And it continues to this day?
Files prove that MI5 spied on SNP
THE SNP was spied on by British secret service agents, previously classified Government files seen by Scotland on Sunday have finally proved.
Claims of surveillance of nationalist politicians by intelligence officers have circulated for years, but the new papers provide the first incontrovertible evidence that the state spied on the SNP in the 1950s.
Agents from MI5 and Special Branch infiltrated the party as part of a campaign to undermine support for Scottish independence, the papers show.
The revelations have put First Minister Alex Salmond – who in opposition complained about closed Government files on the SNP – under pressure to close a legal loophole that allows the secret services to intercept the calls of Scottish parliamentarians.
The files, which have been opened and placed in the UK National Archives in Kew, show that throughout the 1950s Special Branch officers posed as nationalist supporters and attended party meetings and rallies.
The dossiers contain first-hand accounts from numerous unnamed agents of party meetings, and also include names of SNP members and sympathisers. They also provided transcripts of speeches and give particular attention to members they believed were on the more radical and militant wing of the party.
The dozens of documents also contain the remarkable claim that Dr Robert McIntyre, the then SNP leader, wanted Scotland to pull out of the UK and apply to be the 49th state of the USA.
A number of present-day MSPs, including former SNP leadership contender Alex Neil, claim MI5 still monitors pro-independence politicians and may even have stepped up surveillance since the Nationalists won power in May.
So far the new SNP administration has rejected calls to extend the “Wilson Doctrine” – which bans the secret services from tapping the phones of MPs – to Holyrood.
Alex Neil, deputy convener of Holyrood’s European and External Relations Committee, said: “It does not surprise me in the least to have it confirmed that the UK Government has used dirty tricks against the SNP in the past.
“I would certainly not discount the idea that the British state is still acting to undermine the SNP, especially given the substantial progress it has made recently.
“We need to get clear assurances from Westminster that nothing is being done to undermine the democratic wishes of the Scottish people.”
Margo MacDonald, the independent nationalist MSP and former SNP deputy leader, added: “Scotland is strategically important and energy rich, and I think it would be extraordinary if the security services weren’t taking a close interest in recent developments in Scotland.”