BY RUTH LEVINE
In the last few years, as this magazine has reported before, the last resort of the beaten has been to smear opponents with Russian collusion. The Democrats in the US were first (they have now switched tack to “the Ukrainians”), Continuity Remain in the UK were next (who through the likes of Dominic Grieve rant on about the “Russian Dossier” and Brexit campaign meddling) and then the UK Lunatic Left followed, clustered around the fantasist Carole Cadwalladr (this group of tin-foilers recently accused Boris Johnson’s friend Evgeny Lebedev of being a KGB asset, and the Tories of being the playthings of rich Russian oligarchs).
The problem with these smears is clear for all with a brain to see – they are all distractions, even misdirection plays, which take one’s eyes off actual Russian interference in the West.
Yes, we know all about the Russian bots and the Russian troll farms. Such aspects of Russian statecraft are real – they are far cheaper than keeping up with the latest nuclear submarine or soft robotic military exosuit. They are designed to make Russia seem more important than it is – keeping their boot in a door that would otherwise likely close on them. Yes, we know about Russian interference in failed states like Syria and Venezuela; interference designed to annoy the US and its allies rather than threaten them directly. And yes, we know – as do the Skripals and the Litvinenko family – about Russia’s spiteful chasing down of expats who turned their backs on Russian security services or left Russia with pockets overflowing with money.
The key issue few are talking about this General Election is what Russia actually cares about – keeping afloat Russia’s ramshackle economy by selling countries like Scotland and other Russian gas-buying nations in Europe as much fuel as possible at the expense of competitors. Why are the UK newspapers not full of reports about how the Russian TV station Russia Today has run a concerted anti-fracking campaign for years now, targeted at UK audiences? At one point RT claimed that “frackers are the moral equivalent of paedophiles”. Former SNP leader Alex Salmond has hosted a weekly show on RT since November 2017. Ex-Nationalist MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh also works on the programme.
Ask yourself why would Sputnik headquarter in Edinburgh? Like a number of Russian news outlets, Sputnik is operated and funded by an agency of the Russian Government and has been accused of spreading misinformation, conspiracy spreading, and even espionage. Fourteen people, many of them Scottish, now work at Sputnik’s UK bureau at the Exchange Tower in Edinburgh, a short walk from Bute House, official residence of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Scotland has an acute fuel crisis which is dependent on Russian gas imports. Yet in 2013, the SNP introduced a moratorium to stop fracking while a decision was reached about its future in Scotland’s energy mix: “The Scottish Government conducted one of the most far reaching investigations into unconventional oil and gas of any government, including three public consultations. After analysing well over 60,000 responses and listening to independent experts, the Scottish Government has concluded that fracking is incompatible with its climate change commitments. As a result, we do not support the development of fracking in Scotland.”
The SNP knows full well that fracking or INEOS gas from the US are viable options out of the crisis. No, they are content singing to Vladimir Putin’s tune.
As Matt Ridley points out in this detailed article published this month in The Critic:
“The Russians also lobbied behind the scenes against shale gas, worried about losing their grip on the world’s gas supplies. Unlike most conspiracy theories about Russian meddling in Western politics, this one is out there in plain sight. The head of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the Russians, as part of a sophisticated disinformation operation, “engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations — environmental organisations working against shale gas — to maintain Europe’s dependence on imported Russian gas”.
The SNP has gone further than smear fracking for its Russian providers. Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson recently succeeded in her bid to stop an SNP leaflet which accused her of accepting a £14,000 donation from “a fracking company”. Ms Swinson asked the Court of Session in Edinburgh to stop the Royal Mail from distributing the leaflet in her East Dunbartonshire constituency. The SNP’s QC had argued there was no “substantial untruth” in the leaflet.
The SNP deny having close relations with Russia. The reality is very different:
SNP MSP, Richard Lyle, had discussions with one of Putin’s diplomats about re-constituting a cross-party group (CPG) on Russia at Holyrood after Skripal. Jim Sillars, the party’s former deputy leader, last year set up a new group – “Edinburgh-Russian Conversations” – whose members travelled to Moscow to meet institutes and think tanks. He said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was not informed. Sillars also said Nationalist MSP Alex Neil helped organise a meeting at Holyrood last month which was attended by the grandson of the Soviet Union’s former foreign minister and supported by Vladimir Putin’s state diplomatic service.
When will the MSM point out to Scottish voters that the SNP is in Putin’s pocket? When will the voice of the likes of INEOS be heard? And when will Scotland’s energy crisis be addressed in a way whereby Scotland can serve its own needs or become less dependent on one country’s strings-attached fuel?