It’s no wonder that Parliament is accepting the fact that Scottish referendum was a target for Russian influencers. It failed. Meanwhile the question of the Brexit referendum puts the entire political system of the United Kingdom on the thin ice.
Russia attempted to influence the referendum on Scotland’s independence in 2014. That is the conclusion of a British parliamentary inquiry report, which was published Tuesday. It is not yet clear whether the Russians have also taken part in the Brexit referendum in 2016.
The House of Commons Intelligence and Security Commission states that Russia considers the United Kingdom one of its main Western targets on the espionage front.
“There is credible open source comment [i.e. someone said something] indicating that Russia has been pursuing influence campaigns related to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014,” the report concludes.
Part of the report, which discusses possible Russian interference in the Brexit referendum in 2016, has been painted black. The Commission of Inquiry recommends that the British intelligence services conduct additional investigations into this.
The British government rejects this suggestion. “We have seen no evidence of successful Russian interference in the Brexit referendum. A retrospective analysis of that referendum is not necessary.”
Other sections of the report also include censored passages. It is “very sensitive” information, which could potentially be used by Russia to threaten the UK, the committee said.
The committee calls for “immediate action” to help British intelligence services overcome “this very capable opponent”.
According to the report, no British intelligence agency or other agency took the lead in addressing Russian interference because of political sensitivities.
Labor Member of Parliament, Stewart Hosie, said no one in government wanted to touch the issue “even with a 3-meter stick.” No one knows if Russia also tried to influence the Brexit referendum, “because they didn’t want to know,” he said. “That is in stark contrast to the US response to the interference in the 2016 presidential election.”
The investigators further argue that successive British governments brought in questionable Russian businessmen with open arms. “Welcoming Russian oligarchs made it possible for black money to be recycled through what has been called the ‘London car wash’.”
The Kremlin said in an initial response to the report that Russia has never intervened in another country’s elections.
The report took a while to arrive; The work of the Commission of Inquiry was completed last year and is due to be published in October, two months before the UK parliamentary election.
To the ire of the opposition, Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed the presentation of the report, in his own words because it had yet to go through an approval process.
Commissioner Kevan Jones contradicts that. He said during the presentation on Tuesday that there was “no reason” for the postponement.