Russia '˜set to U-turn on support for Scottish independence'

Russia is poised to change its stance on Scottish independence and oppose the country's withdrawal from the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote, a closed-door meeting at the Scottish Parliament has been told.

Russia had formerly been sympathetic to the idea of Scottish independence. Picture: TASS via Getty Images

The Kremlin was previously sympathetic to the SNP’s cause of independence but disapproves of the party’s commitment to rejoining the EU if it achieves its aim, experts on Russian propaganda told the gathering on Wednesday.

Holyrood’s cross-party group on Russia was told that media organisations working on behalf of the Kremlin were now expected “to support Scotland being in the UK”, according to a report in the Herald newspaper.

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Russia’s change of heart is likely to have been motivated by its desire to weaken Western institutions such as the European Union, which has been dealt a serious blow by Brexit.

Green MSP Andy Wightman, who chairs the group, said: “One of the speakers argued that ‘Russia does not have an ideology to export. What it exports is trouble’.

“During the independence referendum, Kremlin-funded media outlets promoted stories about a rigged referendum and have taken a close interest in Scottish nationalist politics ever since.”

He added: “I was particularly struck therefore by the view that as the UK embarks on the process of leaving the EU, that ‘trouble’ is best fomented not by supporting secessionist sentiment but by promoting unionist sentiment.

“In short, the departure of the UK [from the EU] is a bigger deal that Scottish independence.”

Russia has several state-funded news outlets that operate in the UK, including the TV station RT and the news agency Sputnik, which opened a base in Edinburgh last year. Martin Docherty, the SNP’s candidate for West Dunbartonshire at next month’s general election, told the Herald that Russia’s previous support for Scottish independence had been a “cynical ploy”.

He added: “I have long maintained that the values of organisations like RT and Sputnik have been inimical to our own, in that they are opposed to the modern global system of respect for international law, and the sovereignty of small states.

“For Russian Government propaganda, whether it is the truth or the lie that fits, the principle goal is to weaken Western institutions, and principally the EU – hence why they were delighted with Brexit.”

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