Sunday, 29 April 2012

Is Scotland A 'Terror Risk'?

More and more I despair at the content of the Scotland on Sunday. For some years after it arrived on the 'Sundays scene' I loyally purchased it, but it's a few years ago now since I even bothered to pick it up in a shop and read the headlines.

Because it appears on my reader I tend to read the online version headlines and I think this article is perhaps the biggest lot of drivel I've ever read in a paper which once was regarded as a newspaper of quality.

Let's have a look at some of the remarks attributed to Graeme Pearson, a Labour MSP who was formerly director general of the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency.

“The arrival of a possibility of Scottish independence amidst the creation of a single police force [in Scotland], if not properly thought through, will go a long way to creating more national ‘boundaries and hurdles’ than ever existed before.”

Purely scaremongering. The police force, when promoting their beliefs in a single force, have stated the new force would reduce boundaries and bureaucracy.

Pearson says that continuing to rely on London-based intelligence agencies such as MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) after independence would be “untenable”.
But a separate Scottish Government would face a difficult task in creating a Scottish version of the services from scratch as they would require skills and techniques beyond those used by police forces north of the Border.

Pearson is saying no serving Scottish police officer is trained in intelligence techniques and that an independent Scotland's new government would have difficulty in building its own intelligence service.  Indeed, if we have politicians of Pearson's quality in government, I could understand its members would have difficulty finding their way to their offices in Holyrood without a sat nav.

They also question where the necessary skills and experience would come from. One senior police source said: “There are really significant challenges in starting a security service from scratch. It’s inconceivable we’d want to rely on another country to provide those services for us, but where would the experience and skills come from?
“Would it be sensible to recruit from existing UK security service staff or would that in itself present a security risk? What intelligence would the UK service make available upon transition?”

What a startlingly ignorant comment from a senior police source. As most of us realise these days intelligence is shared between friendly countries and most staff employed in the intelligence services are not serving police officers. Perhaps that's why the 'senior police source' makes such stupid remarks. Of course Scotland would recruit from the current UK intelligence services. Why, once we're independent, would the remainder of the UK want to keep  overstaffed intelligence organisations?  There are plenty of people associated with these organisations who would no doubt enjoy coming to live and work in Scotland for the quality of life we provide.

All in not lost though, because Pearson does highlight the flaws in the present system:

“My policing experience taught me the lesson that too often the prevention of terrorist outrages and subsequent investigations fail not because the intelligence and evidence wasn’t available, but because agencies, departments or divisions had failed – often due to the competition that exists between agencies – to share their knowledge effectively.”
Therein lies the lesson.  An independent Scotland's government has to learn and learn quickly.  No matter how efficiently one part of public service operates, if it doesn't have the skills or desire to co-operate with other agencies, their services is be second-rate.

That lesson has been evident for years by the way in which the police forces, social workers and medics have repeatedly failed to be prepared to supply information to each other.

Is Scotland a 'terror risk'?  No more than any other country. We have the skills available to produce our own security forces but the planning must start now. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if proposals are already well underway and articles such as these are childish attempts to prise information from the current government. I'm told the SNP government's intelligence spokesman said  - (translated into English): "We have no comment. Our intelligence operations are for our ears only - until Westminster decides to share and share alike".


JRB said...

Mr Graeme Pearson is obviously a Labour MSP who is pro-union and anti-independence.

That’s OK; he is perfectly entitled to his opinion and as we live in a democracy we should be prepared to listen to each others view point and debate the pro’s and con’s of each others argument in a mature fashion.

However …..

Mr Pearson goes too far.
Or should I say, sinks too low.

He indulges in a gross exaggeration of the facts, produces hyperbole that reaches the point of incredulity and indulges in unabashed politically spin of the crudest type.

Attempting to instil fear into the electorate by such crude methods, does not win his argument, it merely generates contempt.

Jman On Sunday said...

Is Scotland a terrorist risk? We wont be after Lord Fraser has bombed our airports, the oil has run out and the debt independence brings cripples the country beyond repair. (Incidentally, the link is currently unavailable.)

Apogee said...

Looking at the "intelligence communities" around the world, perhaps the best thing a newly Independent Scottish Government could
do is to buy a subscription to Wikileaks or its successors, and join
"Anonomous", and of course read all the blogs!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Pearson might remind himself that the current security services in London are not English security services, they are British security sources. Perhaps at the same time [if he's capable] he might want to reflect upon the fact that currently Scotland is a part of Britain.

Scotland's money has gone into these services; Scottish lives have been lost in their operations. We don't have to start from scratch. Unlike Windsor Castle, which is partly ours but will have to, for obvious reasons, remain in England [or indeed Holyrood House which is partly Welsh but cannot move to Cardiff], the security services can and should be spilt.

Additionally Pearson may be too wee, too poor and too stupid to get something organised, but the rest of us aren't. So he should move over, push off and let the people who can, do.

He has done us a favour though, in bringing it to our attention that the dirty tricks campaigns may very well decided that as a lesson to wavering Scots, it would be no bad thing to mount a terrorist attack on an oil well, or on Balmoral, and prove that "England's" anti-terrorist police would have to come to our rescue, together with "England's" army and "England's" Navy and "England's" airforce, and "England's" SAS...etc.

I'm sure that next they will be telling us that we couldn't cope without Big Brother if there was a drought. They are just about stupid enough to try that one.

I suspect that if Denmark can manage the possibility of terrorist attacks and if Norway can protect its oil rigs, then Scotland will be able to do the same.

Another interesting point is that, as we won't have the inclination to go around the world poking our beaks into everyone else's affairs while our own country sinks deeper and deeper into the mire, there is far less likelihood of terrorists attacks here than in London.

We are grown ups here Pearson. it's not a bloody kindergarten.

Woodsy42 said...

This strikes me as the typical warblings of someone who has no real understanding of anything and because he understands nothing elevates paperwork and box ticking above common sense and sensible decision making.
Presumably because Scotland's universities have no PHD course in 'intelligence and data gathering' it follows that nobody in Scotland is qualified, therefore not clever enough to do the job. It's actually very insulting.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Jman...where is all this debt suddenly going to come from? Don't we currently have an astronomical debt?

Didn't George Osborne tell us that the reason we had to continue to cut essentials and allow more people to die of the cold every winter, was that we were in a worse situation that Greece, Spain, Portugal?

Isn't it true that while Ireland and Iceland have already started to recover, the UK has just popped back into recession?

Aren't we actually helping to pay off the debt of the rest of the UK because of our bigger contribution ratio?

BrianSJ said...

Your point about being able to do real learning, not bureaucratic lessons learned, is crucial.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

In Roman times it was 'Who will guard the guards?'

In the complexities of today that has extended to 'Who will guard the guards guarding the guards and does anybody know who the hell they are anyway?'

Angus McLellan said...

MI5, MI6 and GCHQ are huge bureaucratic organisations. Between them they employ the best part of 12,000 people (needless to say, almost every last one of them in London and elsewhere in the south) and that's before you consider the military intelligence services and the former Special Branch and similar police spying services. It's unlikely that they're able to cope quickly with much in the way of change.

Smaller countries can have smaller and thus more flexible intelligence services. New Zealand's equivalents of MI5 (NAB), MI6 (NZ SIS) and GCHQ (GCSB) manage to get by with about 600 people, although again there are military and police folks on top of those.

NZ's setup is based on British precedents, which at least makes comparisons simple. Elsewhere things are more complicated. Take Denmark for an example. Denmark's domestic intelligence service - Politiets Efterretningstjeneste (PET); the naughty people who bug the Solidarity Party's offices in Borgen - is a combination of MI5, parts of GCHQ and Special Branch. It employs around 650 people and has a budget of £85 million. Denmark's foreign intelligence service - Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE) - is a combination of MI6, some parts of GCHQ and most of military intelligence. The size of "FE" seems to be a secret but its budget - £62 million in 2010 - isn't. In round numbers, Denmark spends £150 million on spying - including things which show up here under police and defence - as opposed to Scotland's "share" of UK spending on intelligence of £175 million.

So compared to defence or health or justice, intelligence may be a bit mysterious, but it's also pretty cheap to do.

Brian said...


No problem really, because James Bond is Scottish.

What worries me is using Al Jolson to tackle Al Qaeda - that photo doesn't inspire confidence that "home-grown" terrorists are under control.

subrosa said...

Of course he's entitled to speak his mind JRB, but surely the Scotsman doesn't have to print it.

Then again, perhaps the Scotsman has done independence a good turn. :)

subrosa said...

Jman, you're right. I've refreshed the link and it works from this end now. Hope it works for you.

subrosa said...

Good idea Apogee!

subrosa said...

Great comments Tris and yes, he's done us a favour right enough.

subrosa said...

He's a labour party MP Woodsy. That says it all I suppose.

subrosa said...

It is essential Brian.

subrosa said...

I've never heard much of Pearson Crinkly. Thankfully.

subrosa said...

The manner in which Pearson speaks implies the intelligence services are mainly police Angus and as you hightlight that is not so.

We'll manage fine I'm sure. Let's not forget a good percentage of the UK London-based services are run by Scots.

subrosa said...

The images are the only asset to the Scotsman these days Brian. :)

pa_broon74 said...


Due to this apparent drought of intelligence service talent North of the border I would like to respectfully offer my services. I've read pretty much every Alistair MacLean book, Most of Len Deighton's output (Game, Set & Match was most instructive.) I've read the Bourne trilogy (before the films came out) and I've also read Bravo 2 - 0 (I did try and read the Chris Ryan books but found them to be a wee bit simplistic.)

So, I think I'd be fine for the job. One problem, I wouldn't be any good shmoozing round embassies as I can't eat Ferrero Roche, I have nut allergies. Indeed, this might be a weekness if I'm caught and interrogated...

Although, and I think this will seal the deal, I can raise and lower my eyebrows independently of each other just like Roger Moore can when surprised/amused/angry/etc.

subrosa said...

I think you'd be fine too pa_broon. I will forward your CV to my contact.

It's not all about winks and drinks you know, although I'm reliably informed both are acceptable.

I'm becoming more impressed by the second. Off to email a man who could give an unofficial assessment of your suitability. :)

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Is the object shown in your photograph actually a British policeman?

What a disgusting sight.

How did we come to fall so low?

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