Nicola Sturgeon: UK government 'negligent' over Russian interference

Nicola Sturgeon has said the UK government is guilty of “negligence” over its handling of potential interference from Russia in British domestic politics.

Nicola Sturgeon has said the UK government is guilty of “negligence” over its handling of potential interference from Russia in British domestic politics.
Nicola Sturgeon has said the UK government is guilty of “negligence” over its handling of potential interference from Russia in British domestic politics.

The First Minister said there was no room for "complacency” in terms of Russian influence and that the UK government should have taken “greater steps to find out" if Vladimir Putin had tried to interfere in the Scottish independence and Brexit referenda.

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At the government's daily coronavirus briefing she was asked about the Intelligence and Security Committee report published just hours earlier, which she said "seems to be very explicit that they haven't even bothered to look into” the Brexit vote.

Nicola Sturgeon says UK government 'negligent' over Russian interference claims

The report, whose publication was delayed by Boris Johnson's government prior to the 2019 General Eelction, states that Russian influence in UK politics was the “new normal", with government ministers failing to act despite knowledge of attempts at interference in the 2014 Scottish referendum.

The UK Government said there was "no evidence" of successful Russian interference in the Brexit vote but the report concludes there was no proper investigation.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Firstly, we should not be at any point complacent about the possibility of Russian interference in our democratic processes.

"Secondly, I don't think you can really draw any conclusions from the three lines or thereabouts that the report has on the Scottish independence referendum, but I would include that in my general remarks about not being complacent about Russian interference, although I would say that the Scottish independence movement and the values I and my party stand for I don't think could be further removed from the kind of values that Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime stand for.

"On the Brexit referendum, it appears that the committee concludes that there's no evidence of interference there because the UK government hasn't looked for it.

"The main message out of an initial reading of this report would be what I think could possibly be described as negligence on the part of the UK government in the face of potential Russian interference. I hope that this report leads to a much more rigorous approach and to the UK government taking these threats to our democratic processes much more seriously than they appear to have been doing so far."

Asked if she believed Russia had tried to interfere in the Scottish independence referendum, she said: "I only know what I read in the report this morning, which is about three lines and a footnote, which seems to suggest that the only evidence the committee was able to source was open source – it wasn't UK intelligence or security information.

"So I don't know that. But what I'm saying is the UK government should be taking greater steps to find out, whether it's about that part of our democratic process or the Brexit vote where the report seems to be very explicit that they haven't even bothered to look into that.

"This is a report that has been kept hidden from the public for months. Now that it's out there, I think the questions that should be asked are for the UK Government who are the government responsible for intelligence and security matters."

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