Shaken, not stirred
The question of James Bond’s stance on Scottish independence is one that has never fully – or even partially – been answered. In fact it has never really been asked.
The answer probably hinges on whether the James Bond in question is played by Sean Connery.
But questions over a fictional spy’s political views have arisen following claims that the secret service is playing a role in the independence debate.
Jim Sillars recently wrote a letter to ‘the so-called cyber nats’ on the 10.01pm blog. He said: “Are you unaware of the role agent provocateurs, special branch and MI5 have played in undermining us? Don’t you know that after the war, a young student nationalist tried to burn down St. Andrew’s House, was arrested on the spot, and the next time he saw the man who had handed him the paraffin, was when he was in the dock as a constable from special branch?”
“Are you so naive, that you never think that perhaps MI5 and special branch are taking a role in this campaign? As their function is protection of the British State, they would not be doing their jobs if they were not.”
SNP MSP Christina McKelvie then followed, writing in the Hamilton Advertiser about reactions to the online abuse sent to JK Rowling.
“The attacks on JK Rowling for her donation to Better Together were down to a very few people whose accounts no one could trace back to having anything to do with the Yes campaign. Whoever made them – there are interesting conspiracy theorists who think it might all have been down to secret service plants – should be totally condemned.”
Both of these comments were pretty widely mocked – though many nationalists will question why.
The intelligence wing of the British police have been repeatedly caught infiltrating environmental campaign groups – even fathering children with protesters. These activists clearly posed no threat to the British state, but the police did it anyway.
Unlike environmental protesters, Scottish independence does pose a threat to the state – in fact it would break it apart – and nationalists like Sillars will insist that is something that the Secret Service will try to stop.
The counter to this argument is fairly obvious – the secret service is on the side of Scots as much as the rest of the UK and if Scotland wants independence then the Secret service would respect that. It is, we are told, there to serve.
But this point – relying on the impartiality of the state – is weakened by interventions like those of the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Nicholas Macpherson, who was labelled a unionist campaigner by the Yes camp after releasing a private briefing against a shared pound to the press. He later defended the decision to Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee, describing it as “vital to the national interest.”
Meanwhile repeated allegations that the British state was complicit in the extradition and torture of terror suspects paint a picture of an organisation with a confused attitude towards the rule of law or democracy.
Now that does not mean that the Secret Service is posing as abusive Yes supporters on the internet to undermine the campaign.
In none of the Bond films does he sabotage a political campaign by drinking too many vodka martinis and sending barely literate tweets to the author of children’s books.
But from Robertson’s apocalyptic warnings of cataclysm, to nationalist protests outside the BBC, the referendum debate is one increasingly characterised by paranoia, and it is not enough for Number 10 to dismiss the claims as “preposterous and extraordinary”.
It is not likely that any answers will be given on MI5’s stance in the referendum debate, but that does not mean the question is a stupid one and laughing it off will only drive Yes paranoia further.