THE SNP president Michael Russell has been accused of an “utterly crass” attempt to link the Ukrainian struggle against Russia with the pursuit of Scottish independence.
Writing about the invasion and crisis in Ukraine, he said the past need not dictate the future, “whether that be rule from Moscow, or the result of an eight-year-old referendum”.
He also alleged “dirty cash” from Russia had gone to the Tory party and been “used against Scotland in the 2014 referendum” as well as helping to achieve Brexit.
The former Constitution Secretary, who now spearheads the SNP’s independence unit, made the comments in a blog published today on the party’s official website.
He was writing just hours after SNP MSP Michelle Thomson apologised after linking Ukraine’s existential fight with its Russian neighbour to Scotland leaving the UK.
The Liberal Democrats said it was “astounding” that Mr Russell should try to draw parallels between Moscow rule and London rule and called on him to apologise.
The current SNP Constitution Secretary, Angus Roberston, later denied there was any direct comparison between Ukraine and Scotland’s positions, but refused to criticise Mr Russell.
READ MORE: SNP MSP Michelle Thomson apologises for comparing Ukraine’s struggle to Scottish independence
Mr Russell’s blog was titled “Three things Scotland must consider in its response to the Ukraine invasion”.
He praised the “political maturity” of Scotland uniting to condemn Russia’ invasion, with only a very few voices on the “outermost fringes of our national life” doing otherwise.
But he said that did not mean Soctland had to parrot the UK Government line on a response.
He said: “Scotland’s position on such matters can no longer be taken to be merely echoing and identical acquiescence with whatever the UK Government of the day believes to be true.
“Instead it must be expressed – and taken – on its own terms and that is particularly true with regard to some key issues that arise when considering a response to Russia.
“Firstly, it must be shorn of jingoism.
“Secondly, it must be vigorous in the absolute and consistent defence of self determination.
“The right of people to choose how they are governed and by whom is an absolute and must be universally applied, respecting each and every democratic mandate.
“Nor can that right be circumscribed by history – just because something was, doesn’t mean it will always continue to be so whether that be rule from Moscow, or the result of an eight-year-old referendum.
“Thirdly, we need to speak out clearly about the power of money in politics and demand honesty from all involved.
“The modern Tory Party has been contaminated by dirty cash, obtained by theft and other criminality and washed by hordes of London accountants, lawyers and so-called ‘wealth managers’.
“There is little doubt that some of that money was used against Scotland in the 2014 referendum and it has certainly financed collective and individual Tory election victories.”
In an apparent dig at former SNP Alex Salmond, whose weekly show on RT was suspended last week, Mr Russell said the money also funded “disinformation in both mainstream and social media and even those who believed they were editorially independent were in fact often being used – wittingly or unwittingly – only as shields or smokescreens”.
One of Mr Salmond’s repeated defences of working with RT is his editorial independence.
Finally, Mr Russell said Brexit should be seen both “as a symptom of successful Russian financial and political interference as a policy objective and as an inhibitor of the UK’s ability to take effective action now”.
He said: “Let’s not forget that these people were also the key cheerleaders at home and abroad for Brexit, with admitted contact between Johnson and Rees-Mogg and Bannon and with Farage sucking up to Trump (as was Michael Gove) while there were a slew of meetings between Russian representatives and various Leave campaign activists.
“Those facts alone demonstrate not just how corrupt the Brexit process was, but also the utter idiocy of both Labour and the Liberals in now accepting it as a fait accompli.
“They have been suckered into a crooked self-harming sham which has delighted the Kremlin and the right-wing crazy gang but impoverished the rest of us.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said: “There’s enough hot air coming off Mike Russell to end dependence on Russian oil and gas.
“Likening the longevity of the 2014 referendum result in any way to rule from Moscow is one of the stupider things I have heard from a senior SNP figure.
“It is utterly crass to draw any parallels between what is going on in Ukraine to Scotland’s situation, when people in Ukraine are fighting and dying to avoid falling under the yolk of the Kremlin.
“I am astounded that the President of the SNP, a longstanding politician, would seek to draw any parallels to the democratic decision of the people of Scotland.
“The SNP and Mike Russell must apologise for this post and its promotion and not make such thoughtless comparisons at a time when the people of Ukraine are fighting for their lives.”
The SNP Constitution Secretary later denied there was any comparison between Ukraine and Scottish independence, but refused to criticise Mr Russell.
Asked about Mr Russell’s comments by ITV Border, Angus Robertson said: “There is no direct comparison between Ukraine, a country fighting to retain its independence, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity against military aggressors and us in Scotland, a democratic country able to make a decision about its future.
“We‘ve voted to be able to make a decision about our future, and that is exactly what we should do. But there is no direct comparison between what is hapening in Ukraine and what is happening in Scotland.”
Asked ir Mr Russell had been wrong to make his comments, Mr Robertson dodged the question by saying he did not want to be drawn into a “he says, she says” argument.
He said: “I’ve told you exactly what the position is. There is no direct comparison between the situation in Scotland and the situation in Ukraine.
“They are facing a military invasion, we live in a democratic state.”