Yesterday’s edition of the the Sunday Herald blew the cover off a covert SNP operation to boost the 2014 independence vote and destabilise Scottish Labur at the same time.
Ir had occurred to virtually no one to question the authenticity of the Labour for Independence group that had appeared during the ongoing campaign.
The first speaker at the Yes Shetland [devolved powers or independence for Shetland] meeting on which we reported, taking place a week ago when the Scottish Cabinet was in Shetland on its summer tour, was the very vocal Celia Fitzgerald. She was billed as a Labour party member of the Labour for independence group adn one of its office bearers.
The Herald revealed that Ms Fitzgerald has admitted to being a long time SNP activitist, moving in to the Labour Party only a few months ago with the motive of destabilising it over the September 2014 independence referendum. Her intention was to deliver insider agitation against Labour’s support for the Union. She is group Treasurer and organiser of Labour for Independence in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
It is notable that the SNP and the Yes Scotland group seized immediately on the emergence of Labour for Independence as evidence of internal Scottish Labour dissension on the party’s stance on independence.
The reality of this Trojan horse manoeuvre was underpinned last week when The Herald got photographs of SNP councillors from Midlothian holding a big Labour for Independence banner and distributing leaflets for the campaign. It named these men as Councillors Douglas Reid, Owen Thompson, Andrew Coventry and Derek George Rosie.
The leader of the Labour for Independence group, Allan Grogan, told The Herald that no more than 40% of the group’s 80 members are in the Labour party; and that he personally knows of other SNP members handing out Labour for Independence leaflets.
He admitted that Labour for Independence had received financial support from the Yes Scotland campaign; and The Herald claims that Yes Scotland paid for the premises for its first conference in 2012.
This in itself is not necessarily evidence of complicity in the infiltration of another party with malicious intent. It is to be expected that Yes Scotland will support groups campaigning for independence, whatever their political origin.
However, Celia Fitzgerald is well known to and a major supporter of Alex Salmond. It is inconceivable that he does not know what she and many other SNP members have been doing – and that, if he disapproved of it, they would have ceased.
Celia Fitzgerald was once a Labour supporter but joined the SNP in 2004, leaving it, officially, in November 2012 and, The Herald says, immediately joining the Labour Party and Labour for Independence, in which she has quickly risen to being a key official.
She admitted to the The Herald that her political migrations were ‘curious’ before producing a rambling ‘explanation’ for them. This focused on the sort of attack on current Labour philosophy which, even in her situation of being confronted by The Herald, speaks for the core drive to create dissent from within that party.
For Argyll has learned to be cynical as its default position but it had not occurred to us that the SNP campaign would go so far as engaging in covert operations of this kind. The designs of this trick are to present to the electorate the impression of a much wider support for independence than is the case – and to destabilise the opposition in an unacceptable way.
This is cheap and grubby stuff. Where is there evidence here of any brave new world on the horizon?
Trojan horses may seem like a smart wheeze. They may even achieve short term success. Their outcome, though, is to degrade trust in political life even further, leaving all of uncertain of whether anything is as it seems. From now on we have all to operate on that basis. Who can guess what other tricks are going on – but they will be out there.
The Herald’s revelations, by its Scottish Political Editor, Tom Gordon, indicate that the Independence Lite on offer would simply, in airline terms, be a ‘code share’ journey by the carrier you hoped to avoid, at huge cost and with no return ticket.
The Sunday Herald article is here. Yesterday’s newspaper versio also carried an inset photograph of Alex Salmond with his arm firmly round the shoulder of a laughing Celia Fitzgerald, alongside him.