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Russia ‘would target a second Scottish independence referendum’

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Russia would again attempt to interfere in Scottish politics if there was another independence referendum, experts have warned.

A report by MPs released last week said there was credible evidence there had been attempts to influence the 2014 vote.

Automated pro-Kremlin social media accounts flooded the internet with misinformation and some so-called bots questioned the validity of the independence referendum in the days after the vote.

Professor Phil O’Brien, chairman of Strategic Studies at St Andrews University, said he would expect this to happen again if there was another referendum, adding that Russia was supportive of the aims of pro-independence and pro-Brexit nationalists because it wants to “break apart institutions” such as the UK and EU.

And he warned Scottish politicians against appearing on Russia Today, a state-owned broadcaster, according to the report by MPs on the intelligence and security committee.

Former First Minister Alex Salmond and former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Shiekh host a regular political programme on the channel and recent guests include SNP MPs Kenny MacAskill, Angus MacNeil and Lisa Cameron, as well as SNP MSP Alex Neil.

Professor O’Brien said: “Co-operating with Russia Today is basically co-operating with an oppressive state.”

The SNP said: “The SNP thinks it is vital the UK Government acts upon the findings in the long-delayed ISC report, which concluded the UK Government had been asleep at the wheel and negligent in looking for and tackling the challenges posed by Russia. The SNP is open to an inquiry into the committee’s findings which can only be brought forward by the UK Government.”