ALMOST a year and a half after it was completed, the long-awaited Russia Report from the Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament was released yesterday.

In that time, we’ve heard every excuse under the sun from Boris Johnson for the delay and umpteen promises for its imminent release but – as we well know – waffling and trying to dodge scrutiny seem to be two of the Prime Minister’s favourite pastimes.

The committee scrutinises the top-secret work of the UK intelligence agencies. Until recently, it had been disbanded for the longest time in its history as Boris Johnson sought to delay the publication of the report by any means possible. Its former chair said that the Prime Minister’s excuses for the report’s delay were “entirely bogus”. I think everyone of us could see the reasons for his dither and delay as well – he was feart. Having now read it I can see why UK politics is awash with dirty Russian money and in deep denial about it.

When asked again in February about the report’s release, the Prime Minister tried to tell MPs that “those of a conspiratorial cast of mind will be disappointed by its findings”. In a way, he was right. There was no conspiracy to be found in the 50-page report – just cock-ups, complacency and incompetence. Page after page of revelations show just how disinterested the UK Government was in disinformation, long after they knew it was taking place in the UK. It was only when Russia completed its  “hack  and  leak” operation  against the Democratic National Committee in the US – with the stolen emails being made public a month after the EU referendum – that the Government belatedly realised the level of threat which Russia could pose in this area.

The report is unequivocal. Successive Tory governments have, for years, looked the other way while a “hostile foreign power” – to use the Intelligence and Security Committee’s description – has infiltrated every aspect of political and economic life in this country asking “few questions – if any” as long as the money kept coming. The report is a devastating description of a state that is rotten from the head down. From unelected legislators in the House of Lords directly employed by major Russian companies linked to the Russian state, to a vast network of lawyers, accountants, estate agents and PR professionals who “have played a role, wittingly or unwittingly, in … promoting the nefarious interests of the Russian state”, the British Government has for decades allowed this hostile foreign power to infiltrate every aspect of our economic and political life.

As well as revealing how long – and how deeply – successive Tory Governments have stuck their heads in the sand, the report points out in painstaking detail the number of ways in which years of complacency have limited their ability to act, should they eventually decide to. I’ll quote one paragraph in full here. My jaw dropped when I read it and I have no doubt yours will too: “Paragraph 111: The current legislation enabling action against foreign spies is acknowledged to be weak. In particular, the Official Secrets Acts are out of date – crucially, it is not illegal to be a foreign agent in this country.”

Read that again. The Official Secrets Acts are out of date. It is not illegal to be a foreign agent in this country. “But,” I hear you cry, “surely they are aware of this and have been urgently racing to replace them!” You’d think so. You’d think the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 might have been a wakeup call. You’d think when, in 2017, the Law Commission ran a consultation which considered options for updating the Official Secrets Acts and replacing them with a new “Espionage Act”, the Government would have been quick to act on them. You’d think when Russian agents attempted to murder a British citizen and his daughter with chemical weapons in Salisbury, they would have taken action. You’d think wrong.

THE report continues, paragraph after paragraph detailing just how much – and in how many areas – this Tory Government has dropped the ball on our national security. Not only did Boris Johnson block the publication of the report for nine months, the entire UK Government have hummed and hawed and looked the other way while Russia has actively sought to undermine our democracy and our way of life. We’ve known this for years. My SNP colleague Martin Docherty-Hughes MP wrote an article back in 2016 – before the Brexit vote, before Trump’s election – about the threat Russia poses to our democracy. Across Europe, the Kremlin has funded numerous far-right groups who want to tear up the liberal, democratic, peaceful society we have built together.

They have funded Eurosceptics, too. The benefits the European Union brings to the daily lives of its citizens are many, but the biggest one is the one that is perhaps the most easily forgotten and, for that reason, it cannot be repeated often enough – the EU created the longest period of peace in European history. In order to disrupt this, the Kremlin gave money and support to Marine Le Pen in France and Matteo Salvini in Italy, as well as far-right parties in Austria and the Netherlands. Their interference in the 2016 US presidential election in favour of the Brexit-supporting Donald Trump was proven by the Mueller report. Russian meddling in our democracy has been long known and well documented. The question is, what do you do about it?

This is not a hypothetical question. The report describes how Russia seeks a “general poisoning of the political narrative in the West” by encouraging division and infighting among friends and allies through the use of highly controversial “wedge issues”. Sound familiar? In public life across these islands, Russian influence has played its part in poisoning our political debate and turning friends into enemies. As we get closer by the day to an independent Scotland, it’s up to all of us to be unflinching in our rejection of that infighting, intolerance and division. The publication of this report should be a wakeup call for all.