SNP MI5 conspiracy theory is spy thriller nonsense that distracts from real-world issues – Christine Jardine

Did Security Service operatives, trained to love square sausage and Irn-Bru, infiltrate the SNP’s inner sanctum? Come on guys, let’s be serious, says Christine Jardine

Just when you think you have heard everything in politics, every conceivable excuse, up pops perhaps the most imaginative one yet. It was MI5 what did it, pal. Yes, it is true. It seems that after 16 years in power, including one term with an outright majority, the failure of the SNP to persuade the Scottish people to jump ship from the UK was all because of unionist subterfuge.

Not because of dissatisfaction with the state of our NHS, anger at failing education standards or frustration at the growing cost of those ferries. Nor the results of realising during the pandemic that the strength and size of the UK Exchequer and the economy were positive reasons for the Union. Nor was it the emotional ties we all have to family in the rest of the UK that swung the argument. No, it was spooks. British spies in the nationalist camp.

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One could be forgiven for thinking that we have reached a new level of buck-passing, something of an SNP speciality, in Scottish politics. But I can’t help wonder if this is all some clever ruse to promote an upcoming Le Carre-esque spy thriller.

A sort of ‘Tinker Tailor Tartan Trews’ expose of a pro-UK cell acting as a conduit for vital information that Holyrood would prefer to keep clear of the clutches of ‘Big Brother’ in Westminster. That, in claiming the Security Service is anti-Scottish, the originator of this particular conspiracy theory – apparently a former MSP called Campbell Martin – is actually laying the groundwork for a piece of fiction.

It might feature a handful of operatives, presumably well-trained in the love of square sausage and Irn-Bru, which has infiltrated the inner sanctum of the SNP. There they have painstakingly won the trust of the leadership and encouraged them down an independence cul-de-sac, for which they will be rewarded with a cottage in the Highlands and a new identity.

One alternative, that it is true, is about as realistic as the notion that a Claudia Winkleman-like figure in a black cloak with oversized hood is manipulating the team around the First Minister. That only she knows who are the faithful and who are the traitors amongst the Cabinet Secretaries. I know. I know. It is ridiculous and laughable.

Except that it is not really. I found myself reading the various accounts this week with something approaching horror. I fear they could gain the same credence as the outrageous pre-referendum claims of a giant secret oil field in the North Sea. Or be corrupted in the same way as 15-minute neighbourhoods – a proposal to make sure we are all within easy reach of basic community facilities and shops, which has been portrayed to the vulnerable as a plot to keep us imprisoned in our homes.

Come on guys, let’s be serious. This nonsense is beneath you, us all in fact. The debate about our nation’s future and our children’s well-being should not become a stream of fantasy and nonsense. We have a cost-of-living crisis to overcome, a health service to support and a war in Europe to worry about. Can we leave the spy thriller stuff to guys like Robert Harris and our books at bedtime?

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West



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