IT did not take long for the Conservatives to attempt to weaponise the growing crisis in Ukraine against the SNP, the Scottish Government and the wider independence movement.

In the Commons today Boris Johnson was quick to associate the SNP with Alex Salmond's involvement with the Kremlin-funded broadcaster RT. Johnson referred to the Alba party leader as "one of the SNP's own". After Johnson had left the chamber the Speaker clarified that Salmond is no longer a member of the SNP and has not been for years and that he is in fact the leader of a different party. The attack was a convenient means for Johnson to distract attention from the uncomfortable fact that the Tories count Russian oligarchs amongst their funders and that the City of London is the global laundromat for Russian dirty money.

The National:

As a private individual who is not a member of the SNP and not a member of either the Scottish or Westminster parliaments, Alex Salmond is perfectly at liberty to present a TV show on a Kremlin-funded broadcaster. That's a matter for him and him alone, despite the fact that the media has been eager to press members of the SNP and the Scottish Government in order to elicit their condemnation.

That said, it is legitimate to ask whether it is wise for a prominent individual who is so closely associated with the cause of Scottish independence to continue his involvement with a broadcaster which is widely seen as a Kremlin propaganda outlet justifying Putin's actions in Ukraine.

After all, if Russia can annex parts of Ukraine, or set up pro-Russian satellite states on parts of Ukrainian territory citing security concerns as its excuse, then there is nothing to prevent the UK from deciding to annex majority No voting parts of Scotland following a Yes majority in a future independence referendum, or those parts of Scotland adjacent to the English border or close to the Faslane naval base, and citing "security concerns" as its justification.

The National: Submarine returns to Faslane

The point here is that a pro-independence politician, irrespective of his or her party affiliations, who does not speak out in defence of the territorial integrity of a former Soviet republic against the aggressive depredations of Russia, loses the moral authority to defend the territorial integrity of Scotland against potential attempts at partition made by aggrieved British nationalists who are determined to undermine a Yes result in a future independence referendum.

A number of prominent anti-independence figures have already suggested the partition of Scotland in the event of a future independence referendum delivering a majority for independence. The Über-Unionist All for Unity party of Alex Salmond's fellow RT broadcaster George Galloway has already demanded that those parts of Scotland where there is a No majority in an independence referendum which delivers an overall majority for Yes should be retained by the UK, and only areas with a Yes majority should form a part of an independent Scottish state.

It should be noted that those opponents of independence who have rushed to criticise Alex Salmond for his involvement with the Russian state broadcaster have not attacked George Galloway (below) with the same vehemence.

The National: George Galloway

In 2013 the BBC reported that officials in the Ministry of Defence were exploring the idea of retaining Faslane and Coulport as sovereign UK territory if there was a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum. This idea was enthusiastically taken up by figures on the Tory right. This is what happened in Cyprus when that country achieved independence from the UK. To this day the British military bases of Akrotiri and Dhekelia remain under British rule as sovereign base areas.

The idea resurfaced again in 2021 with the Financial Times reporting that the MoD's preferred short-term option would be to form an overseas British territory around Faslane and Coulport, near Glasgow. The paper reported that sources within the British Government insiders likened this to a "nuclear Gibraltar”.

The possibility of Westminster attempting to retain parts of Scottish territory following independence is a real one. We need people like Alex Salmond, just as much as Nicola Sturgeon, to be able to speak out against any such moves by Westminster, and to do so with their moral authority on this subject intact.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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