Clydeside’s New Cold Warrior

SNP defence chief gets accused of Russophobia and dodgy connections

We didn’t need the HMS Defender incident off the coast of Crimea to remind us about the current state of relations between London and Moscow. But, just in case we did, BBC News served up an exclusive fly-on-the-deck report of the British warship being shadowed by Russian aircraft and coastguard ships. Its correspondent, we were told, had been invited on board before this “trial of nerves” simply to observe routine “gunnery exercises”. So this mighty scoop was just an amazing stroke of luck? Hardly. Ministry of Defence media handlers aren’t known for dishing out such access these days. They knew something dramatic was about to occur and, to his credit, Jonathan Beale told us what it was. In the dispatch he filed from the Royal Navy vessel, he revealed that it had entered Crimean waters deliberately, fully anticipating a Russian response.

Black ops in the Black Sea? Most probably. This is exactly the sort of thing Peter Gabriel had in mind when he sang of “games without frontiers, war without tears”.

Anyone with an ounce of geopolitical nous – sadly, a minuscule proportion of the total UK TV news audience – knows that Russophobia is rampant again in London. Obviously this ‘exclusive’ news package could only serve to inflame it. Similar footage was served up two years ago of Typhoon fighter jets being “scrambled” from RAF Lossiemouth to “intercept” Russian aircraft over the North Sea. Different pictures. Same propaganda purpose.

MoD spin doctors are no worse than their Moscow counterparts in this regard, of course. The puzzling dimension, from a Scottish perspective, is that anti-Russian hostility is being fuelled by a political party meant to be bent on breaking up Britain (which, according to some, is part of Vladimir Putin’s grand masterplan). SNP chieftains have given unqualified backing to the New Cold War cultivated in Whitehall and Washington. None more so than Stewart McDonald, the party’s defence spokesperson. Accused of Russophobia, the Member for Glasgow South sits on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee and has probably given more thought to Crimea than to Clydeside in the past few years. He’s certainly campaigned more fervently for Ukrainian than Scottish independence. Scarcely a day goes by when he doesn’t tweet about Moscow’s supposed meddling in other states. An entire team of Foreign Office ministers can’t keep up on social media with the school janitor’s son from Govan. He was straight back onto Twitter yesterday to retweet a message from Navy Lookout, a site originally launched as Save The Royal Navy:

‘The real story here is not the supposed “firing of shots” but the ongoing campaign of Russian disinformation’. Amazing how it was all just repeated as truth and still sits on some news websites even now.

Earlier this week, Mr McDonald published his “own assessment of how the threat of disinformation to Scotland currently manifests itself”. My natural, instinctive reaction on downloading his digital report was to wonder 1) who is this person? and 2) what is his personal agenda? Thankfully, unlike during the first Cold War, we now have this wonderful thing called the World Wide Web. A few clicks of the mouse is all it takes to discover that Mr McDonald is a fanatical believer in NATO – a Pentagon-controlled military alliance the SNP was for three decades steadfastly opposed to an independent Scotland joining. In March this year, he contributed an article to the US State Departmemt’s house-journal Foreign Policy, in which he stated:

As foreign affairs and defense spokespeople for the Scottish National Party in the UK Parliament, it is our duty to make our friends and allies aware of what is going on in Scotland and what it means for them.

So an independent Scotland will be a reliable and constructive partner, a staunch ally, and a fierce friend. The cornerstone of an independent Scotland’s foreign policy will be EU membership. The cornerstone of its defense policy will be NATO membership. 

Something the SNP’s defence spokesman didn’t explain in this essay was his Damascene conversion to what some would see as Russophobia. According to a profile published on the RT website – headlined ‘Her Majesty’s useful idiot?’ – his intense aversion to the Kremlin only kicked in about three years ago. Sometimes content on this Russian-controlled news outlet is best preceded with a visit to a Siberian salt mine, but I think we can trust these brief excerpts:

Stewart McDonald’s interest in Russia is quite remarkable. Until 2018, he showed little or no interest in the country at all. Then, following an opaquely funded and organized jolly to Ukraine, he suddenly transformed into an ardent opponent of Moscow. He also became a passionate supporter of the British establishment position on foreign policy. Perhaps it was the chicken Kiev that turned the lawmaker’s head, or maybe something more organized.

He’s been a consistent and zealous advocate for Kiev in the Commons, making determined lobbying efforts for which he was awarded the Ukrainian Order of Merit by the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, in August 2019. Not too bad for 18 months’ work.

RT reckons Mr McDonald’s obsession with how the Putin regime is “infecting the planet with disinformation” may also have overseas origins. In February last year, apparently, he went off on a week-long jaunt to Washington for a conference about combating this online peril. All his expenses were picked up by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, an influential globalist think tank. This led to the Nats’ number one NATO groupie hanging a kilt on social media bots and trolls this week. Here are a few snatches of what he had to say in his highly personal assessment:

Scotland faces a range of disinformation actors who make use of a large and evolving toolbox of techniques to influence and corrupt the Scottish information ecosystem. 

Russia, China and Iran have all been credibly accused of attempting to distort the information ecosystem in Scottish public life, using a range of platforms and media to manipulate public opinion. 

Transparency, accountability and truth must be the foundations upon which a response to information operations in Scotland is built.

I hope he highlighted that last bit in the copy he doubtless sent to his beloved party leader. She, like him, has never been slow to have a public dig at Alex Salmond for presenting a harmless show on RT TV.  Novichok agents aren’t needed for character assassination. Just lift the phone to the Daily Record for a front-page splash filled with false allegations. The Sturgeon regime could coach Putin’s people in what Mr McDonald calls “deliberate, often covert, spreading of false information to manipulate public opinion and distort the truth.”

Unfortunately, Mr McDonald commands a fair amount of coverage in the Scottish press. Part of that is down to the legacy media being so emaciated. Tossing stories to the papers these days is like feeding sprats to sea lions. But there is one wee snag for the SNP’s defence spokesman: not all of us are going to swallow wholesale whatever disinformation he dishes out. Uncomfortably for him, there are still a few auld sceptics like me who remember the first Cold War. We’re not going to be patsies for any bellicose propaganda in this new one, whether it comes from the MoD, the Kremlin, Capitol Hill – or Clydeside!

25 thoughts on “Clydeside’s New Cold Warrior

  1. The one time I watched the Alex Salmond Show it involved him romping with Ann Widdecombe in a room full of fluffy toys. Nobody could describe that as ‘harmless’. ‘Deeply disturbing’ more like.


    1. Yeah we’ve got to guard against double standards here. I’ve got a lot of time for Alex and Tasmina as politicians but, as far as TV presenters go, I’m surely not the only one who gets an involuntary cringe listening to their presenting skills. In fact I’d go as far as claiming the two of them are the ‘Weakest Links’ in otherwise excellent shows.
      After saying that, Stewart MacDonald is yet another example of over indulgence in the American exports of Twitter and Facebook rotting your brain and turning you into a zombie.


  2. I note that Stewart McDonald has adopted the US spelling of ‘defence’. Or were his statements written by another person?


  3. One more excellent reason (as if it were needed) to have nothing to do with the so called Scottish National Party.

    And what rank rotten hypocrisy – do you think for one minute that a Russian destroyer would be allowed to sail up the Firth of Clyde or even down the Minch without let or hindrance?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A good illustration of how easily these idle empty heads are turned when lavishly funded jollies and ‘conferences’ abroad are offered. What deals are offered to he to become spokesmen for Ukraine and. the White House?
    Their delusions of grandeur are further emphasised by the SNP’s latest wheeze to give themselves grand sounding titles like shadow minister for defence and such. Really, the SNP have a foreign office?
    This pretend government with pretend policies and pretend politicians is risible. Clearly they prefer strutting around with fake job titles in their fantasy government – which is an administration. They have zero authority to proclaim what an independent Scotland’s foreign policies would ever be, since after independence the SNP would be irrelevant and we would be electing an entirely new government from new political parties. And one would assume or hope that a new government would not be beholden to the same old cold war neocon establishment. That is what independence means – independence of thought and action.
    Or do they assume that independence means they automatically gain absolute power? That is obviously the assumption, and explains a lot about their recent behaviour towards any challenges to their autocracy. They are deluded, drunk on their sliver of power, with no thought of either actual independence and what that means, or what the wishes of the electorate might be. We really need other independence parties to challenge this now neocon new SNP.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The leadership and its clique are a corrupt incomptetent joke. i recall not long ago at all when the SNP were very much anti imperial in their leanings. The last thing they would be parroting would be the British line. What we have here I suspect is a small team of selfserving liars ingratiating themselves with power in order to enrich themselves.

    There is no such thing as principle there is no plan. There is no ability to develop a strategy for an Independent Scotland. It is a trait of NS to defer to those who have more power than her and to be authoritarian and vindictive in the exercise of the power devolved to her. it is hardly surprising that her chosen favourites act as they do.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. When our lot go on these paid jollies, I can’t help but wonder if they get drugged and dragged to a reprogramming room. Ye’ know like I think in the film ‘The Ipcress file’ or even in tv’s ‘The Prisoner’. They seem to come back with a different outlook completely from the one they had before. I dunno, maybe I’ve watched too many films, but ‘Invasion of the Bodysnatchers’ would probably be too far fetched.

    Just seems odd the way they seem to get converted, like our ‘Dear Leader’ who used to support Independence for her country, now doesn’t seem to even give it a second thought.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Russia has occupied Ukrainian territory and is threatening war on them for objecting.
    An indy movement that supports the Catalans should also support the Ukrainians.

    Just because you hate the UK government doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes do the right thing.


    1. I believe passionately in the principle of national self-determination but it would be incredibly naive to imagine that the people who control the UK care about the Ukrainians. Or not to question why the SNP’s defence and foreign policy spokespeople are repeatedly parroting whatever propaganda emanates from the FCO or the MoD.


    2. What?!

      Don’tyou mean:

      “An indy movement that supports the Catalans should also support the Crimeans.”

      Especially after several overwhelming pro-independence from the Ukraine votes in the Crimea.”

      “Before and after the Ukraine’s vote for independence from the UK, sorry, USSR.”

      Or even:

      “An indy movement that supports the Catalans should also support the Crimeans.”

      Especially after several overwhelming pro-independence from the UK votes in Scotland.”

      “Before and after the UK’s vote for independence from the USA, sorry, EU.”


  8. It was at the behest of Nikita Khrushchev that the Crimea oblast was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 as a «gift». At the time over 70% of the territory’s population was ethnic Russian along with Tatar and other minorities. The post soviet Ukrainian government initiated a programme of Ukrainization which was unpopular going so far as to neglect cultural sites associated with Russia, Chekhov’s house being a notable example.
    The «annexation» or return to Russia of this overwhelmingly non Ukrainian territory makes sense.
    The Brit presence in the region is rather pathetic sabre rattling from a government «all at sea».


    1. Good comment Ottomanboi, as far as I recall Ukraine means border lands, and thus it’s changed hands on multiple occasions, or at least parts of it have, over the centuries


  9. The UK government sees the Russian occupation of Crimea, as illegal, a occupying force, I read somewhere that International Maritime laws state that occupying forces have the right to impose a no go zones on coastal waters, in a similar fashion as the USA imposed a twelve-mile no go zone around Iraq’s oil wells for four years.

    Its patently obvious that the British warship was sent to test the Russian defences around these coastal waters of the Black sea, and the journalists were on board to report it all back to Westminster.


  10. As for Stewart McDonald, Alyn Smith and John Nicolson, they’re now embedded in Westminster and have become Whitehall’s most prominent SNP useful idiots. We didn’t send them down to Westminster to to further the goals of this Tory government, no we sent them down there to stand up for Scotland’s corner, come 2024, if we’re still tied to this rancid union we must vote this lot out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Independence means not just thinking outside the box of convention, custom and habit but thinking well beyond its confines. Getting the Brit out of the Nat camp is more problematic than, given the political rationale, one might have assumed.
      Those ingrained old thought patterns may require some skilled brain surgery.

      . .


  11. “Independence means not just thinking outside the box of convention, ”


    Craig Murray and Alex Salmond outlined the above with the very real possibility of, firstly, calling back all our MPs from Westminster and having a vote at Holyrood whether or not to leave this fetid union. As indy MSPs/MPs currently outnumber unionist ones, the result would presumably lead to Holyrood declaring independence there and then, and then we could prepare to negotiate the terms on dissolving of the union with Westminster.

    In my opinion, I don’t see another workable route to Scottish independence, as unionist led councils would do all in their powers to hinder a second indyref vote, with regards to polling stations, as would unionist MSPs who’d coax and cajole anyone and everyone to boycott the indyref. Even now we have the likes of Murdo Fraser calling on Mancunians to come to Scotland when the Scottish governments advice is the exact opposite.

    Of course, you need an indy-minded FM with courage and conviction, and a government that has already laid the foundations for the vote. Sturgeon hasn’t done any of this, and probably never will.

    On Westminster recognising our independence, as long as the International community recognises it, that’s all that matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “calling back all our MPs from Westminster”. Good luck with that. They are all fully paid up members of the Westminster club now; even JRM describes Blackford as ‘a lovely man at heart’. A workable route to independence doesn’t exist. There’s not one of them willing to gamble their easy lifestyle and cosy friendships. They’ll have all the firepower they need to maintain their status quo. Nice work if you can get it.


  12. McDonald’s contribution to the US State’s Dept. reads like it was dictated to him by Alyn Smith. You know the kind of pish that he spouts periodically in the ‘National’? Shite such as ‘it is our duty to make our friends and allies aware of what is going on in Scotland and what it means for them’. And..
    ‘So an independent Scotland will be a reliable and constructive partner, a staunch ally, and a fierce friend’. It all sound familiar flatulent Daddy Bear bullshit retreads. I know it tyres (sorry!) me out listening to it .
    Big Daddy Bear loves ‘informing’ ‘friends’ and being busy ‘going around’ making ‘alliances’. What kind of alliances? Well who knows or cares? All I see is complete waste of space in McDonald, Smith and the other fat fraud Nicolson blocking our road to liberation with their faux ‘statesmen’ like utterances.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. O/T Rob.

    “A major witness in the United States’ Department of Justice case against Julian Assange has admitted to fabricating key accusations in the indictment against the Wikileaks founder.”

    It could be a significant step in freeing Assange, and for journalists around the globe.

    Liked by 1 person

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