A Terrorist Group
The death of Willie McRae has become one of Scotland’s greatest mysteries, and it would require a separate book to even begin to do justice to the case.
It is important to stress at the very beginning that the McRae case does not involve a "conspiracy theory". His shooting was investigated by the police who failed to determine whether it was an accident, murder or suicide. The manner of his death is still officially "undetermined".
But the highest legal authorities in Scotland have repeatedly stated that it was suicide – although there is not a shred of evidence to support this – and have repeatedly refused to hold a public inquiry into the death as required by law.
Willie McRae was a 61 year old lawyer and an "elder statesman" of the SNP who was found shot in the head in his Volvo car which had crashed down a hillside beside the A87, a lonely Highland road, on April 6th 1985. McRae's death - he was pronounced dead at a hospital in Aberdeen - has been the subject of public speculation for many years.
The cause of his death has become, without doubt, the greatest mystery in modern Scottish history.
The authorities almost immediately implied that his death was suicide, there was no conclusive police investigation, and for twenty years the authorities have consistently refused demands for a public inquiry into the death. Their persistence has merely perpetuated the belief that there has been a cover up - and there has most certainly been a cover up.
Almost ten years after McRae's death, journalist John Macleod wrote very long articles for the "Herald" on March the 27th and 28th, 1995. The dates may be significant as it was immediately before the 10th anniversary of the death of Willie McRae.
John Macleod had been given official permission by the Scottish authorities to have limited access to "exclusive evidence" on the death of Willie McRae. The authorities probably hoped that by allowing John Macleod limited access to some of the documentation they would finally bring a closure to the seemingly endless speculation about McRae's death. In fact, they couldn't have been more wrong.
He discovered that the official verdict was not suicide but "undetermined" – the Scottish equivalent of an open verdict. See the "Herald" of the 27th and the 28th of March, 1995. And he bluntly stated that in his opinion the death by shooting had not even been properly investigated. He also stated that the available evidence pointed to murder, not suicide.
In fact, not a particle of evidence of suicide was ever presented to Macleod.
John Macleod's revelations sparked a renewed demand for an inquiry into the McRae case which, in 1995, was supported by no less than thirteen MPs. Despite this, the authorities still refused to hold a public inquiry.
In this chapter, I intend to dispel certain myths about this case, to introduce actual evidence linking McRae to the SNLA, and to present new and little-known evidence that there was a deliberate cover up. I will also illustrate that very senior Crown agents deliberately provided certain journalists - including John Macleod - with information which was false and which was intended to throw them off the track.
I do not say that McRae's death was definitely murder. I do not have the evidence to say that. There is not enough evidence to support a verdict of murder. Nor is there sufficient evidence to rule out murder.
But there is sufficient evidence to show that, however the death was caused, there was a cover up which was politically-motivated, and the death took place against a background of police surveillance and of intrigue.
A source who had direct access to official details of the case has told me that McRae shot himself - a theory which I will not accept without some substantial independent evidence - although, even by his account, this was no simple, uncomplicated suicide, and a great degree of culpability must attach itself to at least two police officers who were present at the time he was shot. However, that matter will be left for the end of this chapter.
But I will present evidence that McRae, a senior SNP figure, was under routine surveillance by the Special Branch because of his inks to the SNLA, and that he was being routinely followed by them up to, and on, the night that he died.
And I say that the Crown Office, aware of the potential political embarrassment and repercussions that such a disclosure would have, not just for the SNP, but for the Scottish political Establishment as a whole, deliberately covered this fact up.
If it had emerged that a senior public figure like Willie McRae was an SNLA member, the political repercussions would have been staggering.
The British State was - and still is - almost obsessively anxious to play down and denigrate the SNLA. A public exposure in a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) that a very suspicious death was the result of police surveillance of a well-known politician and public figure, who was known to be involved with the SNLA, was the last thing they wished. And they were - and are - determined to resist a public inquiry at all costs.
Firstly, it is useful to deal with the myths about Willie McRae which have muddied the waters of the case since the very beginning.
The book "Britain's Secret War" contains good examples of some of the inaccurate and misleading stories that have circulated about Willie McRae's background and his life and death.
The authors of the book acknowledge that McRae was born in 1923. This is true.
They then go on to state that McRae graduated from university with a degree in History prior to the start of WW2 - that is prior to 1939 when he was barely 16 (!) - that he served as an Army officer at the beginning of the war - but McRae was only aged 17 in 1940 - and that by 1945, and the end of the war, he was a Commodore in the Indian Navy - although a Commodore is a very senior naval officer, and the youthful McRae is unlikely to have reached such an exalted rank at the age of 22. All of this is obvious nonsense.
At any rate, despite much painstaking research, I have been unable to find any evidence for any of the above, or for any of the other more outlandish stories which have been circulated about McRae elsewhere.
Nor was McRae "Scotland's most feared anti-nuclear campaigner" as has often been stated in newspaper articles. As the SNP's lawyer he had successfully represented the SNP at the Ayr Public Inquiry into the proposed dumping of nuclear waste in the South West of Scotland, but apart from that there is little evidence that he was ever deeply involved in anti-nuclear activities. And, if he was ever in possession of secret documents relating to the nuclear industry, then there is no evidence of this.
I was unable to discover evidence that he was even a member of CND, the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament, for example.
I have also been unable to find any evidence that Willie McRae was ever involved in the Indian Independence movement during WW2. And his brother Fergus has categorically denied this.
Nor was he ever honoured by the State of Israel as has been widely reported, nor did he help to draw up the State of Israel's Constitution or maritime laws. This is sheer fantasy as McRae was not even a qualified solicitor in 1948, when the Israeli State was formed.
And he was never a member of the pro-suicide group Exit. Nor was he involved in a campaign against drug dealers in North West Scotland. This latter notion appears to have been deliberately promoted by the late Michael Strathern - who was to play a leading but dubious role in the campaign to investigate McRae's death.
And Willie McRae's alleged homosexuality is not an issue, nor is it likely to have been a motive for suicide as some have been anxious to suggest. Are we seriously expected to believe that a man like Willie McRae would be driven to suicide because of supposed shame or guilt over alleged homosexuality at the age of 61?
All these, and countless more genuine misunderstandings, pieces of disinformation and downright lies, are mere spanners in the works, mainly accidents or deliberate attempts to rubbish genuine investigations and to muddy the waters for investigators.
Much of the confusion about the McRae case is due to a misinterpretation of the known facts. And to a complete disregard or dismissal of other known facts.
For example, it has often been stated that Kenny Crawford, the policeman who actually discovered the pistol used to kill McRae some distance from the vehicle, has gone on record as disputing a supposedly crucial and definitive statement about the position of the pistol which was made in 1990 by Peter Fraser (now Lord Carmyllie), the then Lord Advocate.
In fact, on careful reading, there is no clear contradiction between their statements.
Kenny Crawford says that he found the pistol in the stream or burn, and at a point in the stream which was some yards downstream from where the driver's door of the car had been.
Lord Carmyllie's 1990 statement is misleading to the lay reader because it was crafted with the expertise typical of a lawyer, and is a masterpiece of ambiguity.
On closer examination it is wide open to hair-splitting interpretation, and only its ambiguity, given that the authorities have erected a wall of secrecy around the case, has any significance.
Carmyllie’s statement asserted that the pistol was found in the stream directly below where the driver's door of the car had been.
This has almost universally been interpreted to mean that the pistol itself was found at a point in the stream, and that the point at which it was found lay directly beneath where the driver's door of the car had been.
In fact, Lord Carmyllie did not say this specifically.
His statement could also be interpreted to mean that the pistol was found at some point in the stream, and that the stream flowed directly below where the driver's door of the car had been.
As I will show, the final position of the pistol is probably irrelevant.
Many pundits have also given much attention to the fact that no fingerprints were found on the pistol. But, given the fact that the pistol had lain in flowing water for a day or so, and was then laid out on the bare ground at the scene to be photographed, this is hardly surprising.
I present here a forensic examination of the known facts, and only the facts.
The key to Willie McRae's character is that he was a militant Scottish nationalist. Although he was well-known as a senior figure in the SNP, holding high office in the party and narrowly missed being elected as an MP, McRae was essentially a militant extremist who didn't tolerate moderates gladly, increasingly had little faith in the SNP itself, and he came to regard some of the SNP leadership with suspicion and contempt.
His former legal partner of many years, Len Murray, has stated:
"Willie McRae believed passionately in the Nationalist cause. He had been a vice-president of the Scottish National Party but his was an extreme brand of nationalism which was not universally popular within the party."
Although he maintained a veneer of respectability as a lawyer, McRae was a hard-drinking irreverent cynic with a tendency to violent outbursts and little regard for convention or the law. He kept an illegally-held loaded revolver close to hand, usually in the locked right-hand drawer of his office desk or in the office safe. And it was not an old "service revolver" as has often been stated.
In reality, it was a small Smith & Wesson .22 revolver. It was a "Saturday Night Special" (a small pocket pistol designed for civilian not military use) and by no stretch of the imagination a "service revolver".
Alec, who handled the weapon on several occasions, describes it as: "a tiny nickel- or chrome-coloured pistol. It had a sort of rectangular or hexagonal barrel with some kind of writing on it, I mean along the side of the barrel, and a pearl handled butt which was curved where you held it. I mean that the bottom of the butt was smooth and curved or rounded so that it fitted into your hand. The shape of the butt was very distinctive.
The pistol was so small that I could lay it flat on the palm of my hand, hold it in place with my thumb, and then turn my hand over. When I did this the pistol couldn't be seen. I mean that the pistol was so small that it was smaller than my hand".
McRae, who had family roots and a weekend cottage in the Kintail area, masterminded the operations of the Dark Harvest Commando, and was an early supporter and member of the SNLA. (See previous chapters for more detailed accounts of McRae's involvement in the Dark Harvest Commando and the SNLA.)
An article in "The Sunday Mail" by Joe Donnelly on 16th June 1985 is one of the first of many devoted to the McRae case. It is also significant in that it was based on information which came from a police source. It was also the first to associate McRae with the SNLA, although the SNLA are not mentioned by name.
Instead the article links Willie McRae to people involved in a major terrorist trial which took place in 1984. This was the "Supergrass" trial of Tommy Kelly, in which David Dinsmore and Adam Busby were named in the High Court as alleged SNLA conspirators.
The significance of this article has never been fully realised. Joe Donnelly, its author, had strong police contacts and, in June 1985, he was totally unaware of the statement, linking McRae to the SNLA, then being issued by David Dinsmore.
The "Sunday Mail" journalist was the first person to link Willie McRae to the SNLA, and he linked Willie McRae to the SNLA on the basis of information supplied to him by a police source or sources.
Tommy Kelly, when he was arrested for SNLA activities in October 1983, was told by Special Branch officers that he could consult a solicitor. When he asked for Willie McRae he was told: "You can't have him. You can have any other solicitor, but not him."
This is also highly significant. The only circumstances under which the police have the legal right to refuse to allow a particular solicitor to see a suspect is if that solicitor is himself a suspect in the case, or is otherwise involved as a victim or a witness.
Willie McRae was not a victim nor was he a witness. It seems to follow that he was considered a suspect, or as otherwise being involved in the case.
In fact, Tommy Kelly had been with Adam Busby and David Dinsmore when, under Special Branch surveillance, they had visited McRae's Glasgow office only two weeks before Kelly's arrest. Kelly had remained nearby while Busby and Dinsmore had entered McRae's office.
As we shall see later, there is indisputable additional evidence that Willie McRae was already a suspect, or considered as involved in the SNLA case, at the time that Busby and Dinsmore visited his office.
The SNLA states that:
1) Willie McRae was a member of the SNLA;
2) That Adam Busby and David Dinsmore visited Willie McRae in his office on September the 15th, 1983, which was the day before they left Scotland and absconded to Ireland. They state that he gave them £100 to £200 from his petty cash box to aid them in their escape. He also offered them the key to his country cottage to use as a hiding place in case they were unable to leave Scotland immediately, and as an address to give should they have to provide false information. They refused the offer of the key as they thought it was unnecessary.
They also state that Tommy Kelly, who accompanied Busby and Dinsmore that day, and who was arrested for SNLA activities only two weeks later, was left behind at the Post Office in George Square, Glasgow, while they made the short distance trip to McRae's office in Buchanan Street.
Additionally, they state that during the visit to McRae's office Busby and Dinsmore were shadowed by Special Branch vehicles which had the registration numbers: BGS425S and PSJ 136X.
In a hand-written statement, issued only weeks after Willie McRae's death, which David Dinsmore signed and which he also authenticated by an ink impression of his thumbprint, David Dinsmore related in detail the events of the day he and Adam Busby visited Willie McRae's office in September 1983, including details of the police vehicles which kept them under surveillance.
Dinsmore also stated that sometime prior to his death McRae had told him that he was followed to his second home by two men in a vehicle. According to Dinsmore, the description of the vehicle resembled one of the Special Branch cars which was known to him in 1983. That vehicle's registration was XSJ 432T.
But are the allegations of McRae's links to the SNLA actually true? Is there any evidence of this other than the claims of SNLA members themselves?
The answer is that there is absolutely conclusive evidence of McRae's links to the SNLA.
Some of the evidence is contained in the Crown Office's own documents. These are the precognitions (witness statements) in the Crown case against David Dinsmore.
Short excerpts from these have been published only once before in a very brief article by Robbie Dinwoodie in the "Herald" of February the 1st, 1992.
The relevant extracts are taken from the precognition sworn by Detective Inspector Henry Bell of the Scottish Crime Squad, and from the precognition of Detective Constable David Higgins of Strathclyde Police Headquarters Division. Higgins was the "productions officer" whose job was to examine, extract and preserve pieces of evidence for use in the trial.
Detective Inspector Henry Bell was in charge of the search of Dinsmore's home when he was arrested on May 13th, 1983. His statement reveals that several hundred items were taken during the search of Dinsmore's home:
"We took possession of a large number of documents and other items."
These documents and items were examined the following day by Detective Constable David Higgins whose task was to discard those without evidential value, and to take possession of any item which had evidential value and which would be used in evidence at the trial.
Higgins' statement describes his examination of several hundred documents and items taken from Dinsmore's home. From these he extracted only one item for use as evidence:
"I took possession from the property of a business card in the name of William McRae. I noted there was handwriting in ink on the reverse side of this card."
In other words, of the "large number of documents and other items" from the raid, only Willie McRae's business card was singled out and listed as a trial production.
And in 29 precognitions relating to a major police investigation of people who are described as "known" members of the Scottish National Liberation Army, only four people are named:
Dinsmore, Busby, another person arrested at the time - and Willie McRae.
And these are extracts taken from precognitions which are Crown documents made under oath by police officers involved in an investigation of what the police themselves describe as "known" SNLA members.
The documents taken from Dinsmore's home numbered in hundreds but only one - McRae's business card - was singled out for use as evidence. Why? A lawyer's business card is hardly evidence of anything, and it can only be assumed that the writing on the reverse of the card had some significance as evidence.
But whatever special significance the police saw in the business card, the facts prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Willie McRae was already being linked to Dinsmore, and was being involved in the police investigation of the SNLA, and that he was being involved from at least as early as May 1983.
These documents also corroborate Tommy Kelly's statement that the police refused to allow him to consult Willie McRae, and they confirm the conclusion that Willie McRae was either a suspected member of the SNLA, or that he was suspected to be involved with SNLA members.
The minimum reasonable conclusions which can be drawn from this collection of facts is that Willie McRae was himself an SNLA suspect, or was linked to an SNLA suspect at least, and that he was linked to the police investigation of what the precognitions refer to as known SNLA members.
Unfortunately, David Dinsmore has stated that he does not remember what the writing on the reverse of Willie McRae's card was. But, of crucial importance, is the appearance of Willie McRae's name in the official police records of their investigation of the SNLA.
For twenty years the SNLA's claims in regard to Willie McRae's involvement have been repeatedly ignored, ridiculed or derided in media reports. But the facts are very different. They corroborate the SNLA's statements that Willie McRae was involved in their activities, and that his involvement was known to the police.
The "Herald" article of 1st February, 1992, also deals with the vehicles used by the police:
"In a separate development, a television documentary tomorrow night will claim that police had previously followed Mr McRae along the West Highland road where he met his death in a mysterious shooting seven years ago.
Suggestions that Special Branch had the controversial nationalist under surveillance have been made before, but the makers of a Scottish Eye programme say they have now had it confirmed "by the highest official sources" that a car identified by the Glasgow lawyer himself before his death was owned by Strathclyde Police, as were two others which terror suspect David Dinsmore claimed followed him to Mr McRae's office.
Last night a spokesman said: "Strathclyde Police at no time placed the late William McRae under operational surveillance. Matters relevant to the case against David Dinsmore remain sub judice."
Dinsmore absconded overseas, but in June 1985, three months after Mr McRae died, he issued a statement claiming he had been in regular contact by mail and telephone with the SNP vice-chairman until two days before his death.
He named two surveillance vehicles as Special Branch - registrations BGS 425S and PSJ 136X - and spoke of telephone conversations with McRae; "On one occasion, he told me of driving to his second home and being followed by a brown car with two male occupants; XSJ 432T was the registration."
The makers of tomorrow's documentary claim the cars were Special Branch vehicles, including the one which allegedly followed Mr McRae to his holiday home in Kintail - a brown Chrysler later sold to a man in Telford.
Reporter Callum Macrae told the Herald: "We have established from the highest official sources that all three of these cars were operated by the Special Branch.""
In response to this revelation about the Special Branch vehicles the police have since admitted that all the cars described by Dinsmore were Special Branch vehicles.
And, perhaps significantly, Strathclyde Police do not deny that Willie McRae was ever under any form of police surveillance. They only deny that he was under "operational" surveillance.
Even more significantly, the police have never denied that Adam Busby and David Dinsmore were followed by the Special Branch while they were on their way to and from Willie McRae's office on the 15th of September, 1983.
But, the police claim, the Special Branch vehicle which Dinsmore identified as being involved in the later surveillance of Willie McRae, was no longer in use by the Special Branch in April 1985.
In the case of two of the vehicles their history is irrelevant. Their history after September 1983 is not in question.
But the history of the third vehicle - registration number XSJ 432T - which is stated to have followed Willie McRae on an unknown date sometime before his death in April 1985 has great relevance.
The police say that particular vehicle, which was a brown Chrysler, was sold by the police on an unknown date which was prior to McRae’s death in April 1985.
We are not in a position to know when it was sold, or whether it was sold to a civilian and its registration number was then transferred to another Special Branch undercover vehicle. This custom is apparently very common.
This system means that if a suspect notices an undercover police car and then decides to check out its identity by using its registration number to access the vehicle licensing information, the suspect will only discover that the vehicle is officially registered to a civilian.
David Dinsmore - who eventually surrendered himself to the British authorities in 1993 - is unable or unwilling to comment on the matter of the vehicle's registration.
He returned to Scotland under the terms of a deal negotiated by a lawyer who represented him in Brazil. Under the terms of the deal the police in Britain were banned from even questioning Dinsmore about any offence which had taken place prior to his departure from Scotland in September, 1983. In effect, Dinsmore was given immunity from prosecution except for the offences with which he had already been charged.
He has, however, privately admitted that, immediately upon his return to Scotland in late 1993, he was very extensively and very aggressively interrogated by an English "officer" from London solely about the McRae case. Dinsmore was informed at the time that the officer had traveled from London specially to question him about the McRae case.
In view of the fact that the McRae case officially fell within the jurisdiction of a Scottish police force - the Northern Constabulary - it is interesting to speculate whether the unknown officer from London was a police officer or from one of the British Intelligence services.
But it is the information about the vehicle XSJ 432T which is important.
I have been reliably informed by a police officer that information about the vehicle XSJ 432T being sold to a civilian in Telford prior to the death of Willie McRae was allegedly provided to Arnold Kemp, the then editor of the "Herald", by Leslie Sharp, the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police. Sharp gave Arnold Kemp the information on a non-attributable basis in a confidential conversation.
Sharp had arranged a meeting with Kemp because he was increasingly alarmed at the coverage being given to Willie McRae’s links to the SNLA by the "Herald".
Leslie Sharp allegedly told Arnold Kemp that all the information provided by Dinsmore, which connected McRae to the SNLA, was totally false, and was nothing more than a propaganda exercise by the SNLA.
The Chief Constable, Leslie Sharp, it is claimed, was alarmed by the publication of the extracts from Dinsmore's precognitions which linked Willie McRae to the SNLA, and by the publication of the detailed information Dinsmore provided about the Special Branch vehicles and the surveillance of McRae.
Whether or not the information about Sharp's intervention is true, and a journalistic colleague on the "Herald" staff has confirmed that it is true, the "Herald" suddenly reversed its position after the publication of the extracts from Dinsmore's precognitions and his statement in February 1992.
For example, Arnold Kemp himself was able to write the following article:
The "Herald", June 8, 1993:
"The Legend Of Nationalism's Unlikely Saint
by Arnold Kemp
In June 1985, three months after McRae died, Dinsmore issued a statement claiming he had been in regular contact by mail and telephone with McRae until two days before his death. He named surveillance vehicles with Special Branch registrations which he claimed had been seen on the road the day McRae died."
The passage above which I have underlined is completely untrue as Dinsmore never claimed to have any knowledge of vehicles which "had been seen on the road the day McRae died".
"The authorities do not deny that these were Special Branch numbers. These have been disseminated widely in London. Car numbers provided by Dinsmore were first published in the Morning Star. Dinsmore's claim unwittingly disclosed his manipulative intentions, it is claimed.
One of the numbers was indeed of a Special Branch car: but it was of a car that had been used for the surveillance of Dinsmore, and it had been sold before McRae's death."
This article clearly implies that Dinsmore's statement is a fabrication, and can only be based on a very careless reading of Dinsmore's statement by the author, or on disinformation supplied to the author, or on both. Also, very clearly, Arnold Kemp's article was based on a police source or sources.
It also totally contradicts the earlier "Herald" article by Robbie Dinwoodie which, on the 1st of February 1992, made a summary of Dinsmore's claims, which referred to three cars, one of which:
"identified by the Glasgow lawyer himself before his death was owned by Strathclyde Police, as were two others which terror suspect David Dinsmore claimed followed him to Mr McRae's office."
Robbie Dinwoodie had access to Dinsmore's statement and was aware of its exact contents. His summary of its contents is accurate:
1) That Dinsmore had identified two cars as Special Branch vehicles which followed him - before he left Scotland in September 1983 - when he visited McRae's Glasgow office;
2) That McRae had subsequently told Dinsmore that a vehicle - XSJ 432T - had followed him - on an unknown date - to his second home near Dornie.
But Robbie Dinwoodie was aware of the contents of Dinsmore's statement, while Arnold Kemp clearly was not.
In fact, I have studied Dinsmore's statement very carefully and I can state categorically that David Dinsmore did not claim to identify any vehicle which "had been seen on the road the day McRae died" - as Arnold Kemp's article states.
And Arnold Kemp's article also states that Ronnie Welsh, McRae's business partner, spent the night of McRae's death telephoning police stations along McRae's route, presumably to get help for the allegedly suicidal McRae.
This statement is also completely untrue, as Mr Welsh himself later pointed out in the "Herald" of March the 30th, 1995:
"And something else doesn't seem to fit. When Willie left the office at midday on Friday he was in cheerful spirits, had made appointments for the following week and that was it. He gave no sign that he was suicidal."
And it is interesting to speculate who told Arnold Kemp this story about Mr Welsh’s desperate calls to police stations - which is a vicious lie - and why.
What Dinsmore's statement actually says is that on September 15th 1983 - eighteen months before McRae's death - Dinsmore, Adam Busby and Tommy Kelly were followed by two Special Branch vehicles when they went to visit Willie McRae in his Glasgow office.
But Kelly did not visit McRae's office - he stayed behind in George Square in an attempt to divert the surveillance - but he was with Dinsmore and Busby shortly before and shortly after they visited McRae's office. (Tommy Kelly was not unknown to McRae either. For example, they had once both traveled from Scotland to attend a small rally in London to mark the anniversary of the execution of Sir William Wallace.
And Kelly, it will be remembered, was arrested for SNLA activities only two weeks after Dinsmore and Busby visited Willie McRae in his office. He was sentenced to ten years in prison in early 1984.)
Dinsmore then says that, after he absconded, he kept in regular touch with McRae who informed him that he (McRae) had been kept under constant and continuing Special Branch surveillance. (A similar statement of McRae's is corroborated by McRae's business partner Ronnie Welsh.)
Dinsmore then says that on "one occasion" (no date is given for this occasion) McRae informed him that he had been followed to his weekend home by a "brown car with two male occupants; XSJ 432T was the registration."
Again Dinsmore's statement gives no date for the surveillance of McRae which involved the vehicle with the registration XSJ 432T. The date could have been anytime between September 1983 and April 1985. That is: in the period between his last meeting with Willie McRae and McRae's death.
And it is certain that, if the surveillance had taken place immediately prior to or shortly before McRae's death, then Dinsmore would have emphasized the fact.
Whether or not the vehicle in question had been disposed of by the police before McRae's death in April 1985 is not a measure of the accuracy of Dinsmore's statement.
But that it was in Special Branch service for at least part of the time period covered by Dinsmore's statement, that is from September 1983 to April 1985, has been confirmed by the police themselves.
When the actual content of Dinsmore's statement is examined, the police statements actually confirm Dinsmore's statement.
And as the "Herald" article of 1st February, 1992, states, the makers of the "Scottish Eye" documentary on McRae's death were aware that the car in question (XSJ 432T) had later been sold to a man in Telford.
They had checked the car's history and found no discrepancies in Dinsmore's information. Is it conceivable that a journalist of Callum Macrae's stature, being fully aware of the car's history, would have used the information provided by Dinsmore in the documentary if the information had proved to have been incorrect?
But Arnold Kemp's article is interesting chiefly because of its inaccuracy, and because it unwittingly confirms Dinsmore's statement by confirming that all three vehicles were Special Branch vehicles: "The authorities do not deny that these were Special Branch numbers."
The journalist John Macleod, writing in the "Herald" of March 28th, 1995, is also misinformed by an official in authority. He describes the interview:
"I remember Busby and Dinsmore. "Was McRae under MI5 or Strathclyde Special Branch surveillance?" Strathclyde Special Branch positively asserted he was not. As for the cars described by Busby and Dinsmore - that was their mischief, it is alleged.
These cars had shadowed Busby and Dinsmore. And they were Special Branch vehicles. So, in a neat move, the aspiring terrorists noted their details and later asserted that the vehicles had trailed McRae. But (big smile) in April 1985 neither car was a Special Branch car. I scribble this down."
This is interesting, especially as John Macleod took care to write it down. And there are several points here:
In a previous "Herald" article, of 1st February 1992, Strathclyde police did not positively assert that McRae was never under surveillance. They only denied that he was under "operational surveillance", and the word "operational" indicates a qualification.
Nor did Dinsmore (or Busby) state that the "vehicles" had trailed McRae. Dinsmore's statement only identified one of the vehicles as having trailed McRae.
And Dinsmore's statement did not assert that that vehicle trailed McRae "in April 1985". He did not claim to know the date or even the year of the surveillance, only that it took place at some time after his last meeting with McRae in September 1983.
And why "neither" vehicle? Dinsmore's statement mentions three vehicles, not two.
The reference to the "neat move", by which Dinsmore supposedly alleged that the vehicles he identified were following McRae in "April 1985", is an indication that John Macleod was told much the same pack of lies as was related to Arnold Kemp.
Clearly, both Arnold Kemp and John Macleod have been misinformed by high authority as to what Dinsmore's 1985 statement actually said. But why?
The only reasonable explanation is that Dinsmore's statement has some bearing on the issue of McRae's death. If his statement was merely a simple, or even a complex, fabrication then surely it would be easy to expose it without resorting to disinformation?
But, we know from the results of the police investigation of the SNLA, on which the Crown precognitions in Dinsmore's case are based, that, as early as May 1983, the police had already established a link between David Dinsmore and Willie McRae.
John Macleod, to his credit, although hostile to the idea of McRae's links to the SNLA, still considers the proposition in a follow-up article in the "Herald" of April 4th, 1995:
"Claims have emerged that McRae was under Special Branch surveillance. But such sources have good reasons, I think, for wanting us to believe it.
Even if McRae was being trailed, I must be heretical: such surveillance could have been justified. For public safety alone, Special Branch could rightly have shadowed McRae if they thought he could have led them to certain desperadoes. Chilling as the Prevention of Terrorism Act is, its provisions exist to protect us all from random bombing and bloodshed. That Special Branch officers, however, could cold-bloodedly murder a declining political figure I find incredible. If they killed him, it would have been by "accident".
Perhaps McRae stopped and challenged them. Maybe he produced his gun. There could have been a "scene"; things rapidly getting out of hand ..."
This scenario, according to one of my own police sources, to which I shall allude later, is not too far from the truth. Nor is it unique to John Macleod.
The same scenario is referred to by a columnist in "Scotland On Sunday" on 12th December, 1994:
"Then, he (Adam Busby) says, some three or four years later, McRae allowed his office to be used by the SNLA as a surveillance base for a Glasgow letter bomb campaign, among whose targets were Princess Diana (the bomb, c/o Lord Provost Michael Kelly, exploded, injuring the provost's secretary). This is confirmed by another of the conspirators.
Finally, McRae gave Busby and David Dinsmore, also wanted by police, the contents of his petty cash tin about £200 - to enable them to buy plane tickets to Dublin. Dinsmore, no longer close to Busby, confirms this, as does another source.
It is difficult to see a motive in this if untrue, other than some vague idea of creating a revolutionary Scottish martyr. If McRae was involved, even just by providing cash and legal support, then he was almost certainly under police surveillance as Dinsmore and Busby were. In the 1970s and 1980s, as several trials have revealed, the police devoted massive resources - in one case 13,000 hours of surveillance - to keeping on top of "tartan terrorism."
If McRae was being followed, was he on that evening? If he spotted his shadowers on the lonely road, did he confront them - the ifs multiply until one disappears into the heady mists of conspiracy."
The fact that Willie McRae was involved in financing and assisting Dinsmore's escape from Scotland appears to have been known to Willie McRae's brother, Dr Fergus McRae.
In a letter, published in the "Herald" on June 15th 1993, Dr McRae admits that Willie McRae gave "help" to Dinsmore:
The "Herald", June 15, 1993:
I read your article about my brother's death (June 8) with some dismay and wondered if all this gossip would ever stop. While I agree that your account is not wild and fanciful like most of the others over the years, it repeats a lot of inaccuracies which present my brother in a false light. He never worked or taught in Israel. He was in India during the war and was sympathetic to Indian home rule, but was not in the Congress Party.
His whole concern with Dinsmore was to try to help one whom he considered a misled and misguided and rather foolish youth, and also to minimise the harmful effect publicity about him might have on the Home Rule movement in Scotland. I cannot now recall anything he mentioned about Busby.
This is interesting because it acknowledges that Willie McRae knew and was concerned with Dinsmore, had given him "help", and, quite obviously, had discussed the matter with his brother.
And the phrase that Willie McRae had tried "to minimise the harmful effect publicity about him (Dinsmore) might have on the Home Rule movement in Scotland", could easily be interpreted as an admission that Willie McRae had admitted to his brother that he had helped Dinsmore to leave Scotland in order to avoid his trial and the attendant publicity.
But did McRae do so? Did he actually assist Dinsmore and Busby to leave Scotland?
While interviewing Adam Busby about an unrelated matter in Ireland in 2001, I suddenly switched without warning to the subject of Willie McRae.
Busby, who didn't seem very anxious to convince me of anything, related essentially the same story as Dinsmore, and it was in some detail. One of the things he told me was that, in McRae's office on the day before he and Dinsmore absconded from Scotland, McRae had offered them the key to his second home and had written down the address for them so that they could use its address if they were required to provide false ID and background information.
I asked Busby if he could remember the address. He said: "Ferguslie, Camusty, Camuslongart, near Dornie."
Quite simply, this didn't seem to fit.
The house's public address is actually: "Camusty, Camuslongart, near Dornie".
There is no reference to a Ferguslie, or a Ferguslee, or any other variant of that name in maps, records or documents of any kind.
But it was later confirmed to me by a family member that the McRae family called the house itself "Ferguslie", and referred to it as such.
But how could such private information be known – never mind remembered - by Adam Busby? Unless, as Busby and Dinsmore state, Willie McRae wrote the address down for them to use in 1983 and he memorized the address then?
This information has never been published anywhere and was known only to the family and some of their friends.
It is startling confirmation that Willie McRae did supply Adam Busby and David Dinsmore with the address, and that he helped them abscond, as they claim.
Even if the rest of their story is untrue, McRae’s assistance in their flight from justice involved him in the SNLA conspiracy. As a solicitor, he was perfectly aware of this.
Willie McRae's partner in his law firm was Ronnie Welsh. In 1995, Mr Welsh gave an interview to the "Herald", in which he confirms Dinsmore's statement that McRae felt he was under constant and increasing Special Branch surveillance, and acknowledges that McRae had dealings with Adam Busby and David Dinsmore which, he states, were "purely professional".
In fact, neither Busby nor Dinsmore, both of whom were arrested in Scotland on numerous occasions, were ever legally represented in any way by Willie McRae. Nor did they ever consult Willie McRae in any professional capacity.
As Mr Welsh was a partner in the legal firm he can no doubt use the firm's or other records to correct me if I am wrong.
Certainly, my own researches have been unable to discover any form of "purely professional" relationship between the three men.
Nor does Mr Welsh explain why a seemingly respectable Scottish solicitor should keep an illegally-held loaded revolver to hand. This is a very serious crime for which, if he had been caught, he would have faced a certain appearance in court for a criminal offence which is punishable by an extremely heavy prison sentence.
I find it remarkable that no one has previously thought fit to comment on this criminal behaviour. John Macleod only refers to the possibility that, if caught with the pistol, McRae would have been struck off professionally.
In fact, he would have faced the certainty of a trial and the possibility of a heavy prison sentence, as well as personal and professional disgrace.
And - another fact blindly ignored by most commentators - this blatantly criminal behaviour on McRae's part does not endorse the picture of a man who has been eulogised as some sort of a saint and, on at least one occasion, has even been compared with Jesus Christ (by Michael Strathern).
And why, if he was not already involved in serious illegal activity, did McRae feel the need to keep an illegally-held – and loaded – revolver constantly in his possession?
If the allegations made by Dinsmore and Busby about his involvement with the SNLA are only partly true, and I believe I have proved that at least in part they are totally and completely true, and even assuming that Willie McRae only helped finance and plan their flight from Scotland, then Willie McRae was also facing charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, conspiracy and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
And I fail to see why, if McRae was not already involved in SNLA activities, Dinsmore and Busby should have turned to him for help as they undoubtedly did. Nor do I see why McRae, if he was not previously involved in SNLA activities, should have rendered them any assistance of any kind.
In fact, when approached he should have notified the police immediately of their intention to flee to avoid prosecution.
A police source has told me that McRae was "in it up to his neck". The "it" being the SNLA.
In the "Herald" of March 28th, 1995, John Macleod asks:
"Why did the Nationalists abandon this case, repudiate this man?
Why did his own family not push for an inquiry? What worse could have been said, or found, about McRae that has not hitherto surfaced? How could they let him lie these 10 years in a suicide's grave? The evidence is overwhelming."
The fact that Willie McRae was linked to the SNLA was known to some of the SNP leadership and also to certain members of the McRae family, and it was for this reason that they were so anxious to avoid a public inquiry into his death.
And it should be noted, because a number of people seem unclear on this point, that the family's wishes are not even a consideration when the decision to hold an FAI is being made. The decision to hold an FAI is a legal decision based on the circumstances of the death. It is not a concession to the wishes of the family, and the wishes of the family or anyone else who knew the deceased are irrelevant.
But Peter Fraser, the Solicitor-General at the time, even consulted with Gordon Wilson, the then SNP MP about whether a Fatal Accident Inquiry should be held, as Gordon Wilson has publicly admitted,.
This is very strange and very significant for three reasons:
1) The Solicitor-General is the senior Scottish law officer whose duties are somewhat similar to those of the Attorney-General in England, and who acts as a legal adviser to the government. But the Solicitor-General is not concerned with the conduct of Fatal Accident Inquiries - that is the duty of the local procurator fiscal who is responsible to the Lord Advocate - and it must be asked why the Solicitor-General was involved in any way;
2) The decision to hold an FAI is a legal decision, and should be taken independently by the local procurator fiscal regardless of the feelings of family, friends, or former colleagues of the deceased. McRae’s death is officially "undetermined" (unsolved) and the decision not to hold an FAI is suspicious in itself;
3) The decision to hold an FAI is a purely legal decision and not a political decision. By consulting Gordon Wilson, the Solicitor-General was quite clearly asking Gordon Wilson to participate in a political decision about the matter.
In fact, the decision not to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry was a political decision made at the highest levels of government.
And this wasn't the only interference by Peter Fraser, the then Solicitor-General, who later became the Lord Advocate.
When David Coutts, an SNP councillor who was one of the people who had found Willie McRae's body, wanted to ask certain elementary questions about the McRae case, he wrote to the local procurator fiscal in Inverness about the matter.
To his astonishment, in response he received a reply, not from the procurator fiscal, but from Peter Fraser.
The letter was sharp to the point of rudeness, and informed Mr Coutts that the SNP leader Gordon Wilson supported the decision not to hold an FAI.
The evidence of an official cover up at the highest levels is overwhelming.
The Special Branch were involved from the very beginning - as numerous former and current police sources have revealed.
All copies of the police files were deliberately removed years ago, as the following report reveals:
"Scotland on Sunday", April 17, 1994:
"Cover Up Continues
Since mentioning last week the strange death of Willie McRae, I have had several letters and private telephone calls about the affair. Serving and former police officers involved in the case have, directly and indirectly, given me further information. There is a consistency in what they say. And it is this...
When it was appreciated that McRae was a "prominent member of the Scottish National Party", as I understand the police report recorded him, Special Branch became involved. The officer who discovered the gun in daylight found it in a burn, in front of where the car had been and a distance down stream of it. Subsequently, all copies of the police reports which routinely remain on the files, were removed."
And, in an even more remarkable occurrence, when the then procurator fiscal at Inverness, Thomas Aitchison, who was supposedly in charge of the McRae case, retired, he was warned that he was still bound by the Official Secrets Act. Specifically, he was warned not to discuss the McRae case:
The "Herald", March 27, 1995:
"New Evidence Reveals Bungles Over Willie McRae's Death
The procurator-fiscal who examined his case has been told not to talk about it to anyone. The procurator-fiscal says he is bound by the Official Secrets Act...
The case was closed formally by Mr Thomas Aitchison, the procurator-fiscal in Inverness, who decided the death was not suspicious. Mr Fraser (the Solicitor-General) made the personal decision not to order a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the death. (Author’s emphasis.) Last night Mr Aitchison said the case came under the Official Secrets Act and he had been reminded at his retirement four years ago that he was still bound by the Act.
"I was told not to talk about this case to anyone," he added.
A Crown Office spokesman told The Herald that all fiscals sign the Official Secrets Act "as a matter of course" and there was nothing suspicious in Mr Aitchison's comments."
The SNP leadership and the McRae family were made aware that an FAI would unearth details about McRae's links to the SNLA, and both were anxious to avoid this, to put it mildly.
The SNP leadership moved quickly to distance the SNP from Willie McRae. The SNP monthly, the "Scots Independent" did not even mention his death, never mind give him an obituary. This is highly significant.
Nearly every month the "Scots Independent" carries obituaries of recently deceased SNP members, the majority of whom were lowly party members. That an SNP member of Willie McRae's stature, who was a former vice-chairman of the party, who wrote for the "Scots Independent", who had stood for the SNP as a parliamentary candidate - narrowly missing being elected on one occasion - and who had volunteered his services free of charge to represent the SNP successfully in the Ayr Public Inquiry - that a person of Willie McRae's stature should not receive even a modest obituary is not just strange - it has a political significance which is meaningful.
Another example is the curious behaviour of Gordon Wilson MP. Despite his assertions to the contrary, Gordon Wilson of the SNP was totally opposed to an FAI.
When Archy Kirkwood, the Liberal Democrat MP, asked questions in the Commons about the McRae case, Gordon Wilson accosted Kirkwood in the Lobby of the House of Commons.
Wilson was extremely angry and demanded to know why Archy Kirkwood was asking questions about a "drunk" and a "queer" like Willie McRae.
Years later Gordon Wilson was to state that he now favoured an inquiry into McRae's death - not that that was of any significance. The truth is that no SNP MP has ever asked a single parliamentary question about the circumstances of McRae's death.
The SNP leadership knew that exposure of McRae's activities and links to the SNLA might harm them politically. This carries on until the present time.
Arnold Kemp, the journalist, wrote an article quite recently in which he mentioned the SNLA and Willie McRae in the same piece.
In a later article, Kemp revealed that he had received a letter from Alex Salmond of the SNP taking him to task for mentioning Willie McRae's name together with that of the SNLA in the original article, and implying that he should never mention McRae's name in connection with the SNLA again.
But whatever the extent of the Special Branch surveillance, or the true identity of the car which followed McRae, which are matters in dispute, Dinsmore's statement that McRae was being followed by two men in a car while journeying to his country cottage has been independently corroborated. On at least one occasion there is independent evidence of this.
Furthermore, the evidence refers to the night Willie McRae made his final journey to his country cottage. The corroboration is indisputable as it is provided by a former police officer himself.
Additionally, he states that McRae, who was well known to him, was in a good spirits only hours before he supposedly took his own life.
Most crucially, the former police officer states that, only hours before he was shot, Willie McRae was being watched by two men, and that he was then followed by two cars when he started his journey to his weekend cottage.
My colleague David Taylor wrote the following article in the "News Of The World" on November the 10th, 2002:
"Our Tale Of Tragic McRae Jogged Don's Memory
A retired cop has come forward with crucial evidence that could help solve one of Scotland's greatest murder mysteries -after reading the News of the World.
In our Violent Scotland mag - published with the paper last week – we told how SNP firebrand Willie McRae was found dying on a lonely Highland road. Former bobby Donald Morrison was gripped by the tale...
And he revealed: "The more I think about it, the more it stinks of murder."
Donald, who was in the force for 28 years, told us how he'd been on the beat in Glasgow city centre when he spotted McRae. He added: "He was full of the joys of spring, coming out of the off-licence with a bottle of whisky in each hand."
I joked, 'Excuse me, sir, would you like to blow into this bag' because he was heading towards his car. "He told me, 'You're only jealous. I'm going to Kintail tonight and I'll be drinking with my feet up in front of a log fire'.
"I helped him do a U-turn in the traffic but, while I was doing that, I got the feeling someone was watching me. When I looked over my shoulder I saw two suspicious-looking men eyeing what we were doing. "I don't think Willie saw them. Minutes later he drove off.
"Suddenly I saw two cars pull out nearby, very quickly, as if they were in a rush to catch him up. And when I looked around, the two men had vanished."
Just hours later, on Saturday April 6, 1985, an Australian tourist found McRae on a remote stretch of the A87 in Inverness-shire. He hadn't made it to his holiday home in nearby Kintail...
And last night Donald told us: "I am not convinced that the verdict of suicide was the right one."
The 61-year-old, who now lives in Portknockie, Morayshire, added: "I hope that, someday, justice will be done for poor Willie McRae.""
This statement, coming as it does from a former police officer who knew Willie McRae well and saw and spoke to him only hours before his death, cannot be taken lightly.
Mr Morrison - who was involved in police surveillance work himself - is absolutely convinced that Willie McRae was under surveillance only hours before he was shot.
This confirms David Dinsmore's 1985 statement. It also confirms what a confidential police source has told me regarding the death of Willie McRae:
1) That McRae was known to the police to be involved in SNLA activities, and was being connected to Dinsmore and Busby;
2) That police believed that McRae would lead them to Busby and Dinsmore who, in April 1985, police still expected to attempt a secret return to Scotland;
3) That Willie McRae was kept under constant surveillance;
4) That McRae was under surveillance on the night that he died;
5) That McRae confronted two Special Branch officers who were following him and attempted to run them off the road;
6) That McRae's car crashed off the road during the confrontation;
7) That when officers attempted to reach McRae to arrest him, McRae fired two shots - one of which was a warning shot or a test shot - and the second shot he directed into his own head;
8) That, in pitch darkness, police reached McRae's vehicle, removed and discarded the pistol, and examined McRae who they believed to be dead or beyond medical assistance;
9) That, given the sensitivity of the situation, the officers left the scene, and attempted to report the situation to their own superiors in Scotland in Scottish Special Branch HQ in Pitt Street, Glasgow;
10) They were not immediately successful in contacting their superiors, and the chain of command was not fully aware of the situation until hours had passed;
11) That, eventually, a decision was taken at the highest level to disassociate the police from the death of McRae;
12) That there was no genuine investigation of McRae's death. It was deemed unnecessary as police witnesses could confirm that it was suicide;
13) That only the closest members of his family and some of his political colleagues were informed that the circumstances of McRae's death were dishonorable;
14) That a political decision was taken at the highest level not to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry in order to avoid a political and police scandal, and not to spare the family's feelings.
This version of events was told to me in confidence by a source who was involved in the McRae case. He certainly believes it to be true. It certainly fits all the known facts.
But is it true?
Certainly, the background to it is true. There was a huge increase in Special Branch personnel and activities in Scotland at this time - a fact revealed by among other things the annual Chief Constables' reports of the period.
And there was extensive surveillance of SNLA suspects and everyone who could be associated with them.
This version was related to me by a person who was in a position to know the inside story of the McRae case, and who supports and defends the police actions.
But, it must be asked, how can it be proved beyond doubt that McRae shot himself, and was not shot by the police themselves during a violent struggle?
And, even assuming that McRae shot himself and the police believed that he was dead, how can the decision to abandon the scene - and a loaded pistol left there - be explained?
Is there any evidence, apart from the word of undercover policemen, that McRae actually shot himself?
Was McRae suicidal? I believe there is evidence that he was worried and increasingly anxious, and that he was also drinking heavily. And there is a perfectly logical explanation for this.
It has been repeatedly asserted by friends that McRae told them he was aware of Special Branch surveillance, and that the Special Branch were closing in on him. See, for example, his remarks to Ronnie Welsh, his business partner, which have been referred to previously.
As a lawyer McRae must have been well aware that, at the very least, he was facing arrest for conspiracy and attempting to pervert the course of justice simply because he had assisted Dinsmore and Busby to leave Scotland.
And he was also facing professional and personal ruin.
These circumstances, weighing on his mind, would have driven many perfectly reasonable people to at least consider suicide as an option.
But, even so, there appears to be no independent evidence that McRae shot himself. And there is no good or legal reason why the scene was abandoned, or any reasonable explanation of why he was left to die alone.
I challenge the Crown Office with this evidence.
Until the Crown Office discloses all the documentation which it possesses in relation to the death of Willie McRae, I will continue to assert that the only possible explanation for McRae's death involves criminality of some degree and that:
1) Willie McRae was shot during a confrontation with agents of the State who had him under surveillance because of his links to the SNLA, and they then left him to die without medical attention, rather than calling an ambulance or even officially reporting the incident.
2) For political reasons, the manner of his death, and the possible criminality of the officers who either shot him, or who were present when he shot himself, and failed to assist him or even to report his shooting at local level, was covered up.
3) The criminality was then compounded by the Crown Office and its agents at the highest levels, thus rendering them also culpable in the death of Willie McRae.
Note 1: Michael Strathern is often described, and described himself, as a founder member of the Willie McRae Society, which was set up in 1985 to press for an inquiry into McRae's death. In fact, Strathern joined the Willie McRae Society at a comparatively late date. There is no evidence that Strathern showed any interest in the McRae case until 1987.
In early 1987, nearly two years after McRae's death, and only weeks before a ceremony in memory of McRae was to be held which would involve much publicity, Strathern made his first public statement about the case.
This was a letter published in the SNP's "Scots Independent". In his brief letter Strathern writes on behalf of a previously unknown organisation which he called the 1985 Group, which, Strathern claimed, had been investigating the death of Willie McRae for a period of nearly two years. In fact, Michael Strathern did not join the Willie McRae Society (which was formed in London in 1985 by SNLA supporters) until a later date.
Strathern's letter was also the first mention of the McRae case which the SNP's monthly newspaper had carried. To the astonishment of many, the "Scots Independent" had even failed to provide an obituary for Willie McRae.
Note 2: The theory about a drugs connection was revived by Winnie Ewing, the former SNP MP, in January, 2002. The "Evening Express" reported:
"A new theory emerged today in the long-standing mystery surrounding the death of die-hard nationalist Willie McRae. Scottish political legend Winnie Ewing told the Evening Express she believes her colleague may have been the victim of a drug baron's hit."
In fact, the "new" theory is unsupported by a single scrap of evidence, and one wonders why Mrs Ewing chose to raise the matter. She has never chosen to ask questions about the McRae case in either the European or the Scottish parliaments.
Note 3: John Macleod did not mention, or did not know, about the "lone gunman". He figures in a bizarre incident which took place only a few miles from where McRae's body was found, and it took place on the same day, and at the around the same time of day, as the McRae case unfolded.
This incident involved a party of walkers on the hills being fired on by a gunman.
The incident was reported in the "West Highland Free Press" a year after McRae's death.
This incident was investigated by police who finally decided that it had no bearing on the McRae case.
It was suggested to me that the incident probably involved an overzealous gamekeeper firing warning shots over the heads of ramblers to drive them from the hills. Such incidents, although highly illegal, are not unknown and are reported from time to time.
The Death Of Kevin Collison
As a hard-headed cynic, Willie McRae had left strict instructions in his will that he wanted no funeral service, no tombstone, no inscription, no plaque, and no permanent memorial of any kind. Nor did McRae wish any form of commemoration after his death.
Despite this, Siol nan Gaidheal (SnG), a somewhat eccentric pro-SNP fringe group, which has a penchant for wearing full Highland dress and carrying colourful banners and flags, had erected a memorial plaque on a cairn which had been erected near the site of his death.
Even worse in the SNLA's eyes, each year on the Saturday nearest to the anniversary of his death, SnG held a memorial rally at the cairn, during which SnG speakers gave wildly inaccurate accounts of the life and death of Willie McRae.
In 1992, the SNLA had contacted one of the SnG leaders, the late Michael Strathern, an elderly and highly-eccentric man who sometimes seemed to claim to be in psychic communication with McRae.
This wasn't Strathern's only peculiarity. Habitually wearing full Highland dress, he also claimed to be a native Highland crofter, although he was actually a native of the greater Glasgow area who had simply acquired a smallholding in Benderloch in Argyllshire.
When contacted by the SNLA, Strathern had prevaricated almost endlessly but had finally insisted that the memorial rallies would go ahead despite the explicit instructions in Willie McRae's will.
As a result, the SNLA decided to disrupt the forthcoming memorial rally which was due to take place in April 1992.
Threats, ordering that the rallies be abandoned, and signed by David Dinsmore (then a fugitive overseas) but posted in Glasgow, were sent to Michael Strathern, to Jackie Stokes who was another SnG leader with close links to the police, and to a hotelier who normally provided hospitality to the SnG party after the rallies. The hotelier was warned not to allow SnG people to use his premises.
A written ultimatum was also sent to the Chief Constable of the Northern Constabulary in which the SNLA demanded that the rally should be officially banned!
Failing this, the SNLA stated that they would disrupt the rally and spread chaos and disruption throughout the whole of the Northern Constabulary's area.
As a foretaste of what was to come, on a weekday prior to the Saturday of the SnG rally, the SNLA caused a bomb alert at Caledonia House in Inverness, which housed Scottish Office departments.
In response to the SNLA threats, the police mounted a massive operation to protect Siol nan Gaidheal and their rally. There was a certain irony in this as the police force involved was the Northern Constabulary - who had failed to carry out a conclusive investigation of McRae's death - while the Siol nan Gaidheal group, who relied on the police escort, liked to cultivate references to themselves as "militants" and "extremists".
On the Saturday of the rally, a coordinated series of SNLA bomb alerts caused chaos at airports and elsewhere throughout the Northern Constabulary jurisdiction. The disruption was serious. In one case, a Loganair aircraft heading for the Northern Isles was forced to circle the airport while the emergency services assembled on the ground in preparation for a full-scale emergency landing. The cost of the disruption is unknown, but it must have been heavy.
The police had concentrated their resources at the site of the McRae memorial cairn in order to protect the SnG rally. Police roadblocks had been established around the cairn and at least one helicopter was reported in the area. As the Siol nan Gaidheal party entered the area, they were convoyed to the memorial cairn by police escort vehicles.
All might have gone well for the SnG group, but for the appearance at a police roadblock of a convoy of large British Army artillery trucks, each with a trailer attached, which were coming from the opposite direction to the SnG cars. The Army vehicles were returning from the artillery ranges on the island of South Uist or Benbecula.
When informed by police at the roadblock that there were reports of the possibility of a bomb in the area ("Observer", Scottish edition, 19th April, 1992), the Army convoy put their standard evacuation procedures into effect, and the artillery convoy exited the area at maximum speed – a move which sent them hurtling at top speed towards the oncoming police and SnG convoy.
The Army convoy swept past the memorial cairn at top speed, which is located beside a stretch of the A87 road, and smashed straight into the first of the oncoming Siol nan Gaidheal cars.
One of the car's occupants, Kevin Collison, a young SnG member from Edinburgh, was killed outright in the crash.
Bombs, bomb alerts, and threats must inevitably result in tragedy eventually. That it had not happened sooner was almost a miracle. Violent death was inevitable.
The SnG rally was abandoned that day, although bizarrely Michael Strathern could not be prevented from making a speech for the benefit of the media, and the SnG rallies have since been discontinued.
Author's Note: The SNLA cynically refers to Kevin Collison as Kevin "Collision", and is quite unrepentant in regard to his death.
The English Colonisation
There have always been small numbers of English people living in Scotland. This was never a matter of any concern until recent times.
But during the late 1960s and 1970s very large numbers of English people began moving to Scotland, settling in the towns and cities as well as in small Scottish communities throughout rural Scotland.
According to the official figures contained in the "Census of Scotland", between 1951 and 1961 the number of English in Scotland increased by 14,582, and in the next ten year period 13,621 English immigrants made the move. After this, the numbers increased markedly with 47,389 English moving into Scotland between 1971 and 1981, and an additional 56,484 entered between 1981 and 1991.
These figures do not, however, tell the whole story. The economic, social and cultural aspects affect the whole of Scotland and are having lasting effects on rural and urban areas alike.
The ultimate fear of many Scots is that they will be reduced to an ethnic minority in their own country, that "Scottishness" will be diluted or disappear entirely, and that Scotland, as a national entity, will eventually disappear.
Fears of such a Doomsday Scenario are far from groundless. In Wales, for example, Welsh people are now in a minority, with English people, including many English people who were born in Wales but remain totally unassimilated and who are quintessentially English, forming a majority of the country's population.
The prospects for the survival of the Welsh national identity are not encouraging.
The rural areas of Scotland have been the most adversely affected to date.
Contrary to the assumptions of many, very few of the total number of English immigrants to the rural areas are associated with North Sea oil. Nor are the Highlands the only rural area affected by English immigration. Every part of rural Scotland has suffered and continues to suffer.
The effects on rural Scotland have been economic, and social and cultural.
The first adverse effect is economic and centres on the rapid increase in land and house prices. The second adverse effect includes social and cultural problems and problems of social interaction, politics and the disappearance of traditional ways of life.
On the economic side, the immigrants have had a significant effect on raising land prices in rural areas to the extent that the local farmers who may have been contemplating expansion have had to abandon their plans as land prices have risen beyond their means.
Similarly, young local people seeking to rent or buy homes find that costs are beyond their often limited means.
English immigrants are predominantly middle class, and are generally wealthier than most local people who are predominantly working class, and the immigrants have access to more sources of credit, and are able to pay more for property. As a result, Scottish people are forced out of the housing market and often are forced to leave the area.
A detailed study in one rural area shows that 15 acres of land which had sold for £400 in 1972, increased in value to £12,000 in six years. In 1980, it was on the market again and the market price was reported to be £24,000. Another study covering a number of rural areas listed the average resale value of property in 1984 at £24,602, and by 1991, this had increased to £47,611.
In certain of the areas studied, including Berwickshire and Skye and Lochalsh, less than half of the buyers were locals, and a high percentage of the non-locals were English immigrants.
Other additional pressures on local communities in rural Scotland are the closure or reduction of essential services such as public transport. Working class populations in rural areas, many of whom are elderly people surviving on State benefits, rely to a large degree on public transport, whereas wealthier middle class immigrants in these areas rely on their own private transport.
The result is that, as the local working class population declines, the provision of public transport systems becomes increasingly uneconomic leading to withdrawal of the services. This in turn puts additional pressures on the local Scottish population.
Not surprisingly, the large increase of English people in very small and fragile rural communities - whose population was already in decline, was frequently elderly and had a death rate far exceeding the birth rate - could not fail to affect the indigenous communities adversely.
As the English immigrants are younger and richer than the indigenous population of rural Scotland the net result has been population replacement. Scottish communities have now become English.
The result is that in much of rural Scotland, which only contains a small part of the country's population, but which makes up most of Scotland's territory, there is a population which is already predominantly English in birth, culture and sympathy.
There are already parts of rural Scotland, some parts of Argyllshire for instance, where there is no significant Scottish population left. English people and their unassimilated offspring make up the bulk of the population. And, of course, English immigration is still increasing, while the takeover of property and businesses is also increasing.
If some campaigners against English immigration see this situation as "accidentally" arising, the SNLA and others most certainly do not.
They point out that the British government has a long history of "racial swamping" and, for example, it was official State policy to attempt to replace the French Canadians with English speakers until comparatively recent times.
The policy is not exclusive to the British State. Until recent times, Soviet policy was to encourage Russian settlement in non-Russian areas such as the Baltic States, and to encourage "Russification".
The Chinese are currently replacing the population of Tibet with ethnic Chinese, and there are many other examples of genocide-by-replacement.
In fact, throughout the world small nations with fragile identities are under threat, and are facing national extinction, and surely, in an age when conservation is a key issue, minority national groups with distinctive cultures deserve support and encouragement to allow them to survive?
This view is described as racist nonsense by hostile commentators who like to compare the SNLA and the SSG to the National Front or the British National Party.
This facile comparison fails to take into account the ideological differences between the SNLA and the SSG and the English fascist groups. The Scottish groups are not racist per se but are fighting to preserve a national identity in decline.
They also do not consider the substantial differences between the situation in Scotland - or in many other small countries where the national identity is under threat - and the situation in large countries like England.
In England, which has a population of approximately 50,000,000 people, the combined number of coloured immigrants and their descendants is still considerably less than 10% of the population, and the immigrants are from exceedingly diverse backgrounds with considerable pressure on them to assimilate to the English language, culture and way of life.
In Scotland the situation is almost in reverse.
For the SNLA the key issue is not simply Independence but "national survival or national extinction".
English people have a dominating position in the Scottish media for example, which has implications for Scottish society as a whole.
The English in Scotland are generally not only on a higher economic level, but are also frequently in positions of authority and control. This has increased the perception among many Scots that Scotland is an internal colony of England. In this sense the "white settler issue" also has a distinctive political dimension.
Although the SNLA prefers to refer to the English immigrants as "colonists", the widespread use in Scotland of the expression "white settlers", to describe English immigrants, is also an ironic but pointed self-reference by those who deliberately identify themselves, not just as "locals", but particularly as "black natives".
All of this is part of the imaging of a Scotland whose traditions and identity are threatened by a colonial relationship to a metropolitan England, or to a cosmopolitan Britain.
The idea of internal colonialism has led to increased dialogue about the "Englishing" of Scotland and includes claims that Scotland's unique heritage is being destroyed, particularly the remnants of its Gaelic language, culture and its ethnicity and educational system.
In short the destruction of "Scottishness" and of the entire Scottish national identity.
The SNLA certainly opposes mass English immigration, and, by 1994, were preparing to campaign against it.
In early 1994, the SNLA launched a daring and secret operation - Operation Flame - which was an attempt to establish a series of "leaderless resistance" groups in Scotland to combat mass English immigration.
The plan was to anonymously circulate a series of bomb-making manuals and other literature to as many "suitable" people as possible throughout Scotland. The manuals were a sort of "Beginners' Guide To Terrorism", and were designed to enable potential terrorists to plan and to carry out their own operations completely independently and anonymously.
These manuals and literature would be widely circulated in the name of a new (and completely fictitious) group called "Flame". The SNLA would not be openly associated with the formation or running of Flame. (Note 1.)
Those contacted would be urged to work on their own to carry out independent actions against English immigrants in Scotland, or to form small completely independent cells to carry out similar actions. Those contacted were also asked to copy and to further circulate the literature anonymously to anyone they considered suitable or likely to take action.
In this way a number of completely independent groups would (or so the SNLA hoped) spring up throughout Scotland. Each group would be completely independent, anonymous and completely unlinked to any other group.
In fact, each group would be linked only by a common ideology and the use of the cover name of Flame.
This is the classical form of organisation known as the "Leaderless Resistance Movement" - a form of organisation which has been effectively used by the Animal Liberation Front among others.
The growth of such a diverse and self-sustaining organisation would be a nightmare for the police and the security services in Scotland, who would have little or no chance of dealing a blow at the heart of any such movement, but would have to deal separately with each of the independent cells.
The creation of such a leaderless resistance movement had long been an SNLA plan, and in order to further the plan the SNLA went to great lengths to get the whole thing up and running.
The literature, called the "Scottish Resistance Handbook", was carefully prepared, copied and distributed by mail to hundreds of people. This was not an easy matter as each packet had to be fingerprint-free as well as DNA- and forensic-free.
On completion of this first part of the plan, it was decided to boost the first part of the plan by anonymously "leaking" news of Flame to the media. This paid rich dividends when the "Daily Record" published an article on Flame which included a diagram from the bomb-making manual.
The next step was for the SNLA to carry out actions in the name of Flame "to get the ball rolling". The SNLA member tasked with launching Flame was Kevin Paton of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. A lorry driver in his twenties, Kevin Paton constructed a small number of hoax parcel bombs which he then sent to a wide variety of targets in Scotland and England.
These devices caused chaos. For example, in Aberdeen the local authority HQ was completely evacuated after a parcel was opened by an aide to a councillor. In Dundee a Scottish academic, Malcolm Dickson, who had publicly supported English immigration, had a nervous collapse when he opened a package and discovered what he thought was a bomb.
There were at least five of these attacks including attacks in England which were aimed at Persimmon Homes, a property developer based in Yorkshire which did extensive business in Scotland, and at the offices of the "Exchange and Mart" which advertised Scottish properties for sale to English buyers.
Expensive disruptions and large-scale police operations were the outcome.
Needless to say, all of the attacks were claimed by and attributed to Flame.
Another well-publicised action which took place during this period was a threat aimed at the English-born Labour MP Anthony Worthington. Mr Worthington represents a Scottish constituency and lives with his family near Glasgow.
In a threat sent to him via Labour HQ in Scotland, Mr Worthington was warned to leave Scotland within thirty days or face the consequences. In a later incident, Mr Worthington's wife received a frightening late night telephone call at her home.
This unpleasant tactic, which is really a very effective form of psychological warfare, was randomly applied to English immigrants throughout Scotland, and the amount of fear generated by these incidents - which usually went unreported - can only be imagined.
These were not the only occasions on which SNLA members carried out operations in the name of Flame - an article in "Scotland On Sunday" in May 1994 quotes an MI5 source as attributing 23 attacks to Flame - but to what extent did non-SNLA activists take part in these or contribute to Flame?
The SNLA itself cannot be sure. Alec says:
"We don't know for sure what effect Flame had on others. There was definitely a marked increase in slogan-painting, and some of this was reported in the media, and there were lots of rumours, but no major incidents were reported. Given that the media usually doesn't generally report incidents of this type or isn't allowed to report them, there is the possibility that some incidents went unreported, but we are not in a position to know."
The authorities initially appear to have accepted that Flame was a separate non-SNLA organisation, but the involvement of the SNLA appears to have been suspected from an early date, if only because the SNLA is the only activist organisation in Scotland.
In September 1994 a hoax bomb was placed outside the Sheriff courthouse in Aberdeen causing major traffic disruption. However this was not a "Flame" operation but an SNLA action, and was claimed as such.
Only a few hours afterwards the police arrested three men in Aberdeenshire. One was Kevin Paton of Inverurie, who had fronted Operation Flame for the SNLA, and the others were Terry Weber and Darin Brown of Aberdeen. Darin Brown was an SNLA member while, according to the SNLA, Terry Weber was not.
Kevin Paton, who completely collaborated with the police after his arrest, was released on bail after spending only a few days in prison.
Terry Weber, who wasn't an SNLA member, but according to the SNLA was a police informer, was also released on bail later, while Darin Brown who was an SNLA member was refused bail. But, after a time spent on hunger-strike in Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen, Brown was eventually released. (Note 2.)
Darin Brown subsequently decamped to Dublin where he had linked up with members of the SNLA's Dublin cell by the beginning of 1995. (See "The Dublin Cell" for details of Brown's activities in Dublin.)
The so-called Flame trial took place in late 1995 and caused a sensation.
Brown, having also turned informer was not tried, Adam Busby was named in court as the mastermind of the operation, and Paton and Weber received 18 months and 3 years respectively for their part in the conspiracy.
If not a brilliant success for the SNLA, the outcome was equally disappointing for the British authorities who had expended a vast amount of time and money in bringing the case to court.
In these circumstances, a combined four and a half year sentence for small fish like Paton and Weber was a poor reward for their efforts.
Note 1: The Scottish Resistance Handbook was later advertised and sold openly by the SSG. See, for example an article in the "Birmingham Post" of February 10, 1999:
An extremist group dedicated to driving English settlers out of Scotland is offering a book detailing instructions on how to make powerful incendiary and destructive devices.
The Scottish Separatist Group offers the information in what it calls a Scottish Resistance Handbook which can be used to further what it claims is its cause of "national liberation"."
Note 2: The hunger strike is reported in a number of newspapers, although all of them say that Weber was also on hunger strike. In fact, this is not true.
The "Daily Mirror" of 30th September 1994 reports:
"Jail Men To Starve
Two alleged tartan terrorists have gone on hunger strike. The pair are awaiting trial in an Aberdeen jail accused of trying to further the aims of the Scottish National Liberation Army. And a friend of Terrence Webber, 29, and Darrin Brown, 24, claimed they were prepared to fast to death. They both deny placing a hoax bomb at Aberdeen Sheriff Court."
The Dublin Cell
The arrival of Adam Busby and David Dinsmore as fugitives in Dublin in September 1983 saw the formation of an SNLA cell which has continued to exist in Ireland's capital for over twenty years.
Adam Busby, free to live openly in Dublin as a result of a ruling by the Irish High Court in 1984 which classed his alleged offences as political, is - allegedly – the mastermind of the SNLA campaign. It is also alleged that there is a small SNLA cell headed by Busby, which has acted as a permanent base, and which has continued to recruit and organise new SNLA members in Scotland and beyond.
Despite its small size - it has rarely consisted of more than four or five members - the Dublin cell, operating beyond the reach of the British police, has played a major part in SNLA activities. For entirely practical reasons, the SNLA in Dublin does not generally carry out attacks directly from or within the Irish Republic.
This is to avoid the attentions of the Irish police - although despite this the Irish police keep the SNLA under constant surveillance.
However, there have been times when clashes have been inevitable.
In late 1988 Adam Busby escorted a member of a Cornish organisation, "Free Cornwall", to the British Embassy in Dublin. The intention was simply to escort the visiting Cornishman to the British Embassy where a protest letter, written in both English and the Cornish language, concerning mass English immigration into Cornwall, was to be handed in to the British Ambassador.
However when the two men, accompanied by Busby's then girlfriend, approached the gate lodge at the Embassy, Busby, who remained standing on the public footpath outside, was ordered to hand over the Cornishman's camera which was in Busby's jacket pocket. Busby refused and a scuffle broke out.
It resulted in Adam Busby, the Cornishman, and Busby's Irish girlfriend, who was pregnant, invading the main building of the heavily guarded Embassy. With alarms sounding in their ears, the three penetrated the Embassy's Commercial and Passport sections before a member of the Embassy's staff produced an automatic pistol, cocked it, and jammed its muzzle into the base of Busby's nose.
The three were then bundled roughly out of the Embassy by armed Irish policemen who were normally stationed inside the Embassy. The police warned them repeatedly that they were lucky not to have been shot.
The three were then escorted from the British Embassy grounds and told they would be arrested if they did not hand over the camera.
The incident was highly embarrassing to the authorities because their own over-zealous security staff at the British Embassy had needlessly sparked off the whole incident, which they had then been unable to control.
The incident received a good deal of publicity including an article in the Irish Republican newspaper "An Phoblacht / Republican News", and in a number of major British newspapers.
Although there had been a sporadic amount of SNLA activity organised from Dublin with the arrival there of Adam Busby and David Dinsmore in September 1983, by the early 1990s Dublin was the main SNLA base from which operations could be planned and organised against targets in the UK.
This was a very successful tactic because it took advantage of the Irish Republic's laws on conspiracy - which are much more limited and less draconian than the British conspiracy laws - and there were additional benefits as, with the exception of a small number of specific offences, the Irish police have no legal right to investigate offences which take place in the UK.
By 1995 the Dublin cell consisted of at least four SNLA members and they were the subject of a lengthy and intensive investigation by the Irish Special Detective Unit - the Irish Republic's Special Branch.
In 1995 the alleged members of the SNLA cell in Dublin were Adam Busby, Hugh Smith McMahon (a native of Glasgow), Darin Brown of Aberdeen, and a New Zealand-born Gaelic speaker Tristan O' Cearnaigh. O' Cearnaigh was of mixed Scottish and Irish extraction. All except Busby were men in their twenties.
Darin Brown, as previously mentioned in the chapter "Operation Flame", had left Scotland to avoid prosecution for an alleged conspiracy to coerce Her Majesty's Government in order to establish a separate Scottish State.
Three of them - Busby, Brown and O' Cearnaigh - were arrested simultaneously in Dublin in May 1995 by detectives from the Special Detective Unit (the Irish Special Branch) on suspicion of possession of explosives. This was days after the Icarus device had been sent by air from Belfast to London. (See later chapter.)
They were held under Section 30 of The Offences Against The State Act - which is the Irish Republic's anti-terrorist legislation.
In fact all of them were questioned for up to two days about a plethora of offences which had taken place in Scotland and England. In most cases the Irish detectives were actually illegally questioning the SNLA suspects about offences over which the Irish police had no jurisdiction.
Adam Busby, Tristan O' Cearnaigh and McMahon (who was arrested at a slightly later date than the others) all remained silent after denying the charges.
However Darin Brown – the former hunger-striker - began to make lengthy statements implicating himself and others in offences which had taken place in Scotland.
He even made a lengthy written statement in which he admitted the offences with which he had already been charged in Aberdeen.
As a result of his collaboration, Darin Brown was to be given absolute immunity from prosecution in Scotland, including the offences with which he had already been charged and to which he had admitted in a written statement, and he was flown back to the UK where he was welcomed by senior police officers.
Despite the fact that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Scotland, Brown was not arrested by the Scottish officers as the law of Scotland requires. When the Flame trial took place later in 1995, Brown was not proceeded against and the Crown told the High Court that they did not know his whereabouts - although he was living under police protection at the time!
The police were anxious to use Brown as a witness against the others, and in particular against Adam Busby.
Busby eventually entered a plea of guilty to a misdemeanor - faxing an SNLA communiqué to media outlets in Scotland - and got a record two year sentence for this offence in March 1997.
Hugh Smith McMahon was eventually charged in connection with a bomb alert which closed down the massive Kessock bridge near Inverness in early 1995.
This was done by using a public telephone box in Dublin to make the call. According to my SNLA sources, this was an SNLA experiment which went wrong:
"The idea was that the guy in Dublin (McMahon) phoned a guy who was standing with an unregistered mobile phone in a public phone box in Glasgow.
The person in Glasgow received the call from Dublin on the mobile. Then he used the public phone to call directly to the police in Inverness. Then he twinned the phones, putting the mobile together with the public phone in Glasgow so that McMahon from Dublin could speak directly to the cops in Inverness although the call would be logged as coming from a call box in Glasgow.
The idea was to confuse police intelligence and send them on a wild goose chase. McMahon wasn't known to the police so it didn't matter when his voice was recorded. What mattered was that the police would be looking for someone with McMahon's voice who was in Glasgow that night. Obviously McMahon could have proved that he was in Dublin that night, so that, even if he was picked up in Scotland at a later date, they couldn't have proved the charge against him.
Unfortunately it all went wrong on the night. McMahon's voice was so indistinct when it was relayed that it couldn't be understood. The relay system wasn't dependable.
So McMahon thought "Fuck it ", and made the call directly from Dublin to Inverness. He told the Inverness cops that there was a bomb on or under the Kessock bridge, which was then sealed off and it was thoroughly searched the following day.
Nowadays telephone calls are easy to relay. This is all thanks to modern mobile technology such as the Hands Free speakerphone on mobile telephones."
McMahon was eventually charged with the offence before the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin which was set up to deal with terrorist offences, and early in 1997, he was remanded in custody to join Adam Busby in Portlaoise Prison.
In fact, it took over four years from the date of the commission of the offence to convict the astute Hugh Smith McMahon. He obtained bail, was released from Portlaoise Prison, and then took a protracted legal action to contest his arrest, and he continued to use up valuable police and court time in legal wrangles.
Finally, in May 1999, the Irish authorities were so fed up with the expensive case that they reached an agreement whereby McMahon agreed to plead guilty in return for a non-custodial sentence, conditional upon McMahon agreeing not to associate with any member of any criminal or subversive organisation for a period of two years.
James Freeman, Home Affairs Correspondent of the "Herald" of Glasgow, reported:
"A man linked to the Scottish National Liberation Army who caused a major alert by phoning a bomb warning to police in Inverness was given a two years suspended prison sentence by Dublin's anti-terrorist Special Criminal Court yesterday."
Needless to say, the "Herald", a newspaper which, if this is possible, is even more hostile to the SNLA than any other newspaper in Scotland, did not explain why the "major alert" at the Kessock bridge for which McMahon was convicted was totally unreported at the time it took place.
For example, a Scottish police officer, Detective Inspector Hector McRae of the Northern Constabulary told the court that the huge bridge had been completely closed for two hours, causing traffic diversions and serious problems for the emergency services.
Nor did the "Herald" report that McMahon had worn down the Irish police and legal authorities in a mammoth legal campaign.
Detective Superintendent Peter Maguire of the Irish Special Branch told the court that McMahon was only one of a number of people in Dublin associated with the SNLA who were being kept under surveillance by the Irish police in 1995.
The case of McMahon illustrates the predicament facing the Irish police. Although very few overt offences have ever taken place within the Irish Republic, and the Irish police have no legal powers to investigate SNLA attacks in the UK, they are required to use a very considerable amount of specialist police manpower and resources, which are already in short supply, just to keep the SNLA in Dublin under constant surveillance.
The SSG - The Scottish Separatist Group
The SNLA has a long history of forming legal support groups - most of which have been singularly short-lived and unsuccessful.
The Scottish Separatist Group or SSG is the exception. Formed in 1995, the SSG has the same basic aims as the SNLA. These are:
1) To halt and reverse mass English immigration into Scotland;
2) To restore Gaelic to its former position as the official language and the vernacular language in use throughout Scotland as a whole;
3) To establish and maintain a totally independent Scottish Republic.
The Scottish Separatist Group is a legal political organisation, which gives political support to the SNLA.
But the question of the exact relationship between the SSG and the SNLA is clouded by doubt.
The SSG has engaged in many perfectly legal activities for many years. In 1996 it produced two issues of a magazine called "The Scottish Separatist", copies of which were openly sold and are in the literary record libraries, and a variety of literature including regular monthly bulletins.
It has used the Internet to organise protests and has campaigned on a whole series of issues over the years, including, somewhat remarkably for a Republican organisation, arranging for a question on the case of the Glasgow Two to be asked in the House Of Lords. (Note 1.)
It has even made legal complaints against the police about the treatment of SSG members and associates.
On another occasion, the SSG used race relations legislation to condemn Sara Marsh, an English librarian in Buckie Community High School in Banffshire, as an "anti-Scottish bigot" because she had contributed to the book "Bloody Scotland". See "Serious separatists throw the book at English librarian", in the "Herald" of January 14th 1999, by Gavin Madeley.
The "Herald" described the SSG as an "anonymous group, which operates from an Internet site and a series of PO box numbers in Scotland, Dublin and the US".
The SSG were less than happy with the ""Herald" article and threatened to take legal action for libel against the newspaper. However, due to the high financial costs of the proposed legal action, the action was dropped.
The SSG has its own website which it shares with the SNLA and which is hosted by the Russian Maoist Party - it was originally hosted by Angelfire which banned it after pressure from Archy Kirkwood MP - and it has operated a series of Post Office boxes in the USA, in Dundee, Dumfries and in Dublin. It has even sold its own lapel badges and T-shirts and other materials.
According to the SSG its members are strictly limited to Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) and are absolutely forbidden to take part in violent activities.
But is the SSG simply a legal front for the SNLA? Or is the SSG simply a name used by the SNLA when it wishes to take part in legal activities?
This is a suspicion shared by many.
In 1999 the SSG's then National Organiser - a Dundee resident - was briefly remanded in custody for an alleged breach of the peace caused by sending an SSG Press Release to the "Press & Journal" newspaper in Aberdeen.
The charge was later dropped, and as the charge never seemed to have any real substance, and as no further charges were brought, it is clear that a number of SSG members operate openly, legally and independently of the SNLA.
It is also clear that an organisation as obsessively concerned with secrecy and security as the SNLA would be unlikely to encourage its members to allow themselves to be identified by participation in the open activities of the SSG.
The matter is open to speculation, but there is little doubt that there is a small body of SSG members who operate legally and independently of the SNLA. At the same time there is no doubt that the two groups are closely and intimately linked. (See Appendix 1.)
Note 1: The Glasgow Two are "TC" Campbell and Joe Steele who were wrongfully convicted of mass murder in the High Court on the testimony of a perjurer who was deliberately induced to give evidence by the Crown. After spending many years in prison protesting their innocence they were eventually released and exonerated.
It should be pointed out that neither Mr Campbell nor Mr Steele have or ever were alleged to have any connection to the SNLA.
The Strategy Of Disruption
According to SNLA doctrine, warfare is not just a lethal game. Its roots are essentially economic.
Warfare equals politics, and politics equals economics. The economic element in warfare is the essential element.
It is not only the motive for offensive wars, but the seizure, denial to or destruction of the enemy's economic resources and assets is the means by which wars were, and are, waged and won.
In former times, when society's economy was essentially agriculturally-based, wars were fought for the possession of land and the economic resources which the land provided. Troops, for example, were trained to take, hold and defend land. This is still the essential role of infantry soldiers.
Thus, in former times, when land was the prime economic resource, irregular and paramilitary forces strived for the control of land and its economic resources in order to acquire it for themselves and in order to deny it to the State.
But, the SNLA doctrine states, while this emphasis on the possession of land may still be relevant in parts of the Third World, it is totally irrelevant in the Developed World, where the prime economic resource is not agricultural but the industrial and service-based sectors. These sectors in their turn depend upon the provision of essential utilities and services such as electricity, water and transport.
The traditional scenario where guerrillas live and operate in rural areas which they seek to control is a non-starter in the Developed World.
In the Developed World, the State is a highly centralized and integrated political, social and economic entity which is powered by its economic base, and the population is essentially urban.
Thus in the Developed World the State can only be effectively attacked by the disruption or destruction of the State's economic base, and the essential utilities and services which support the State's economic base.
The SNLA argue that, no matter how spectacular an attack is, and no matter how many lives are lost, an attack is irrelevant unless it causes significant economic damage to the State.
A spectacular attack on an Army base which kills several soldiers is irrelevant because it causes no real economic damage to the State, and the loss of life is simply the loss of small amounts of what, in economic terms, is simply "human capital" which is cheap and easy to replace.
Such attacks can never win strategic advantage. Only major economic damage threatens the State.
But effective attacks on the State's economic base must cause major and irredeemable economic damage. This means that the economic loss must be significant, and the losses cannot be recovered or replaced by any other means.
For example, if property is destroyed or damaged, the actual economic loss, if any, is likely to be insignificant. The property's owners do not lose because they are covered by insurance.
The insurers do not lose because of the economics of the insurance industry. Insurance companies take in vast amounts of money in policies each year. And each year they pay out approximately the same amount in insurance claims. Their profits derive from the interest they accumulate by investing the money they take in as policies.
Insurance companies are themselves insured by re-insurance – the insurer’s insurance – against excessive claims.
They take no risk themselves, but actually profit from others’ losses. If there was no risk to others the insurance companies would go out of business.
If there was no risk there would be no business and no profits. But if the risk to others is increased the insurance companies get increased business and increased profits.
For example, if a paramilitary group begins a campaign of destruction of property, the insurance companies not only do not lose, they can expect to increase business and profits.
The insurance companies, in the event of a campaign of property destruction, increase the cost of property insurance and can expect to sell more insurance at increased prices, because there is an increased risk.
But insurance companies do not insure against loss of business or a drop in profits. Nor do they insure companies against the losses incurred by disruption.
So the emphasis is on disruption rather than destruction. This is essential to an understanding of the Strategy Of Disruption - a strategic disruption of whole areas, businesses, transport networks and other public services, which has been frequently used by the SNLA and others.
A typical example of the Strategy Of Disruption is when bomb alerts (whether genuine bombs are actually involved or not) force the closure of a city's road and rail networks before or during the morning rush hour, and if the bomb alerts paralyse the city itself, then nearly every business in the city will suffer major economic losses for which there is no insurance coverage.
Even if a business premises is not evacuated, then they will probably find themselves with a shortage of staff and only a handful of customers, while material deliveries will be delayed or suspended. The staff, customers and deliveries are caught up in the traffic disruption caused by the bomb alerts.
During early 1997 the Provisional IRA used this method to paralyse England's transport system. The rail system, the motorways, the air and sea ports were regularly paralysed by bomb alerts (almost all of which eventually turned out to be hoaxes) which totally disrupted the whole country's transport system.
This in turn affected nearly every major town and city in England, and thousands of businesses throughout the country suffered very major economic losses which, because they could not be covered by insurance, were irredeemable.
The Strategy Of Disruption has frequently been used by the SNLA.
The effects of the SNLA's use of the technique of Strategic Disruption are best illustrated by the events which took place in Birmingham - England's second largest city - on Saturday the 18th of March 1995.
The SNLA had firmly established a local presence and demonstrated an explosive capability in the city only a few days earlier by posting three letter bombs from Birmingham to targets in Scotland and England. Then another minor incident was staged in the city a few days later.
Finally, having prepared the ground, the SNLA was ready to disrupt the city of Birmingham by issuing a warning to the media of three (non-existent) bombs.
Early on the afternoon of Saturday the 18th of March, 1995, an SNLA member telephoned a bomb warning to a Birmingham newspaper.
Alec tells the story:
"There is always a small risk in telephoning the media because the call might be recorded, but the risk was worth it. Not only is there likely to be a propaganda value because the media knows at first hand what is happening, but the police are more likely to be prompted to react to a warning transmitted to them by the media than one sent via the Samaritans, for instance.
Basically, the guy who made the call to the Birmingham newspaper told them he didn't give a flying fuck if they recorded the call, but he told them that at 3 o'clock, I think it was, three bombs were set to go off in Birmingham. He said the bombs were inside three large shopping centres, the Bull Ring, the Pallisades and, I think, the Plaza. Then he gave the magic word (the SNLA codeword) and rang off. This was about 2.30 or thereabouts, and the timing was deliberate. We needed to give enough time for the newspaper to contact the police, and for the police to assess the threat and then carry out evacuations.
What happened then was that the message was passed on to the police by the newspaper. These messages always go to the police control room where there is a permanent link-up to the Special Branch. The Special Branch immediately performs an RA based on the message. RA means Risk Analysis or Risk Assessment.
The RA is used to assess the extent and the validity of the threat. For example, if some drunk phones in to say he's got a thermo-nuclear device which he'll detonate unless he gets the Queen's head on a plate in the next hour, then it isn't going to be taken very seriously. However, all threats are assessed and there's some sort of police action on all of them.
Even the drunk who says he's got the thermo-nuclear device will start a minor investigation to catch him, but, of course, he won't cause an evacuation or cause any real damage.
To cause any really significant disruption the threat must be very credible.
It is a sort of points system. The RA asks: Did the caller use a codeword or give the name of a known organisation, and if so, does the organisation have a local presence and an explosive capability? If it does, then the police will order an immediate evacuation.
As we had taken great care to establish a local presence in Birmingham and had sent letter bombs from there only a few days before, we clearly had a local presence and an explosive capability. The result was that the police ordered the immediate evacuation of all three shopping centres.
This couldn't have been an easy task for the police. Those shopping centres in Birmingham are massive and contain hundreds of individual shops. There were many thousands of people literally packed inside them because we had deliberately chosen to do this on a Saturday afternoon because it was the busiest shopping time of the week.
What happened was that the police had to evacuate the shopping centres in a big hurry.
Most people don't realise that the police don't - or can't - just go round politely asking people to leave at their own convenience, or giving shopkeepers the time to close up shop, and so on.
They just go round as quick as possible ordering people to drop everything and get out immediately. Then they have to stop the traffic in the streets, and establish safety perimeters which are usually at a radius of at least 100 metres and often more from the site of the suspected device.
But there were supposedly three bombs in Birmingham that day, all in the same area. And the suspect sites had been carefully chosen and were in a rough triangle within the city and were grouped quite closely together.
So the police were forced to evacuate the whole of the area in order to establish a secure perimeter. And this was in the heart of Birmingham's shopping area on a busy Saturday afternoon, at the peak of the weekly shopping rush.
They closed down everything in the area including New Street railway station and the rail traffic passing through it was also stopped, and the bus station nearby was evacuated too.
There is an integrated transport system and so everything was affected. Even the links to the airport via the rail and road networks were shut down, and the motorway traffic was affected too as Spaghetti Junction is close by, and they had to shut down access roads leading to and from the motorway.
Rail, road and pedestrian traffic in, out and through the city was gridlocked, and this spread like a ripple effect or a chain reaction through the whole city as masses of traffic was diverted away from the city centre and hundreds of thousands of pedestrians - I think the figure was in excess of 250,000 people - were streaming out of the area on foot and blocking more streets.
There was severe social and economic damage to the city of Birmingham as thousands of shops, pubs, offices, hotels and restaurants and other businesses were shut down. And they stayed shut down for many hours, until the whole area had been searched inch-by-inch for the non-existent bombs.
The economic losses were severe and there was no insurance compensation. See the Birmingham media reports of the time for their estimate of the economic losses.
All the coverage this got in Scotland was a page two article in the "Record" a couple of days later which falsely quoted an SNLA source, who is quoted as saying that the damage must be in thousands. The fact is that the guy never spoke to anyone from the "Daily Record", and the economic losses would have run to millions of pounds - not thousands.
But you get to expect this from the Scottish media, and the article was really intended to play down the extent of the economic damage.
So to do real damage the emphasis is always on disruption not destruction.
In order to win, we must be in a position to cripple the British economy, to put a knife to their economic jugular, and to be in a position to do this at any time we wish and as often as necessary, and not just do it once or twice."
Note 1: The Strategy Of Disruption is also used extensively by eco-warriors and animal rights activists as the following report illustrates:
22 March, 2002, BBC:
"Hidden Camera Traps Bomb Hoaxer
An animal rights activist has been jailed for four years for a series of hoax bomb calls - including one which led to the evacuation of the London Eye.
Neil Bartlett admitted making calls to companies he alleged had links with the animal testing laboratory Huntingdon Life Sciences or which he accused of polluting the planet. He was eventually caught when the calls were traced to a phone box.
Judge Anthony Thorpe said: "Offences of this nature cause great concern to the public, particularly in the light of terrorist attacks all too common all over the world.
"The courts have a duty to protect the public particularly from acts tending to induce fear and panic."
Michelle Strange, defending Bartlett, said he took full responsibility but did not realise how much disruption he caused. "He had no idea of the number of people's lives which would be interrupted.""
Note 2: The SNLA carried out what was probably its largest ever strategic disruption in London on the 24th of December, 1996 - that is on Christmas Eve, 1996, which is the busiest shopping day of the year with the last minute Christmas rush.
The London rail system was paralysed as a result, while road traffic was also severely disrupted. The disruption was aimed directly at the railway system. Coming on the eve of a major public holiday, the effects of the disruption were particularly severe and harder to deal with. How could stranded passengers reach their destinations - or services be restored - when the whole system was already geared to a virtual closedown for the holiday period?
This incident was never widely publicised.
The Impact Of The SNLA
What effect, if any, has the SNLA had on the Scottish political situation? The SNLA came into existence as a result of the Labour government's failure to implement Devolution in 1979. That failure triggered a wave of SNLA militancy in Scotland which has lasted for over twenty years.
From 1994 onwards, with the almost certain prospect of an incoming Labour government in the near future, the SNLA began to target Labour party targets regularly and, from 1995, continuously.
Previously only one SNLA attack on Labour - the arson attack on Labour's Scottish HQ – had taken place since 1982.
In 1994 the SNLA (and many others, including seasoned political observers) believed that Devolution would never be granted, although it was still official Labour party policy.
Instead the SNLA believed that there would be years of constitutional wrangling followed by another rigged referendum.
The SNLA thought it likely that, for example, Labour would introduce a clause to the effect that if a single Scottish region, encouraged by an anti-Devolution campaign in the media, such as was seen before the 1979 referendum, voted against or opted out of Devolution, then the future Labour government would refuse Devolution to Scotland.
Effectively Labour could say to the people of Scotland: "We offered you Devolution and you turned it down", and then wash its hands of the whole business. The largely English-populated Highlands seemed the most likely Scottish region to be involved in the rejection of Devolution.
This suspicion was based on Labour's record on Devolution. Until 1945 Labour in Scotland had stood on the twin platforms of Socialism and Home Rule for the Scottish people. (Incredibly, given the Labour party's future policies, they also advocated returning the land of Scotland to the Scottish people.)
But, once elected to government in 1945, the Labour party simply dropped its previous "commitment" to Devolution. As the memoirs of prominent Labour leaders of the time make clear, Labour never had the slightest intention of implementing Devolution.
See, for example, the memoirs of Thomas Johnston, a prominent Labour "Home Ruler" of the period. In his memoirs, published many years later, Johnston poured scorn on the very idea of a separate Scottish parliament, and bluntly admitted that the whole Labour policy was based on cynical political expediency.
Given Labour's record on Devolution in 1979, the SNLA and others believed that Labour's revived commitment to Devolution was just more political expediency, and that it would never be implemented.
This seemed to be borne out by the curious political record of Tony Blair. An Englishman born and educated in Scotland, Blair had a previous record as a vociferous opponent of Scottish Devolution.
In the mid-1990s the evidence suggested that Blair's and Labour's new-found enthusiasm for Devolution was simple and cynical political expediency.
As a result, the SNLA decided to target Labour from 1994 onwards in order to prove their point and to prevent a re-run of all the years wasted on constitutional trickery prior to 1979.
It should be noted that the SNLA was not an advocate of Devolution. In fact it opposed Devolution as a blind alley into which constitutional nationalists would be drawn. To the SNLA the issue was, and is, "not Devolution but Revolution!".
The intention of the SNLA from 1994 onwards was not to force Labour to implement Devolution, but to take maximum advantage of the situation when, as they expected, a future Labour government would renege on its commitment to Devolution.
In brief, they would begin to attack the Labour party while it was in opposition, and then redouble their efforts against the future Labour government when, as the SNLA expected, they began stalling on Devolution, thus turning the expected wrangle over Devolution into an assault on constitutionalism itself.
To this end the SNLA began to include numerous targets from Labour in its campaign from 1994 onwards.
Then, in March 1995, Tony Blair was sent a letter bomb which arrived at his Sedgefield constituency home. Mr Blair was then attending the Labour party conference at Inverness where he was outlining his plans for Devolution.
Only a matter of hours afterwards, an aircraft which was supposed to be carrying Mr Blair from the Labour party conference in Inverness to a meeting in London was evacuated and searched on arrival in London. This was the result of an SNLA bomb alert.
Mr Blair was not present. By chance, he had been slightly delayed at the Inverness conference and had missed the scheduled flight by just eleven minutes - which leads one to ask just how the SNLA had been able to obtain such detailed information about the Leader of the Opposition's exact movements.
Details of Mr Blair's movements were subsequently restricted for "security reasons", and this continued for some time after he became Prime Minister in 1997.
At the same time George Robertson MP, a prominent member of Labour's Shadow Cabinet, was sent a letter bomb while he was in attendance at the Inverness conference. And another letter bomb was sent to the Labour party's UK HQ in John Smith House, Walworth Road, London. The Labour HQ had to be partially evacuated while the bomb was dealt with.
There were reported to be another three letter bombs in the post, and an urgent alert to be on the lookout for letter bombs was issued to potential Labour party targets throughout the UK.
Around the same time Mr Blair was attending a meeting in his constituency at what "Who's Who" lists as his local club, the Trimdon village workingmen's club, when the premises were disrupted by yet another SNLA bomb alert. In a bizarre twist, a bingo game which was taking place in another part of the club was disrupted at the same time as Mr Blair's meeting.
Again the question of the how the SNLA was able to obtain such accurate intelligence to enable them to track Tony Blair's exact movements must be asked. More to the point is the fact that, if Tony Blair ever had any doubts that he and his party were being targeted by the SNLA, then any such doubts were being very rapidly dispelled.
With the sensational Flame trial taking place later in 1995, and a series of letter bombs, threats and hoax parcel bombs aimed at Labour party targets including - again and again and again - Labour's Scottish leader, the unfortunate George Robertson MP, the SNLA was maintaining a very high profile, and keeping up tremendous pressure on the Labour party.
During this period George Robertson was involved in a long-running and an embarrassing (for Robertson) public confrontation with Adam Busby, which had also involved the SNP.
On this occasion, Busby mocked him in the media when Robertson complained that receiving letter bombs was a frightening experience for those who received them, and Robertson referred to the "darker side of nationalism" which the SNP were, he said, at least partly responsible for promoting.
These remarks outraged the SNP - not unnaturally since the SNP is strictly and devoutly constitutionalist in its outlook. (See the "Scotsman" article: "Salmond leads attacks on Robertson "smear"", by Severin Carrell and Peter MacMahon of September 21st, 1995, and similar articles in other newspapers.)
Days later, George Robertson was promptly sent yet another postal device, and the SNLA officially declared war on the Labour party.
Adam Busby had publicly replied to Mr Robertson by asserting that the SNLA was setting the agenda for Robertson - and that the SNLA was placing the balls for Robertson to kick, as the "Scotsman" reported on Monday September 25, 1995:
"Robertson Target Of Bomb Hoax
By Severin Carrell
Home Affairs Correspondent
Police are investigating claims made that Labour politicians in Scotland are to be targeted in another spate of hoax letter bomb attacks by Scottish nationalist extremists.
The warnings came after a hoax parcel bomb addressed to the shadow Scottish Secretary, George Robertson, was opened at the Labour Party's headquarters in Glasgow on Saturday morning by the party's general secretary, Jack McConnell…
"It was a point well-made," he (Busby) said. "We're placing the balls and Robertson is kicking them." The incident coincided with an escalation in wider militant nationalist activity, he added."
The SNLA campaign against the Labour party - and in particular Labour's chief Scottish spokesman George Robertson MP - continued right up until the General Election of 1997 with Robertson receiving a whole series of hoax parcel bombs and genuine letter bombs and threatening letters at home and at work.
This sustained campaign against the Shadow Scottish Secretary lasted from March 1995 until April 1997 – immediately prior to the 1997 elections which brought Labour to power. Quite clearly, it was a coordinated campaign which was designed to intimidate the Scottish Labour leader.
Each device meant an evacuation, disruption, and each had to be dealt with by the bomb squad. And each meant a time consuming police inquiry. There was also considerable danger from the genuine devices. The effect all this had on Mr Robertson’s nerves can only be left to the imagination.
When Mr Robertson, then Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, criticised as too lenient the two year sentence received by Adam Busby in March 1997, Busby wrote to him from Portlaoise prison cheekily thanking him for his concern.
Shortly afterwards, George Robertson was sent yet another hoax parcel bomb (reported to contain a small artillery shell) which caused considerable disruption. A furious and rattled Mr Robertson seemed to blame Adam Busby - still in prison in Ireland - for the incident and referred to the letter he had received from Busby only a couple of weeks earlier.
Adam Busby had written to him, Mr Robertson told one newspaper, to let him know that he (Busby) was keeping an eye on him. ("Daily Record", April 8th, 1997.)
The device, and one sent to Tony Blair c/o a Glasgow newspaper office, caused major disruption when a Glasgow sorting office and the newspaper building had to be evacuated. Police described the devices as "elaborate hoaxes".
In an another alleged "coincidence" (although the coincidence stretches the imagination somewhat) at approximately the same time a contact of Adam Busby's, an SNLA supporter who was already serving a 5 year sentence for serious assault in a Scottish prison, also sent a death threat to Mr Robertson in March 1997. It was opened in his home by Mr Robertson's wife on March the 20th, 1997.
The SNLA supporter got an extra three months imprisonment.
According to the "Daily Mail" of Friday the 23rd of October, 1998, and other reports of the case, the court was told that the death threat was sent in the name of the SNLA.
Significantly, he had also sent a death threat to the Labour MP for Clydebank and Milngavie, Tony Worthington. Mr Worthington is an Englishman who had first been targeted by the SNLA during Operation Flame in 1994.
There is indisputable evidence that the SNLA were deliberately keeping up the pressure on the Labour party with a sustained campaign against them.
And during the same period, the British economy lost millions to the SNLA’s repeated use of the Strategy Of Disruption.
Did the SNLA's intervention have any effect on the Labour party's decision to implement Devolution when it eventually came to power?
There are very strong suggestions that it did have a definite influence. Tony Blair, previously a committed anti-Devolutionist, is known to have moved quickly to quash plans for an anti-Devolution campaign within the Labour party.
It is also true that Labour quickly pushed through Devolution legislation for Scotland as soon as it gained power in 1997. But, interestingly, Labour's policy plans of devolving power to the English regions have not been implemented, although these plans were an essential part of the Labour party's Devolution "package".
In fact Labour entered government in 1997 with two pieces of planned legislation which were intended to deal with nationalism in Scotland.
The first piece of legislation involved the establishment of Devolution.
The second, announced In December 1997, was a new Crime and Disorder Bill which was intended to make all forms of anti-English activity illegal in Scotland. The Bill also proposed that it should become a criminal offence simply to speak out against English immigration. Clearly, this was aimed at the SNLA, and even the SSG's legal activities would have been outlawed.
This was an extraordinary proposal. People and groups have been prosecuted or banned previously for their actions, but never for the advocacy of their aims.
In fact, due to the civil rights implications - the intended legislation would have restricted the right to freedom of speech - the relevant sections of the intended legislation were never passed, but the fact that the Labour government was prepared to attempt its introduction is an indication of how seriously they regarded the SNLA's activities during this period.
The implications are that the Labour party, and particularly Tony Blair and George Robertson, and many of their senior colleagues, some of whom like themselves had personal experiences of SNLA violence, were very mindful of the growth of militant nationalism in Scotland which came into being as a result of Labour's failure to implement Devolution in 1979. The implication is that they feared an even more violent outbreak of militant nationalism if they reneged on their commitment to Devolution again.
By implementing Devolution were they trying to breathe new life into the harmless constitutional nationalism of the SNP, while attempting to prevent a growth in the militant activities of the SNLA and the SSG?
This scenario is likely to be hotly debated but the argument is well worth considering.
The point has not escaped some political observers. For example:
"Reflections On The Lessons Of Kosovo
By Dr. S. Sathananthan
Proceedings of International Conference On Tamil Nationhood & Search for Peace in Sri Lanka, Ottawa, Canada 1999
Despite the colonial foundation of Britain, argued English ideologues, the spread of liberal values, the guarantee of individual rights, the stable Westminster democratic system and, most importantly, the independent judiciary contributed to the unificatory British nationalism; which allegedly had eradicated the need for Wales and Scotland to regain their independence.
But the sustained struggles of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Scottish National Liberation Army (SNLA) have made Scotland's independence virtually certain; and the SNP has declared that Scotland will regain its independence by the year 2007, the 300th year of its subjugation."
Sachithanandam Sathananthan is a distinguished academic who read for the Ph D degree at Wolfson College, Cambridge, and is a documentary film-maker who has produced documentaries broadcast by, among others, Channel Four Television, London.
It should also be pointed out that, in the trial of Andrew McIntosh (1993) and in the Flame trial (1995), the accused were charged and convicted of an SNLA conspiracy to coerce Her Majesty’s Government in order to establish a separate Scottish State.
That the aim of the SNLA campaign was the coercion of "Her Majesty’s Government" was clear to the legal authorities in Scotland.
In a curious footnote to this whole question it should be noted that the only previous occasion in modern times when Scottish nationalists forced the government to legislate was in 1953, and this was also in response to illegal activity.
When the present Queen was designated as "Queen Elizabeth the Second", this caused considerable outrage in Scotland as the first Queen Elizabeth had never been Queen of Scotland.
As a result there was a sustained campaign of vandalism by Scottish nationalists which was chiefly aimed at Royal Mail pillar boxes in Scotland which bore the EIIR monogram.
In response to this, the government withdrew the EIIR monogram from use in Scotland. It also introduced the Post Office Act of 1953 which made vandalism or interference with Post Office pillar boxes a specific offence carrying a sentence of up to two years imprisonment.
Alec says of this: "It is not over-simplifying the matter, but the point is that a few people armed with paint brushes were able to force the British government to pass legislation, while a political party like the SNP which has had umpteen elected MPs has been unable to pass or even influence a single piece of legislation in all those years."
Author's Note: George Robertson was re-elected in the 1997 General Election but, in a surprise move, the former Shadow Scottish Secretary was re-shuffled to the Ministry of Defence in the new Labour government. He is now Lord Robertson and was Secretary-General of NATO for several years.
The SNLA launched "Operation Icarus" in early 1995.
The action was called Operation Icarus from the name of the legendary character in Greek mythology who attempted flight, and died when he fell, the heat from the sun having caused his wings to melt off while he was in flight.
The "News Of The World" newspaper in Glasgow received an SNLA communiqué to the effect that, unless certain measures to curtail English immigration into Scotland were implemented by a specified date in 1995, which was only a few weeks away, then blast incendiary devices would be used against British aircraft in flight. The design of the Icarus blast incendiary devices was described in some detail in the communiqué.
The newspaper was instructed to convey this ultimatum to the Prime Minister.
Although the staff at the newspaper, myself included, had grave doubts about the ability of the SNLA to place blast incendiary devices aboard British or any other aircraft, the SNLA message was routinely passed on to the Prime Minister's Office.
Several weeks later, in mid-May 1995, staff at the "Press Association" offices in Fleet Street in London received a small package sent to them in the post - and carried by air mail - from Belfast.
When opened it was found to contain a note to the "Press Association" and a small but sophisticated blast incendiary device which contained explosive and a liquid incendiary. It was identical to the device which had been described to me weeks previously in the SNLA communiqué. Icarus was a postal device sent via the Royal Mail and designed and set to ignite while the aircraft was in flight.
The package had been posted in Belfast the previous day and was equipped with a timer which was specially designed and set to detonate the device during the aircraft's flight to London.
However, the bomb, although it contained explosives and incendiary materials, had been deliberately de-activated by its senders. The battery had been removed.
Obviously, it seemed to me, it was meant as a warning only, and was intended to demonstrate the SNLA's capability to carry out its threats.
The SNLA had identified a weak point in aircraft security. Whereas passengers and their baggage are routinely searched rigorously, the volume of freight and the volume of mail carried by aircraft is so great that freight and mail cannot be rigorously checked.
A small bomb can be easily hidden almost anywhere in a sealed package and, since freight and mail schedules are available on the Internet and predictable, a simple timer will suffice to detonate a bomb during the aircraft's flight.
Within a week, the police had taken action. Irish police, who had already been conducting a lengthy and extensive surveillance of SNLA members in Ireland, carried out a raid which scooped up three members of the SNLA's Dublin cell, while a fourth member was arrested a few days later.
All four had to be released after attempts to interrogate them, and files on the matter were sent to the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions.
I was increasingly puzzled by the whole affair. Although the Icarus device had caused a major police operation, and sparked a major security alert, why had the first Icarus device been disarmed, and why was there no further attempt to use the device?
I now know that the whole operation was merely the first of many meticulous SNLA experiments to develop, to test, and to perfect Weapons Of Mass Destruction.
Revolution In Warfare
The aim of the SNLA is to use Weapons Of Mass Destruction (WMD) to cause "Irredeemable Economic Damage" to the British State in order to coerce the British State and force it to concede to the SNLA's revolutionary aims.
This is in accordance with the Revolution In Warfare (RIW).
Before examining the SNLA's capability to acquire and use WMD, it is first necessary to examine the entire doctrine of Revolution In Warfare.
According to the RIW, which is a theory developed by military analysts, the wars of the near future will not be conventional wars fought between States – because the USA now has an absolute military superiority, and is the world’s only Superpower.
Instead the wars of the future will be asymmetrical, fought by miniscule groups of sub-national actors (terrorists) who can coerce or defeat the State by the use of improvised WMD.
But the sub-national actors will not be traditional terrorist groups, such as the Basque ETA. Such traditional terrorist groups are culturally incapable of participation in RIW.
The traditional groups are young, male-dominated, obsessed with the phallic symbolism of firearms and explosives, and with all the machismo bound up with the trappings of paramilitaries. They are also psychologically geared to attacking "legitimate targets" – usually obvious masculine authority figures such as policemen and soldiers – which are economically irrelevant.
Instead the sub-national actors will be tiny cells of activists who, united only by commitment to their ideology, will use improvised WMD to coerce and defeat the State.
This is a frightening but, given events since 9/11, a realistic scenario.
But it all depends on the terrorists’ ability to acquire WMD, and their ability to use it effectively, to target the right targets, and to apply or disperse WMD correctly.