Ex-security boss: Russia likely interfered in Brexit and Scotland vote

Ex-security chief says Russia was likely to have interfered in BOTH the Scottish referendum and Brexit vote as MPs prepare to publish bombshell report into Moscow meddling in UK democracy TODAY

  • The Intelligence and Security Committee publishing long-awaited report today
  • It will detail alleged Russian interference in British democracy in recent years 
  • Reports suggest found interference in Scotland vote but not Brexit referendum
  • But Baroness Neville-Jones said she believed interference in both was likely 

A former UK security chief today said she believed Russia was likely to have interfered in both the Scottish independence and Brexit votes as MPs prepare to publish a long-awaited report into Moscow’s alleged meddling in British democracy. 

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) will this morning release the results of an 18 month investigation into Russian interference. 

Overnight reports suggest the probe has found that while Russia attempted to influence the Scottish independence referendum, the Kremlin did not try to do the same on the 2016 Brexit vote. 

But Baroness Neville-Jones, a former chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, rubbished the suggestion that Moscow may have intervened in one but not the other. 

She told Sky News: ‘I am surprised by that. I am not sure I believe it. I think it is unlikely that somehow one was clean and the other was interfered with. 

‘I would have expected activity in both, frankly. It is an objective of Russian policy to weaken democratic institutions in countries and to weaken alliances between democracies. 

‘So anything that actually increases the chances of the Brexit referendum going the way it did, I am not saying it was a decisive entrance, but it would be surprising if they weren’t interested in that.’ 

However, she stressed there needed to be a distinction between discovering ‘attempts of doing this kind of thing’ and them being successful.   

Baroness Neville Jones, the former chairman of the British Joing Intelligence Committee, today said she believed it was likely that Russia interfered in both the Scottish independence referendum and the Brexit vote

MPs will today publish a long awaited report into alleged Russian meddling in British democracy. Russian President Vladimir Putin is pictured on July 20 this year

The Telegraph reported that the ISC probe found ‘credible open-source commentary that Russia undertook to influence the campaign on Scottish independence’ in 2014. 

The paper said the report by MPs and peers described the Kremlin’s role in the vote that could have split the UK as ‘the first post-Soviet interference in a Western democratic election’.

But the ISC reportedly found nothing to suggest Russia played any part in the 2016 European Union poll.

The full document is set to be published following months of delays, days after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab claimed it was ‘almost certain’ that Russian ‘actors’ had tried to interfere in the 2019 general election.

The publication of the ISC report, prepared by the committee’s members in the previous Parliament, was postponed by Boris Johnson’s decision to call a general election and the need to re-establish the committee’s membership.

Mr Raab said last week that ‘Russian actors’ had tried to influence the 2019 contest by ‘amplifying’ stolen Government papers online.

The documents, relating to US-UK trade talks, were picked up by then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who said they were evidence the Conservatives were preparing to open up the NHS to US pharmaceutical companies.

Relations between the UK and Russia have been under severe strain since the Salisbury Novichok poisoning in 2018, which left former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in hospital and led to the death of Dawn Sturgess.

The incident resulted in Russian diplomats being expelled from Britain by then prime minister Theresa May.

Mr Raab also announced this month, in a move that irked President Vladimir Putin’s administration, that he was imposing sanctions on 25 Russian nationals linked to the death in custody of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 after exposing massive corruption in the Interior Ministry.

The ISC’s alleged findings of interference in British democracy come after the UK, US and Canada claimed that Russian intelligence-linked hackers tried to steal details of research into coronavirus vaccines.

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) claims Russia tried to influence the 2014 Scottish independence referendum

Russia’s ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin dismissed the accusations in a BBC interview.

He said his country had no interest in interfering in British domestic politics.

‘We do not interfere at all,’ he said.

‘We do not see any point in interference because for us, whether it will be (the) Conservative Party or Labour’s party at the head of this country, we will try to settle relations and to establish better relations than now.’

Asked about the alleged attempts to steal details of coronavirus research, Mr Kelin said: ‘I don’t believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it.’

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