“There are few results that would delight Vladimir Putin more than Scottish independence. Putin’s Russia thrives on spreading discord between and within Western democracies” – William Hague in Andrew Bowie’s new collection of essays by Tory politicians, Strength in Union: The Case for the United Kingdom.


Does anyone in Scotland actually believe the decades-long fight for Scottish self-determination is orchestrated from the Kremlin?


William Jefferson Hague, aka Baron Hague of Richmond, was Conservative Party leader from 1997 until 2001. At the age of 16 he famously made a pro-Thatcher speech to the Tory party conference. Many MPs thought him arrogant for his age. Later, at Oxford, Hague was accused of stuffing ballot boxes in a student election. As foreign secretary between 2010 and 2014, he presided over the ruthless Nato bombing of Libya and refused the request of Julian Assange for asylum in Britain. On his last day in the House of Commons, in 2015, Hague moved a motion to make the election for Speaker a secret ballot, in an effort to oust the incumbent John Bercow.

The National:

The book in which Hague’s comments appear, Strength in Union, was unveiled at the Conservative Party conference. As the title suggests, the book is a direct attack on the SNP government and the case for Scottish independence. In his essay, titled We are stronger together on the world stage, Hague writes: “Leaving aside the SNP's ambivalent position over NATO and Russia and the risks of independence for the security of Scotland, a vote for independence would leave the rest of the UK less safe and secure.”

READ MORE: Theresa May slapped down after telling Scots to stick with 'globally admired' UK

He goes on to suggest the independence cause is influenced by Moscow’s desire to undermine the UK: “Russia's motive is clear: breaking up one of the most successful unions of nations in history would both leave the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK more vulnerable to the malign influence of the Kremlin and weaken Britain's ability to counter Russia on the world stage."

Hague also quotes the backbench Parliamentary Security Committee’s Russia Report (2020) to the effect that Moscow “interfered” in the 2014 independence referendum and the 2016 Brexit vote. Hague argues that Scottish independence would “be leapt upon” by Russia and China as an excuse for removing Britain’s seat on the UN Security Council.


There is every reason to reason to believe that, in this internet era, all major state actors intervene in the politics and elections of other nations. However, whatever the sins of Moscow, the West is just as culpable.

For example, the British Army 77 Brigade has been established precisely to use social media as a psychological propaganda tool inside and outside of the UK. According to Tory former armed forces minister Mark Francois, 77 Brigade was created to provide “support, in conjunction with other Government agencies, to efforts to build stability overseas and to wider defence diplomacy and overseas engagement…”

READ MORE: Here's what Putin has said about Scottish independence

Among the foreign nations that 77 Brigade is known to have targeted is Zimbabwe. In 2019, it was revealed that Gordon MacMillan, a senior staff member at Twitter, with responsibility for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, was a 77 Brigade officer.

The United States is also involved in cyber warfare and propaganda. In 2013, Edward Snowden, a former systems administrator for the CIA, revealed how the US hacked into Chinese mobile phone text messaging networks. In 2017, ex-president Barack Obama made a party political broadcast openly backing Emmanuel Macron’s bid for the French presidency. As US president, in June 2014, Obama interfered in the Scottish independence referendum, saying he backed “a strong and united” UK. Note: Lord Hague was still foreign secretary when Obama made this intervention.

The National: Former US president Barack Obama

Logically, whatever Moscow or Washington gets up to in the cyber and social network arena, it has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of Scottish self-determination – as Lord Hague seems to imply. One might also conclude, that if the security and constitutional stakes are so high, then US and Nato intervention in any second indyref will more that compensate for, say, attempts by Iran to urge the voters in Auchtermuchty to quit the Union.


The SNP is committed to removing nuclear weapons from Scottish soil. If rUK subsequently wants to keep nuclear, there is no reason why it cannot reposition its Vanguard submarines or their successors. A recent “leaked” document published by the Financial Times suggested such a move was already being examined, with the subs going to American or French bases.

READ MORE: 'Beyond belief': Top historian rubbishes Alister Jack's Scottish Border claim

Since then, the declaration of the new US-UK-Australian defence pact, and Australia’s cancellation of an order for French subs, has caused a rift between the so-called AUKUS group and Paris. This suggests the end to any chance of Royal Navy submarines being based in France. Conclusion: the Conservative government is quite capable of undermining the Western alliance here and now, without the advent of Scottish independence.

The SNP remains wedded to joining both Nato, of which the UK is a leading member. Lord Hague makes a wholly unwarranted suggestion that the SNP position on Nato is “ambivalent” without citing any proof. If anything, under its current defence spokesperson, Stewart McDonald MP, the SNP has become more hawkish on Nato membership. If anything, McDonald shares Lord Hague’s concerns about Moscow’s interference in UK and Scottish affairs.


The National:

Britain’s seat on the Security Council is already in jeopardy, regardless of Scottish independence. For instance, the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial body of the United Nations, has found that the UK is in unlawful occupation of the Chagos Islands and demanded they be returned to Mauritius. It is possible the UN may move to suspend the UK’s Security Council seat if it does not comply.

The UK’s right to sit as a permanent member of the Security Council has also been compromised by Brexit. According to Professor Richard G Whitman, visiting senior fellow at Chatham House, Brexit raises serious questions about the UK’s overall international importance. Under the UN charter, the General Assembly can alter membership of the General Assembly with a two-thirds majority. India is already demanding a Security Council seat as are the combined African states.


Lord Hague’s book is a re-heat of unsubstantiated ideas that have been around since the 2014 referendum. If anything, they betray a deep lack of self-confidence in English politicians regarding Britain’s status in the word following Brexit.


Another bomb. Lord Hague is an accomplished biographer of Pitt the Younger. He might stick to the 18th century rather than the 21st.

The National: National Fact Check False