Russia has been accused of using a range of tactics to interfere in the political process in Scotland, including cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns, and attempts to influence public opinion through social media.

This article is intended as a brief outline of why and how this is achieved.

In 2017, the Scottish Parliament was targeted by a major cyber-attack, which was later revealed to have been carried out by Russian state-sponsored hackers. The attack was designed to gain access to sensitive political information and disrupt the parliamentary process.


This article is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal. If you would like to submit your own article on this topic or any other, please see our submission guidelines


The attack’s impact was significant and disrupted the parliamentary process, with staff unable to access important systems and documents.

Cybersecurity measures increased

The Scottish Parliament responded to the attack by implementing enhanced security measures, including improved cybersecurity training for staff and the deployment of advanced security software. However, the incident highlighted the need for increased vigilance against cyber-attacks, particularly from state-sponsored hackers.

Be critical of what you watch

Another tactic used by Russia in Scotland has been the spread of disinformation through social media. Russian-backed accounts have been found to be spreading false information and conspiracy theories on social media platforms with the aim of sowing discord and undermining public trust in the democratic process. Russian-backed accounts on social media platforms are known to spread disinformation as a tactic to interfere in the political processes of other countries.

These accounts often use a range of tactics to spread false information and conspiracy theories, including posting fake news stories, sharing manipulated or videos and images taken out of context, and engaging in coordinated campaigns to amplify their messages.

One of the key ways that Russia spreads disinformation through social media is by using a network of fake or inauthentic accounts to promote its messages. These accounts are often designed to appear as if they are run by ordinary individuals, but in reality they are controlled by Russian state-sponsored actors. By using these fake accounts, Russia can reach a wide audience and make it appear as if there is widespread support for its messages.

Bots, bots, bots

We can’t forget bots. Bots are automated accounts that can be programmed to perform specific tasks on social media platforms. These bots can be used to amplify certain messages, make them appear more popular than they really are, or engage in coordinated campaigns to spread disinformation.

Bots on Twitter typically operate by following and retweeting accounts that support their agenda, as well as posting their own content. This content can include false or misleading information, inflammatory language, and divisive political messages. The goal of these bots is to create the appearance of widespread support for a particular political view or candidate and to manipulate public opinion in their favour.

The use of bots allows Russia to amplify its messages and create the appearance of widespread support for its views. By following and retweeting accounts that support their agenda and by posting their own content, Russian bots can create the impression that there is a large and vocal group of individuals who support their views. This can influence public opinion and shape the political landscape in their favour. In addition, using bots allows Russia to bypass traditional forms of media and communicate directly with the public.

By using social media in this way, the Russian state or groups with its backing can reach a large audience quickly and easily without needing to go through the editorial process of traditional news outlets. This allows them to spread their messages quickly and effectively and avoid being held accountable for the accuracy or veracity of their content.

Huge impact, huge effort to fight

The impact of Russian interference in Scottish politics has been significant. The cyber-attack on the Scottish Parliament led to the disruption of important political processes, and the spread of disinformation has contributed to a climate of distrust and confusion. Steps must be taken, including greater cybersecurity measures to protect against cyber-attacks and a more robust response to disinformation and other forms of interference.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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George
George (@guest_791455)
3 months ago

Nothing about the Tucker Carlson interview with Putin and the offer of peace talks, together with the accusation against Boris Johnson. Surely such a thing is worthy of mentioning, if not the main subject of several stories.

farouk
farouk (@guest_791502)
3 months ago
Reply to  George

George wrote: “”Nothing about the Tucker Carlson interview with Putin and the offer of peace talks, together with the accusation against Boris Johnson. “” It never fails to amaze me over the traction that the claim that Boris Johnson at the behest of the US/NATO (take your pick) scuppered the Ukraine/Russia peace talks. What those who peddle this line never mention is that Kyiv actually ended all talks with Moscow around the 1st of April  2022 after advance units of the Ukrainian army advanced north into the territories vacated by the retreating Russian army and came across executed civilians, mass graves… Read more »

lonpfrb
lonpfrb (@guest_792415)
3 months ago
Reply to  farouk

So really the ‘it was Boris fault’ meme is an honour for being one of the countries / people who have opposed illegal invasion by the terrorist state and an attempt to align with the C-19 enquiry ‘it was Boris fault’ irrelevant to the truth of that (if any) rather because it’s enabled by repetition, that standard of propaganda.

All good Kompromat fun, brought to you by those career FSB officers in the Crimlin, Red Square…

F Off and die, orcs.

Warren
Warren (@guest_791459)
3 months ago

You would have thought the Russians would have seen the damage the snp are doing and thought we don’t need to bother.

George
George (@guest_791732)
3 months ago
Reply to  Warren

Good point.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_791496)
3 months ago

There’s a surprise- Putin the Mad dictator and mass murder is pro Scottish independence and supports the SNP. Wonder why that is?
Probably because the UK is stronger together and division weakens us and makes us a lesser nation.
Not to mention Scottish independence would have a profound and dangerous/ negative impact on NATO.

GR
GR (@guest_793665)
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Sadly I’ve come to the realisation that he also aided the Brexit vote for the same reasons, and having seen Farage and the populist right all coming together to shill for Putin along with many other Brexit supporters I can see how they’ve been influenced by Kremlin bots to achieve an agenda that benefits Russia.

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_791609)
3 months ago

What most people forget is that when you are talking about Russia and Chinese political warfare against the west the subject mater is profoundly irrelevant…..their goal is essentially one of creating mistrust and dissent. The U.S. is a prime example both Russia and china are not trying to warp an election result, one specific way they are trying to undermine the very fabric of western democracies so they cannot make decisions or fight. To do this they will cast misinformation against all sides as they want a society to miss trust itself and its leaders…. The US is very much… Read more »

George
George (@guest_791734)
3 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Very well said. The ChiComs almost worship Sun Tzu and his teachings. But I wonder what the great general would have thought of Chairman Mao, the little red book and the millions upon millions of chinese people his party goons have killed. Starvation, execution, forced labour, torture and most recently by organ harvesting for transplant.

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_791971)
3 months ago
Reply to  George

Got to love communism..one of the profound evils invented by humanity in the 20c…..we do it so well..

AlexS
AlexS (@guest_791663)
3 months ago

I don’t really thing Russia needs to waste resources in Scotland, political Scotland is perfectly capable of doing it by itself.

lonpfrb
lonpfrb (@guest_792417)
3 months ago
Reply to  AlexS

Since camping equipment may be a devolved matter but Defence definitely is not we can be content that the structure of our nation is resilient to these expressions of free will.
Other camping equipment suppliers are available…

GR
GR (@guest_793666)
3 months ago
Reply to  AlexS

The vast majority of Scots were perfectly happy in the Union not so long ago and the idea of Scottish independence was a fringe idea. Russian propaganda has definitely played a part in softening up the Scottish population to support independence.

The only hope is the fact that indy-leaning Scots will wake up to the fact they’ve been manipulated by Putin, who is hated by the vast majority of Scots regardless of where they stand on the Union vs Independence.

George
George (@guest_791731)
3 months ago

Are you insinuating that I am some kind of Johnny foreigner or Russian troll. Clearly you do not know me or my thoughts regarding all four of the favoured founding members of the evil USSR. They were responsible for inflicting communism on the world leading to more than 100,000,000 deaths.
As much as I would like to see peace and an end to the suffering. I’m still open to the idea that what has happened is some form of divine retribution.

GR
GR (@guest_793669)
3 months ago
Reply to  George

It hasn’t escaped my notice that the biggest shills for Putin are the sorts of people who are rabidly anti-communist. Putin frequently portrays himself as the kind of ‘based and redpilled’ nationalist who speaks to their sentiments.

George
George (@guest_793747)
3 months ago
Reply to  GR

I think it is probably observational bias leading you to draw that conclusion. In my experience, those who support Putin also sing the praises of the USSR and it’s achievements. As if he is going to “bring the good times back.” Anyone who thought that the soviet union was a good time for Russia. Must have been syphoning the cream off the system for their own benefit. So much for everyone being equal.

We seem to have collected more than the usual number of pro-Ukrainian nationalist shills. Just out of interest GR, where do you come from?

GR
GR (@guest_793749)
3 months ago
Reply to  George

I am a British citizen, but more relevantly, I am actually a right leaning conservative whose inclinations are closer to sympathies with the populist right than with the left, and especially the far left and communist sympathisers.

It doesn’t bring me any joy to recognise the fact that people I have tended to sympathise with politically are the ones who are swallowing the Putinist propaganda the hardest.

George
George (@guest_793758)
3 months ago
Reply to  GR

I can’t honestly say I’ve recognised the same trend. What I have marvelled at, is the reluctance of a great number of people from all walks of life and political persuasions. To recognise Ukrainian propaganda for what it is. For whatever reason. The ruling oligarchs of both nations, grew up knowing nothing but soviet level corruption and how to play the system. What we have witnessed since the 1990’s is the true nature of post communist states. With those savvy climbers competing for the spoils. The fact that old rivalries and prejudices have set two founders against each other, provides… Read more »

TypewriterMonkey
TypewriterMonkey (@guest_793274)
3 months ago

Unfortunately, there is a ‘woke’ group in Scotland who believe in the whole Marxist-Leninist oppressor / victim narrative – that everyone is either an oppressor or a victim – and they will eat up anything the Kremlin feeds them. Russia is running rings around us in the propaganda game, even though they are ironically the Neo-Imperialist fascists in the world right now. This will not change until social media accounts are linked to real names and addresses, and those kinds of comments are treated in the same way as they would be in the mainstream media.

George
George (@guest_793752)
3 months ago

A good argument, well made in a surreptitiously amusing manner. “Typewriter Monkey.”

Brian Ferguson
Brian Ferguson (@guest_793343)
3 months ago

Isnt it widely known that they have filled Tory party coffers for years? Its not as if they have even been trying to hide the influence purchasing. And then there’s the Tuscan side trips by a certain Foreign Secretary…