and-cloak overtones of how the Sunday Herald acquired this information collapses flatulently with the admission that:

"The material was requested three years ago from the Bush administration using freedom of information laws but has only just been released. It reveals a senior SNP member privately briefed American officials in Scotland about internal SNP splits.”

Nevertheless, one can amuse oneself by conspiratorialising about why the Americans might have an interest in our local, low-key tumults – and indeed the obvious questions about what our own Secret Services “do” about the Scottish Nationalists.

Starting on the star spangled front, as was shown by the mixed reactions to the declaration of independence in Kosovo in 2008 – frog-mouthed commitments to “self determination” tend to fizzle away to plaintive croaks when some local self-determiners threaten the unity of the whole. Americans are forced here to keep one eye on Texas. Chinese officials may well avoid a creature like Alex Salmond, wary of Tibetan echoes. Proximity and legitimacy can be readily related and international consistency requires that dissonant messages are suppressed. For an example of what I mean, consider the following analysis of Texan secessionist language from the rambunctious and arch-liberal Keith Olbermann of MSNBC:

Which brings us onto the national question, what are MI5 doing about the SNP? After all, their interests are those of Great Britain, and as it currently stands, Alex Salmond represents the greatest threat to that unity. As we know, Strathclyde police have admitted to attempting to buy into the environmental group Plane Stupid, saying that “Officers of Strathclyde Police will, from time to time, engage with members of the public and protest groups to gather intelligence which will enable them to discharge that duty effectively.” After a contested freedom of information request, Strathclyde Police revealed that they had spent £762,459 on informers between 2004 and 2008. If this is what the polis are up to, the possibilities for secret service activity are clearly very wide. It is highly probable that there are “Daniel Defoes” in the high-level echelons of the SNP organization, and indeed perhaps in the Scottish Cabinet itself. This doesn’t seem to me likely to be swivel-eyed, straw-grasping paranoia, but simply probable given what is at stake. Its what I’d do if I was MI5 director.

You can amuse yourself by trying to pick out the perfectly unsuspected mole in the party line up, and recall John Clerk of Penicuik’s comment from his memoirs, respecting Daniel Defoe’s covert role in Edinburgh during the 1706 process which lead to the Acts of Union: “He was a spy among us, but not known as such, otherwise the Mob of Edinburgh would pull him to pieces.” The capital’s crowd is a mite less keen on lynchings these days. In our own times, Captain Porteous would probably avoid his staggering march down the West Bow, and the sharp rope awaiting him. Its still a risky game to play, even without the peril of the noose. Naturally, I’ve no idea who has been slyly on the make and on the take in the SNP, but I’ve no doubt the Secret Services must be up to something, and someone on the inside will be hawking out their aged, compromised wares.

1 comment :

  1. Intrigue, intrigue, now who could it be
    Umpteen to chose from, but I know it's not me.