This book was written by journalist David Leslie with a view to its publication by Mainstream publishers.
David Leslie agreed that, as the minimum price for cooperation from SSG activists, the work should not be toned down or edited to suit reactionary tendencies in any way.
As this agreement could not be adhered to, the book is published here prior to its official publication.
Please feel free to republish this work, in full or in part, with or without permission or acknowledgement.
Inside A Terrorist Group
I first came into contact with the Scottish National Liberation Army in March 1995. I am an Englishman. I had recently been transferred to begin working as the senior investigative journalist at the Glasgow offices of the "News Of The World", where the newspaper's Scottish edition is produced.
The Scottish National Liberation Army (SNLA) had just sent a number of letter bombs to British Labour party targets, including Tony Blair MP and George Robertson MP.
The letter bombs, which were timed to coincide with the Labour party's Scottish conference in Inverness, had created a minor sensation in Scotland and beyond. I was writing an article about the incidents when a member of the newspaper's staff informed me that a former member of the SNLA had just telephoned an anonymous message to the newspaper. He had condemned the attacks and criticised the SNLA itself.
This gave me a small unique angle and I included a brief report of the disgruntled former SNLA member's statement in the article which the "News Of The World" carried the following day.
The following week when I returned to work I was surprised, and a little startled, to receive a telephone call from an anonymous member of the SNLA. The caller asked for me by name and proceeded to question me about details of the telephone call received previously from the former member of the SNLA. For example, had the previous caller used a codeword?
I replied giving what little detail I knew, which wasn't much, and my caller seemed satisfied, politely thanking me for my trouble, and preparing to ring off.
I was a little surprised that a member of what is usually described as an extreme anti-English organisation should be so courteous to an Englishman like myself, and on impulse I intimated that as a professional investigative journalist I was interested in getting more information about the organisation and its activities. The caller replied that any information they gave out was only in the form of brief communiqués, and that the "News Of The World" might receive them in future. Then he rang off.
Since then the "News Of The World" has received many SNLA communiqués, and I have done a great deal of research into the Scottish National Liberation Army.
The results of that research form the contents of this book.
One of the many sins of the Scottish Establishment has been its incredible ability to engage in self-deception where the Scottish National Liberation Army is concerned.
For example, the Scottish media routinely describes the Scottish National Liberation Army as essentially a one-man band or, in contradiction, as a bunch of amateurish fantasists.
But a number of people have been convicted of SNLA activities over a period of twenty years, the SNLA has carried out effective direct attacks on British interests on two different continents, and the SNLA has a known interest in Weapons Of Mass Destruction, as well as an innovative approach to techniques of bringing disruption and chaos to the British State. All this is totally ignored as a matter of policy.
The SNLA, for example, was using hoax Anthrax letters against British targets in the USA in an experiment at least as early as November 2000, and pioneered the use of the Anthrax hoax technique in the UK before the technique became known and "popular" shortly after the September 11th attacks.
The SNLA was also experimenting with the toxin Ricin in the UK long before the existence of the toxin became widely known to the general public in the UK, or even to the British police, and it has an unhealthy interest in, and actual possession of, some extremely nasty unconventional weaponry in its arsenal. Some of these are described in detail here.
As this book will show, the SNLA plans its operations with elaborate care and ingenuity, and executes them with military precision, and the SNLA can be organizationally linked to some of the world's most dangerous terrorist groups, including the Real IRA, Islamic extremists, and the Russian Maoist Party.
There have been so many SNLA attacks, spanning a period of over twenty years, that only a limited number of the more significant or interesting of them can be described in detail.
And I have chosen not to cover the various SNLA trials in depth unless there is particular significance in them. There have been several major trials spanning a period of twenty years, all of which have received widespread coverage in Scotland and beyond, but some of them are now of little more than historical interest.
There are two distinct phases in the development of the SNLA.
The first phase, which covers the period from 1980 to 1995, is concerned mainly with the "traditional" methods of terrorism then employed by the SNLA. The second phase, from 1995 until the present, covers the period during which the SNLA began to show an interest in unconventional weaponry, and in particular in Weapons Of Mass Destruction (WMD).
And I have devoted a separate chapter to what is now Scotland's greatest mystery, the death-by-shooting of Willie McRae. I have uncovered evidence which links Willie McRae directly to the SNLA, and which, for the first time, publicly reveals the way McRae met his death.
The McRae case is essential to an understanding of the relationship between the SNLA and the British State. It illustrates the fact that the existence of the SNLA has forced the highest authorities in the British State to engineer an elaborate cover up in order to avoid a political scandal which threatens the integrity of the State itself.
As George Robertson MP (now Lord Robertson and former Secretary-General of NATO) stated in the "Herald" on March 15th, 1997, the SNLA has caused havoc and "mayhem". In fact, as this book will show, the British State has already suffered huge economic losses at the hands of the SNLA.
But, despite this, the activities of the SNLA are rarely mentioned by the Scottish or British media, and the SNLA has never been properly assessed or analyzed. Given the dangerous world we live in, I believe this situation is short-sighted and dangerous. The SNLA has already used chemical weapons in the UK (albeit in a limited and I believe purely experimental way).
A recent attempt (March 20th 2005) to place Lead Sulphate (an exceptionally lethal, but simple to manufacture, chemical) in London’s water supply was only very narrowly thwarted. But the SNLA could have killed thousands of Londoners, and permanently contaminated much of London’s water supply system causing economic catastrophe to the UK. What happens if or when another attempt is made successfully?
The SNLA is only a tiny organisation, but it intends to coerce the British State in order to force the British State to concede the SNLA's aims by the threatened or actual use of the Weapons Of Mass Destruction, which the SNLA - as will be demonstrated - undoubtedly possesses. To my certain knowledge the SNLA has experimented with potential WMD, and has perfected at least one type of WMD.
In my personal opinion it may become an even more dangerous force, and, unless certain radical reforms are undertaken, both Scotland and England will be on a head-on course for disaster.
This opinion is not mine alone. The consultant forensic psychologist Ian Stephen, referring to the use of Caustic Soda as a chemical warfare agent by the SNLA, has said that the SNLA campaign is liable to escalate:
"It seems to be a very well-planned exercise...It's a deeply worrying development...It's very dangerous and the worrying thing is that there is no telling where it will stop".
At the time of writing (August 2005) a number of recent incidents bear the hallmarks of SNLA actions. There is no sign that the danger of a full-scale SNLA attack has diminished.
This work is an attempt to understand and hopefully to counter that danger.
It has not been an easy or a particularly pleasant task. Despite my original SNLA contact's formal politeness, I have during this research personally received more than one convincing death threat aimed at myself and at my family.
Nevertheless for the purposes of confidentiality, my main source from within the SNLA is referred to as "Alec" throughout this book. Needless to say, this is not his real name, nor is his real name or identity known to me.
My thanks to all those who have helped with this work, especially those SNLA members and former members who agreed to collaborate, and including those in the media, various police forces, intelligence services and political circles, in the UK and beyond, who have given me assistance in writing this book.
1979: A referendum on Scottish Devolution is a failure due to the British government's insistence on a clause in the Bill that at least 40% of all registered voters in Scotland must vote in favour of Devolution.
1980: The Scottish National Liberation Army is formed in December 1980.
1981: The Dark Harvest Commando - a proto-SNLA grouping - acquires Anthrax from the mainland near the Scottish island of Gruinard, which it dumps in contaminated earth at Porton Down biological research station, and at Blackpool where the ruling Conservative party conference is being held.
1982: The SNLA campaign of disruption, letter bombs and arson begins officially on March 1st 1982, the third anniversary of the referendum on Devolution.
1983: SNLA letter bomb and arson attacks continue and escalate. David Dinsmore is arrested and charged in May, and Tommy Kelly is charged in October, with SNLA activities. Adam Busby and David Dinsmore abscond to Ireland in September to avoid prosecution for conspiracy.
1984: Tommy Kelly is sentenced to 10 years in prison for SNLA activities. An SNLA plot to murder Roy Jenkins MP in Glasgow goes badly wrong. Adam Busby avoids extradition to the UK when the High Court in Ireland rules that his alleged offences were political. David Dinsmore, on bail in Ireland, escapes to Spain and then to Brazil to avoid extradition.
1985: Willie McRae dies after being found shot in a crashed car in North West Scotland. The authorities refuse to hold a public investigation or an inquiry into the circumstances of his death.
1986 – 1992: Various SNLA activities continue, usually at a low key.
1992: The death of Kevin Collison takes place during an SNLA bomb alert.
1993: Andrew McIntosh is jailed for 12 years for an SNLA conspiracy to coerce Her Majesty's Government in order to establish a separate Scottish State. David Dinsmore surrenders to the British authorities in Brazil, and is returned to Scotland to face trial for an SNLA letter bomb offence.
1994: David Dinsmore pleads guilty to a much reduced charge and receives a non-custodial sentence of 240 hours community service. The SNLA launches "Operation Flame" to target mass English immigration. A sustained three year campaign against the British Labour party is also organised.
1995: The SNLA continues to carry out attacks in the UK using the Strategy Of Disruption. Later the SNLA launches "Operation Icarus" to experiment with Weapons Of Mass Disruption (WMD). A viable - but de-activated - blast incendiary device, designed to destroy aircraft in flight, is sent by air from Belfast to London. Four members of the SNLA's Dublin cell are arrested for questioning in Dublin, but released after interrogation. The "Flame" trial takes place in Scotland and two SNLA men are jailed. The Scottish Separatist Group - an SNLA political support group - is formed in October.
1996: SNLA attacks using the Strategy Of Disruption continue unabated.
1997: Adam Busby is jailed in Dublin for two years. SNLA actions using the Strategy Of Disruption continue in the UK. The Labour government of Tony Blair is elected, and a second - and successful - referendum on Scottish Devolution is held.
1999: A Scottish parliament with extremely limited powers is established in Edinburgh. The SNLA carries out bomb alerts in Edinburgh during the opening of the Scottish parliament by the Queen. The "Republican Revenge Group" (RRG) threatens to poison English water supplies in a campaign of Chemical Warfare.
Tony Blair holds an emergency Cabinet meeting and imposes a news blackout. England is in a state of virtual, if undeclared, siege. The RRG is believed to be an alliance between the SNLA and Irish Republican dissidents. A number of homes in Ireland are raided and Adam Busby (SNLA founder) is arrested. He is later released without charge.
2000: The SNLA launches a campaign of Information Warfare (cyber-terrorism). SNLA Anthrax hoaxes disrupt British commercial and diplomatic institutions in the USA.
2001: The SNLA sends hoax Anthrax letters to St Andrews university and other targets in the UK. The SNLA experiments with Ricin. SNLA cyber-terrorist attacks continue and escalate.
2002: Packages with bottles containing Caustic Soda disguised as aromatherapy oils are sent to Cherie Blair - wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair - and to other political figures in the UK. This is believed to be an SNLA experiment to prove the effectiveness of the chemical as a weapon.
2003 - 2004: Threats involving Chemical Warfare agents - believed to have been made by the SNLA - cause massive security alerts throughout the UK. In October 2004 a huge security alert disrupts central Edinburgh before and during the Queen’s opening of the new Scottish parliament building.
2005: An attempt by SNLA activists to place an exceptionally lethal chemical, Lead Sulphate, in the London water supply is only narrowly thwarted when uniformed police stumble on the operation in Mary Street, London, on March 20th.
The SNLA is a secret society, and, generally, the names of members and former members are unknown. However, a number of people have been convicted of SNLA activities in the last two decades.
Tommy Kelly: He was sentenced to serve 10 years for SNLA letter bombing in 1984. Denied parole because he refused to abandon his principles, Kelly served seven years of the sentence.
Andrew McIntosh: He was given a 12 year sentence for an SNLA conspiracy in 1993, in which he used the Strategy Of Disruption extensively. McIntosh was expelled from the SNLA in 1997 for betraying the location of an arms dump to the police. He hoped to get parole in return for his cooperation. He got parole.
Ironically, years later, in 2004, he was arrested with his brother Alan McIntosh, and another man, for possession of these same weapons. He hanged himself in prison.
David Dinsmore: On returning to Scotland from Brazil in 1993 after more than ten years on the run, Dinsmore repudiated the SNLA, and, in 1994, as the result of a deal, he was given 240 hours of community service for a much reduced charge of letter bombing.
Kevin Paton: He received an 18 month prison sentence for his part in the "Flame" conspiracy in 1995.
Terence Weber: Paton's co-accused, he received three years imprisonment for SNLA activities in the "Flame" trial in 1995.
Adam Busby: He received a two year sentence in the Irish Special Criminal Court in 1997. This was for a misdemeanor caused by sending an SNLA communiqué to media outlets in Scotland.
Anndra Padarsan: Convicted of sending death threats to, among others, George Robertson MP, he received a sentence of 3 months imprisonment in 1998.
Hugh Smith McMahon: He received a non-custodial sentence in the Special Criminal Court in Dublin for telephoning a bomb threat to police in Scotland in 1995, causing a major bomb scare near Inverness. His lenient sentence was influenced by the fact that he took legal action to prevent his trial for four years, causing the Irish authorities to seek a quick resolution to the case by offering him a non-custodial sentence. He accepted the sentence in 1999.
Paul Smith: In 2003, he was one of two young men scheduled to stand trial for alleged SNLA offences in Glasgow High Court. These offences related to the threatened use of biological weapons, and the actual use of chemical weapons. Specifically, he pled guilty to sending Caustic Soda to Cherie Blair and another person. He got 3 years imprisonment.
His co-accused was not proceeded against.
In addition to the above, a number of people have been charged with SNLA activities but not proceeded against for one reason or another, although remanded in custody on the charges. Darin Brown, for example, was charged with Weber and Paton in 1994, and was remanded in custody. The charges, to which he admitted, were eventually dropped when he agreed to turn informer in 1995.
Still others have been arrested or questioned on suspicion of SNLA activities over the years but released without charge.
For generations there have been small groups of Scots who have been prepared to or who have actually resorted to armed struggle. This book is a detailed study of the most enduring and persistent of them - the Scottish National Liberation Army or SNLA.
Scotland, originally a completely Gaelic speaking country, has been dominated by England for most of its history. Scotland, throughout its history, has been reactive to English influence or domination, and not proactive to the wider world.
The central question in Scottish history has always been how to deal with the larger, dominant and more aggressive English neighbour. In Scotland, there are only two methods of dealing with the "English question": outright resistance or a degree of collaboration.
Since 1746 and the defeat of the last great Jacobite rebellion, collaboration has ruled supreme, and has been the dominant force in Scottish politics. Scottish history has been re-written or forgotten, and replaced with an entirely bogus imagery involving Tartanry, and a heather and haggis cultural black hole for a national identity.
The country's national language - Gaelic - has been virtually obliterated, although it is still the key to the Scottish personal and national identity, while all sorts of falsehoods, bogus notions and reactionary ideologies have been deliberately promoted to create and maintain modern Scotland's "British" identity.
For example, Gaelic is still seen as "foreign" by many Scots, who have been encouraged to believe that the natural language of Scotland is English or "Scots" ("Scots" is the collective name for the English dialects spoken in Scotland).
In fact, Gaelic was once the vernacular language of the whole of Scotland. During the middle ages, its use in Scotland was general throughout most of the country. For example, at the coronation of Alexander the Third in 1249, the Latin of the coronation ceremony had to be translated into Gaelic so that the Scottish nobility could understand the proceedings.
Modern research indicates that Gaelic was still the language of the majority of Scots until comparatively recent times. Comparison of Webster’s population survey (1755) with Walker’s linguistic survey (1768) shows that Gaelic was still the majority language north of a line drawn between the Clyde and the Tay, an area that contained more than 60% of the country’s population in 1755.
As a result of this and similar brainwashing, modern Scotland is a backward, passive and reactionary province of England. Passivity in political affairs is the rule.
Scottish nationalism, once a very radical force, was typified by groups like the pro-Gaelic, anti-British, Scottish National League until the 1920s
This situation was completely transformed in 1928 when a section of the Scottish Conservative Party, the Cathcart Conservative and Unionist Association, left the main body of the Tories to form the National Party of Scotland - soon to be renamed the Scottish National Party - a party claiming to advocate some form of Scottish Home Rule. The main motive of the Tories in this was to undermine the Labour party vote in Scotland.
Labour candidates in Scotland stood as Labour and Home Rule candidates until 1945 and received a considerable nationalist vote. The founders of the National Party of Scotland intended to deprive Labour of its nationalist vote. Initially the NPS absorbed some genuine nationalist groups, but these were soon expelled as "extremists", and the National Party of Scotland united with the even more right-wing Scottish Party and adopted the name Scottish National Party. The sham of modern Scottish nationalism was born.
Essentially an extreme pro-British element had hijacked Scottish nationalism.
The SNP then embarked on a disgraceful campaign against the "Green Terror" of Irish Catholic immigration which was assisted by the support of the more reactionary elements in the Scottish media. This too was largely aimed at Labour as most Irish Catholics were Labour voters. These early fascistic antics of the SNP have been airbrushed out of history by modern SNP partisans.
The Scottish National Party - dubbed the "Tartan Tories" because of their Tory origins – is no longer officially anti-Irish or anti-Catholic – but their essentially pro-British attitudes remain. For example, their attachment to the British monarchy. In ideology they are still closely akin to the Irish Unionists – actively pro-British but keen to preserve their own political influence in their own part of the UK.
The Scottish National Party is also the supreme example of the lack of radical political activism in Scotland. Although the average SNP member is often a person with strong views on the subject of Scottish Independence, the SNP leadership is composed largely of professional politicians with a passive, provincial and essentially pro-British attitude.
Basically the SNP leadership is opportunist and career-oriented. The leadership is also totally in control of a supposedly democratic party. Even the party's newspaper "The Scots Independent" is privately owned and controlled by elements faithful to the SNP leadership.
This bizarre situation results in blatant and often ludicrous contradictions within the SNP. For one thing, if the aim of national self-government or self-determination is taken as the yardstick, the SNP isn't a "nationalist" party at all, because it favours integration into the forthcoming United European State rather than Scottish Independence. Similarly, the SNP has no interest in the issues of language, culture and history - which are the universal hallmarks of other nationalist parties.
In fact, the SNP promotes so-called civic nationalism - which is socially and economically based - in opposition to traditional or "real" nationalism. Perhaps most telling of all, the SNP is also, in the 21st century, a monarchist party, and gives official support to the British monarchy.
Academics have described the SNP as a "pseudo-nationalist" party or as representing "neo-nationalism". This variation of, or alternative to, nationalism is introspective and non-aggressive, and therefore politically irrelevant. In the SNP's case it converges with what Tom Nairn has called cultural sub-nationalism, meaning the docile images reflected in Tartanry and Kailyard.
To the SNLA and other critics, the SNP is simply a party of political careerists which uses nationalist rhetoric to cynically get political support from nationalist voters in Scotland. The SNP are seen as unprincipled political parasites feeding on the genuine national aspirations of the Scottish people. The SNP is an obstacle to genuine Scottish nationalism. (Note 1.)
The SNP is also unique in that, despite more than 70 years of constitutional activity, it has never succeeded in passing or even significantly influencing a single piece of legislation.
Despite the SNP's obvious flaws, there was a steady growth in political nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s and most of the benefits of it flowed to the SNP. To counter this, the British Labour government resorted to promises of Devolution, of a Scottish Assembly based in Edinburgh. But the British Labour government's promises were based on cynical political expediency, and there was no serious intention of implementing Devolution.
On the 1st of March, 1979, after years of seemingly endless discussion, when the Scottish electorate finally were allowed to vote in a national referendum on whether to establish a Scottish Assembly, they voted in favour of the Assembly.
But, despite the majority vote for the Scottish Assembly, the Labour government did not establish the Assembly on the technical grounds that less than 40% of those listed on the electoral rolls had voted in favour of establishing the Scottish Assembly.
Since a percentage of the registered voters were dead, were ill, or had moved to other areas where they could not vote, or had simply failed to turn out to vote for a variety of reasons, this outcome naturally caused very deep frustrations in Scotland.
The outcome was widely seen by the people of Scotland as a "betrayal", and as a denial of their legitimate democratic and national rights.
The most immediate obvious response to the referendum result - although by no means the only direct response, for there was a very pronounced upsurge in nationalist militancy throughout Scotland - was the brief and violent campaign waged by the Scottish Republican Socialist League (SRSL).
The SRSL, a tiny Marxist grouping, carried out a series of robberies and bombings in 1979 and 1980. One of the SRSL's most spectacular exploits was to carry out the daring armed robbery of a Post Office van in Glasgow. It is said to have netted the largest haul of stolen cash in Scottish history until then. In another SRSL attack in January 1980 a bomb exploded behind the Stock Exchange building in Glasgow.
However most of the SRSL members were arrested and given very lengthy prison sentences in a sensational conspiracy trial and the SRSL was effectively smashed.
One of the SRSL's associates who escaped arrest was Adam Busby, who later formed the Scottish National Liberation Army, a group which was also formed in direct response to the outcome of the Devolution referendum. He was one of the group’s Intelligence Officers.
Note 1: The distrust of the SNP and the reluctance of nationalist voters to give their votes to the SNP is dramatically illustrated by events in 1992. In January 1992 public opinion polls commissioned by the "Scotsman" newspaper and ITN showed that 50% of Scottish voters wanted Independence. But in the general election of April that year the SNP actually lost seats.
Note 2: It should be noted that the "national movement"" in Scotland only consists of the SNP with a few thousand members, and the Scottish Socialist Party with a couple of thousand members. In addition there are a number of tiny mainly web-based fringe groups – most of which are distinctly infantile.
Only the two political parties could claim to have any more than minimal political influence, and none of the fringe groups are politically active.
Any account of the SNLA would be incomplete without a detailed examination of the life and work of Adam Stuart Busby, a founder member of the SNLA and its best known member.
Adam Busby, who has masterminded SNLA activities from exile in Ireland for more than twenty years, is a highly intelligent professional revolutionary whose intelligence has been described as "Machiavellian" by his adversaries in the Irish Special Detective Unit (the Irish Special Branch). Perhaps significantly, the Special Detective Unit also refer to him as "Moriarty" (the great omnipotent genius who was the arch-enemy of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes).
Adam Stuart Busby was born into a middle-class family in August 1948. A native of Old Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire, Busby joined the Dumbarton branch of the SNP on his 16th birthday in 1964. Although generally his family had a strong Labour Party affiliation and some were very prominent in Labour circles, Adam Busby had always had strong Scottish nationalist leanings which, constantly developing, became the core of his political beliefs. (Note 1.)
Shortly after joining the SNP, Adam Busby joined an informal Nationalist grouping called "Free Scotland" or, in Gaelic, "Saor Alba". Shortly afterwards, this little group was absorbed into the "Scottish Liberation Army" or SLA.
The SLA was the brainchild of Major F.C. Boothby, a WW2 veteran and a cousin of the famous Tory peer Lord Boothby, and, although born in England of a Scottish family, the Major was a fanatical Scottish nationalist. Major Boothby's movement, the Scottish Liberation Army, had an important formative influence on Adam Busby, although it was a rather different influence than the Major intended to exert on his "troops".
Adam Busby, although only a teenager at the time, noted that the SLA had absolutely no security, no real ideology other than a set of vaguely romantic notions, no revolutionary creed and no politics other than a general support for the SNP. It was, for Adam Busby, a prime example of "how not to do it". Perhaps unwisely, Adam Busby, always forthright in speech and criticism, began to voice his criticisms of the SLA's faults.
Needless to say, the Major was outraged by criticism from the youngster and, somewhat ironically coming from the leader of a paramilitary group, he saw Adam Busby as the potential leader of an "extremist" element within the SLA.
Nevertheless, despite the internal bickering within its own ranks, the SLA was responsible for some small-scale actions - mainly slogan painting campaigns combined with the occasional outbreak of arson - and there were a number of grandiose plans for a national uprising, including "Operation Hub" which was a plan to capture Stirling Castle on Bannockburn Day as the signal for the beginning of the uprising.
However, there was a much more serious side to the Scottish Liberation Army.
The Major, who lived with his artist wife in a remote country cottage in Lanarkshire, used a small quarry nearby to perfect his formidable skills with home-made high explosives, while another member of the SLA, a shopkeeper who had a permit to sell shotgun ammunition, had legally imported solid, rifled shotgun ammunition which was used in Germany to hunt wild boar and deer. (The solid, rifled lead bullet increases the accurate killing range of a shotgun to several hundred yards.)
At the same time, SLA members, of whom there were a considerable number, were instructed to equip themselves with shotguns - which could then be bought cheaply and perfectly legally over-the-counter or by mail order.
There were regular training sessions, usually conducted under the guise of camping trips, during which SLA members underwent training in various paramilitary skills. This included survival skills. The Major, who had thoroughly trained himself in survival skills and guerrilla warfare, maintaining that it was possible to live fairly well for short periods on everyday plants including nettles and dandelions.
SLA members were also encouraged to join units of the Territorial Army or to infiltrate the Scottish regiments of the British Army in order to get training and equipment, and to recruit new SLA members from the British Army's own ranks.
Adam Busby, aged 17, briefly joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in late 1965 as part of this initiative.
Meanwhile, the British authorities were watching the SLA with growing apprehension. The SLA might have had its failings but it did have a veteran ex-British Army officer who had wartime experience at its head, it had a substantial membership, and possession of weapons, explosives, some basic training, and it had members serving in the British armed forces.
As a result, the Tory Prime Minister, Ted Heath, sent Douglas Hurd, then a confidential aide to Heath, on a mission to Scotland to examine the political situation in light of the rise of the SLA and militant Scottish nationalism. (Note 2.)
Shortly after his mission to Scotland, Douglas Hurd, in collaboration with Andrew Osmond, wrote a novel called "Scotch On The Rocks" which was loosely based on the information he had gathered on the SLA in Scotland.
The novel contains a number of composite characters. "Colonel Cameron", the leader of the SLA in the novel, is clearly based on Major Boothby. While "Brodie" is clearly Busby the "extremist", and "Meg Merrilees" is a composite character partly based on the late Wendy Wood. While the story is fiction, it forms one of a trilogy of novels - based in Scotland, Singapore and Hong Kong - co-written by Douglas Hurd and based on materials he had gathered on his confidential fact-finding missions to all three countries.
What impressed Adam Busby and others was the impact that the existence of the SLA appeared to have on the Conservative leadership's thinking on Scotland.
In the late 1960s, to the general surprise of many, including many in the Tory party, Prime Minister Ted Heath made a historic commitment to Scottish Devolution in the famous "Declaration Of Perth". Thirty years later, during the debate on the establishment of the present Scottish parliament, Ted Heath made it clear that if re-elected he would have implemented his promise of a Scottish parliament or Assembly.
To Adam Busby, and to others, the 1968 "Declaration of Perth" made it clear that while English governments were totally deaf to all other forms of campaigning, they responded immediately to violence or to the threat of violence.
As Alec, speaking on behalf of the SNLA, put it many years later:
"The British State only responds to one thing - physical force. Everything else from civil disobedience to electioneering is just a waste of time, and is really just a form of collaboration with the State. These activities only allow people to channel their energy into activities which are harmless to the State, so the State can operate without resistance.
But the State really fears physical force resistance because physical force resistance is a real threat to the State. Basically, anyone who doesn't physically resist the British State is really in collaboration with the British State."
The Scottish Liberation Army eventually drifted into oblivion although some of its ex-members were to continue as individual activists for many years. For example, Major Boothby, hopelessly at odds with some of his former colleagues, was jailed for three years for an alleged conspiracy during the 1970s. He died shortly after his release from prison.
Adam Busby, disillusioned with all forms of constitutional politics and disgusted by the ineptitude of most of the militants, spent many years diligently studying Scottish history, literature, politics and the Gaelic language, becoming a language activist who promoted the Gaelic Idea - the doctrine that Scotland should become a totally Gaelic-speaking nation again.
But, above all, he was engaged in preparation for the next stage in what he saw as the inevitable struggle to reclaim Scotland's legitimate national rights.
Note 1: Adam Busby's widowed aunt, Baillie Agnes Ballantyne, chaired the Labour party's Strathclyde Regional Police and Fire Committee. She adopted David McNee, the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, as her friend and protege. Under her tutelage, he went on to become Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and was knighted.
In a twist of fate, this took place during the same period that Adam Busby was co-founding the SNLA and carrying out letter bomb attacks on targets throughout the United Kingdom.
Note 2: Ironically Douglas Hurd was to become a target of the Scottish National Liberation Army himself when, as a senior member of the Conservative government, he was sent a letter bomb in July 1986. It ignited inside the Home Office HQ in London.
The Scottish National Liberation Army came into existence in December 1980. Its formation followed a series of strictly confidential meetings at the SNP Club in Edinburgh attended by people who felt that the outcome of the Devolution referendum demanded a definite response, and a complete change of strategy in Scotland.
There were five founding members of whom Adam Busby was one and Douglas "Dougie" Ross, an Edinburgh publican, was another. Ross, the publican of the Swiss Cottage pub in Edinburgh, died in mysterious circumstances in the early 1980s. Three of the five original members are still active in the SNLA.
Willie McRae was not a founding member of the SNLA, although he was a very early associate and influence who was active by 1981.
There was a general feeling that something had to be done, that the outcome of the Devolution referendum was the final signal that there was no constitutional way forward, and that only a fierce and sustained physical force campaign would ever achieve anything.
The problem was what to do, and how to do it. At the very beginning there wasn't even a formal name for the group, and no clear ideas of how to proceed had yet been developed. But there was an absolute determination to see the thing through, and to win Scottish Independence by any means necessary.
Alec reiterates this: "What people don't realise is that the SNLA isn't a protest group. We're not a political party or a social club either. We are a secret revolutionary group with only one object. We only have one purpose and that is to achieve our aims. We are out to win. And we'll use any methods we see fit to do that regardless of the cost. And if that means using WMD (Weapons Of Mass Destruction) then we don't flinch from it - we welcome it because if it's got to be done then we are anxious to do it."
Each of the founding members agreed to recruit one new member and the creation of a think-tank to research ideas for more or less immediate action. This resulted in a number of small-scale actions in 1981, most of which were comparatively trivial, including slogan painting and the theft and burning of Union Jack flags.
But one of the earliest proto-SNLA operations was carried out using the name of the "Dark Harvest Commando" in the early 1980s, and it was far from trivial. It is interesting both because it involved Willie McRae - see the later chapter where his death-by-shooting is examined in detail - and, especially, because it involved probably the first ever terrorist use of a biological weapon - Anthrax.
During WW2 the British had, completely recklessly and with blatant disregard for the local population, tested Anthrax as a potential biological weapon on the small uninhabited island of Gruinard. The island lies adjacent and in very close proximity to the North West coast of Scotland.
The island was seeded with Anthrax spores by British biological experts in a wartime experiment in the 1940s. It was in the form of "Anthrax cakes" designed to infect livestock rather than humans, and the Anthrax remained active on the island for decades afterwards. Over the years there was a great deal of concern among the area's population that Anthrax had spread from the island to the nearby Scottish mainland.
The British authorities always denied that Anthrax had spread from Gruinard to the Scottish mainland. But, given the fact that the island lies just off the mainland, and the fact that Anthrax spores can quickly become airborne, there were few people in the area who believed the authorities' assertions that Anthrax could be kept contained on a small offshore island.
Willie McRae, the veteran nationalist lawyer, who had close connections with the area, came up with a novel scheme to force the British authorities to admit that Anthrax had spread from Gruinard to the adjacent mainland.
Firstly a surreptitious visit to the island by night allowed members of what became known as the Dark Harvest Commando to leave traces of recent digging on the island, although no earth was actually removed from the island.
Then a substantial quantity of earth containing Anthrax spores was secretly removed from the mainland facing Gruinard island. The earth, which filled two large sacks, was then removed in the boot of a car to Willie McRae's home. At the same time an elaborate scheme was hatched to convince the British authorities and the police that the earth had been taken from the island itself.
A local boatman, who kept his boat on the beach on the mainland near the island of Gruinard, was surprised when he went to his boat one day and found that it was not in its usual position. Even more surprising, there was an anonymous note in the boat thanking him for the use of the boat and a sum of money to pay for its overnight "hire".
Shortly after this, small mounds of the contaminated earth from the Scottish mainland were dumped at two locations in England. The most fitting location was on the perimeter of the Porton Down complex in Wiltshire, which houses the British State's biological weapons research station. It was at Porton Down that the Anthrax had originated many years previously. The other location was close to the foot of the Blackpool Tower during the governing Conservative Party's Blackpool Conference.
The incidents caused minor panic - even in those far-off days when there was a much less heightened awareness of the threat of biological weapons. Both incidents were highly publicised, and the removal of the Anthrax-contaminated earth at Blackpool was televised to a British public - most of which had never heard of the island of Gruinard.
The media were initially informed by the Dark Harvest Commando that the earth had been removed from Gruinard and that it contained Anthrax spores. When the British government's experts tested the soil and revealed that it did, in fact, contain Anthrax they had fallen into the Dark Harvest Commando's elaborate trap.
The Commando then revealed that the Anthrax-contaminated soil had not come from the island, as they had previously claimed, but from the Scottish mainland near the island.
As a result of the Dark Harvest Commando's revelations, there was considerable embarrassment in government and scientific circles. Finally the British government announced that Gruinard island would be thoroughly decontaminated and, eventually, this extensive decontamination operation was carried out.
The operation had been a tremendous success for the Dark Harvest Commando who ended the operation by pinning a notice to a door of the Scottish Office in Edinburgh warning that, while they were suspending the operation for the present, they would return if no action was taken to remedy the situation on Gruinard, or if events in Scotland warranted it. (Note 1.)
The Dark Harvest Commando - which sometimes referred to itself as being part of the "Scottish Civilian Army", an early name for the SNLA which was subsequently dropped in favour of its present title - was jubilant, but there was some concern at the lack of attention reluctantly given to the whole matter by the Scottish media, in comparison to the more generous coverage provided by the English media.
This phenomenon, the unwillingness of the Scottish media to report news stories which concern anti-State activities, has persisted and increased until the present day.
But, what may be of the greatest significance, is that two of the participants in this first ever terrorist use of a biological agent were later found dead in mysterious circumstances.
Not long after the operations of the Dark Harvest Commando had ceased, the body of Douglas Ross, a young and healthy man, who was an SNLA founder member, was found lying dead, of what were described as natural causes, in a remote area. There was no inquiry into the circumstances of his death.
On the 6th of April, 1985, Willie McRae also died in a very mysterious shooting incident. As in the case of his colleague Douglas Ross, the authorities absolutely refused demands for an inquiry into Willie McRae's death. (See the later chapter which deals with the circumstances of McRae's death.)
On completion of the Dark Harvest Operation, the group decided to use the name Scottish National Liberation Army as the group's official title - because it signifies total Independence and a National Revolution which rejects all things British - and to begin the SNLA campaign as soon as possible on an appropriate and significant date.
Note 1: The remainder of the Anthrax-contaminated soil remains in the hands of the SNLA. It is said to be safely stored in an outhouse or potting shed somewhere in Scotland.
The Scottish National Liberation Army's campaign officially opened on the 1st of March 1982, the date being chosen because it was the third anniversary of the referendum on Scottish Devolution, and the target was also highly symbolic, being the area of Edinburgh which surrounds the Old Royal High School, the proposed site of the Scottish Assembly.
The plan was to place about twenty small incendiary devices in the early morning hours in a number of pillar boxes and grit boxes at various locations in a rough circle surrounding the Old Royal High School in Edinburgh, and then to inform the media of the locations of the devices first thing in the morning through a message delivered to the offices of the BBC in Edinburgh.
It was hoped that this would lead to a huge police operation which would effectively seal off large parts of central Edinburgh at the height of the morning's rush hour. This was the original plan. However, all did not go strictly according to plan.
Alec, my SNLA source, tells the story:
"Quite simply, too many people were involved and there was too much division of responsibility. The guy who was to make the incendiary devices got cold feet at the very last minute and didn't turn up, leaving us minus the devices. When it became clear that he wasn't going to turn up, we took the statement we had prepared and delivered it to the media anyway.
I remember that the statement was far too long, maybe a thousand or a couple of thousand words, while nowadays statements are very brief and straight to the point since the media, if it reports anything, won't report anything more than a few brief details. If I remember correctly, the statement went to the BBC's radio offices in Edinburgh.
We were delighted when the planned disruption actually took place. The police took the warning very seriously and blocked off the streets while they urgently contacted the Post Office to get the pillar boxes opened. Then each postal packet or letter inside the pillar boxes had to be individually examined. There was considerable disruption to traffic throughout the area while this was going on, and this was reported on, I think, the local radio station, Radio Forth.
We felt that the operation could still be counted as a limited success, and we had learned very valuable lessons from it. The bomb-maker, who was an extremely vocal revolutionary but, like most people, was totally incapable of any real action, was dropped from SNLA membership, so we had also learned to beware of purely verbal militants and wannabes.
Our next operation was a letter bomb sent to John Nott MP, the British Defence Secretary. We had decided in advance that when Nott announced that the Trident missile programme was to go ahead, we would immediately send a letter bomb to him at the House of Commons.
Accordingly, we had everything prepared, and when the Trident programme was announced in March 1982, we quickly assembled a black powder explosive device at a house in Edinburgh, which was sent to John Nott at the House of Commons in London.
Here again we made a number of minor errors. The device was posted at a pillar box in Edinburgh on March 16th 1982. It wasn't an unusually large device and it just went through the post like any average letter. This meant that it turned up in London the following day which was March 17th - St Patrick's Day.
As a result, when the media got the story, which was the main news story of the day in the UK, and also got considerable coverage internationally, they all assumed that the letter bomb was the work of the IRA because it had been delivered on St Patrick's Day. We should have foreseen this possibility and delayed the posting of the letter bomb for a day or two.
That evening, one of our members used a public call box (and he was wearing gloves to avoid leaving traceable fingerprints) to phone a claim to the Glasgow offices of the "Scotsman" newspaper. We chose that particular newspaper office because we knew that it was manned 24 hours a day, and that it didn't have the means to record telephone calls.
Our mistakes: The telephone call should have been made much earlier in the day. As soon as the bomb was reported in fact which, if I remember correctly, was on the 3 o'clock TV news. That way our claim would have been more widely reported by the media for most of the day. As it was, our claim was only picked up by a few of the newspapers on the following day.
Also, the device had been addressed to John Nott MP at the House of Commons. We had hoped that he or one of his senior aides would open the device themselves.
What happened was that the device was forwarded from the Commons to the Ministry of Defence HQ buildings in London. (Note 1.) This is standard practice when mail is addressed to a Minister or Secretary of State. It is automatically forwarded from the Commons to the relevant Ministry.
And so the letter bomb was actually opened by a female staff member at the Ministry of Defence. She was named in the following day's media. She was actually opening the letter bomb when she realised that it was a bomb and quickly put it down. She was very, very vigilant and very, very lucky. If she had fully opened the letter bomb it would have gone off, and she would have been seriously injured, at the least. The bomb was designed to kill or maim. The police themselves made a statement describing the device as a "viable bomb".
We hadn't counted on this, and we weren't interested in injuring or killing junior civil servants, and so we immediately switched to incendiary devices which are dangerous but not nearly as dangerous as explosive devices.
The main lesson we had learned was that when a letter bomb is addressed to a prominent politician or other person or target - what we call a "prestige target" – it gets massive publicity, and this is propaganda for our cause.
As a result we immediately sent two incendiary letter bombs to the HQ offices of the Social Democratic Party in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Neither device ignited, but this didn't surprise us as a general alert had been issued after the Nott letter bomb which had been sent out only a few days before. The one sent to the SDP in Edinburgh was blown up in the street by a bomb disposal squad, and this was televised. It was quite dramatic footage.
From a propaganda point of view it was a brilliant success. We had achieved our first aim, and resoundingly so. All the media made our attacks the main news story of the day, and all of them reported the letter bombs as the work of the SNLA, making the name of the Scottish National Liberation Army nationally and internationally known. We had achieved the first of our aims:
To make the Scottish struggle internationally known, and to present a totally militant image in total contradiction to the comfortably respectable and collaborative image presented by the constitutionalist and essentially pro-British Scottish National Party.
These letter bombs got such massive publicity partly because the Social Democratic Party itself was getting massive attention from the media at that time. So the SDP was very much a "prestige target". But we never regarded the SDP as anything more than just another British political party, and this made them a legitimate target. So fuck them.
The letter bomb campaign carried on throughout 1982 and 1983 with growing success. In fact, a number of other groups and individuals, most notably animal rights campaigners, began letter bomb campaigns of their own because they recognized that letter bombs were relatively straightforward to manufacture once the technique had been mastered, and that the letter bomb would almost always reach its target. Even if it didn't reach its target, it would cause major disruption and it would probably be publicised anyway.
By our example, the SNLA had triggered off a rash of letter bombings by other groups and other people throughout the UK.
On one memorable occasion in 1983 three letter bombs were sent to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on three consecutive days. Only one of them was ours, and we think it was the second one. We don't know who sent the others.
We targeted Thatcher on numerous occasions, usually getting quite close, and on one occasion a letter bomb ignited in a room only a few yards away from her.
Finally, the postal authorities introduced a sophisticated screening device into the main sorting office which deals with mail for that part of London. It is a conveyor belt which X-rays the mail, and can detect explosives, and can tell the difference between a paper clip and an electrical circuit. Suspect letters and packages are automatically downloaded from the conveyor belt and drop into a bomb-proof compartment. But this screening device can still be beaten.
We used carbon paper on the inside of some devices to mask the contents from X-rays. Fibre glass can be used for the same purposes. So we weren't unduly worried by the increased security measures, and our letter bombs continued to get through undetected.
One was sent to, I think it was Douglas Hurd, and it went off inside the Home Office in 1986. The police issued the usual junk about a crude and unsophisticated device which had only partially ignited, etc.
The point is that crude and unsophisticated devices couldn't get through the security screen, and we later heard that a member of the Home Office staff was slightly injured which tends to indicate that the device did fully ignite.
We also began to use the technique of the hoax parcel bomb in 1982 and 1983. The media always refer to these inaccurately as "hoax letter bombs". In fact, the SNLA has never used hoax letter bombs.
To understand this, it is necessary to describe the physical aspects and appearance of a letter bomb.
Contrary to popular belief, the letter bomb isn't a large or bulky object. The size varies but essentially it is the same size and only a little heavier than any ordinary letter. Put simply, a letter bomb is usually about 9 inches long by 4 inches wide, is a slim object, and is virtually indistinguishable from any of the millions of other letters which turn up in offices and homes every weekday.
Parcel bombs are very much larger objects - a parcel bomb could be a package of virtually any size.
What we discovered was that when a hoax parcel bomb or a suspect parcel bomb turned up at, say, a government office, then because of the possibility that it could contain large amounts of explosive the whole building had to be evacuated causing major stoppages and disruption.
We often employed this technique and it always worked very well. We usually refer to the hoax devices as "inert devices", by the way.
These hoax parcel bombs usually contained wires, a battery and some substance like marzipan - marzipan is ideal because it looks and even smells like gelignite and similar types of explosive.
When the parcel was opened, the first thing the recipient would see were the wires and so on, and they would immediately call the police, and the police would order the evacuation of the whole building because of the size of the parcel, and the potential of any explosives it might have contained to cause damage and casualties throughout the whole building. Sometimes the streets outside the building are also sealed off to keep the public away and to allow the police to establish control over a perimeter.
This means hours of disruption in the target area which is very expensive, and it is massively time-consuming for the police.
The advantage of the hoax parcel bomb is that it is simple for anyone to make, whereas the much smaller letter bombs required a certain amount of skill to manufacture, and an unskilled bomb-maker could injure himself. This occasionally happened. But letter and hoax parcel bombs were only part of the picture.
In November 1982 we burnt out the Tories' temporary HQ in Glasgow, and the following night we burnt out the Labour party's national HQ in Scotland, which is also in Glasgow. In both cases, petrol was poured into the buildings through broken windows and letterboxes, and then ignited. This sounds simple, but really it's quite dangerous because, while the petrol is being poured, there is a rapid build-up of petrol vapour in the air which causes an explosion when the petrol is ignited. We quickly learned to stand well back!
The trick is to pour the petrol inside, leaving a pool of petrol on the outside of the building, then stand out of range and throw a box of blazing matches or a rolled-up ball of burning newspaper into the pool of petrol. The pool of petrol ignites and that then goes on to ignite the petrol which has already been poured into the building.
Petrol is dangerous stuff to work with, but the results were well worth it as both buildings were badly damaged. The Labour HQ also lost 150,000 copies of their newspaper which were stacked in the hallway of their offices.
Unfortunately, due to all the publicity, we had spawned imitators one of whom burned down the Labour party offices in Dundee shortly afterwards. We had absolutely no argument with the action per se, but a number of people who lived over the Labour offices in Dundee had a very narrow escape from the fire. Naturally, we got the blame for that one too. In the "Black Book" it is still attributed to us. (Note 2.)
With the single exception of the arson attack on the Labour party's Scottish HQ, we didn't carry out any more attacks on the Labour party until 1994. There just wasn't any point as they seemed to be in permanent opposition.
Incidentally, in November 1983, a year to the day after we burnt out the Tories' temporary HQ in Glasgow, we went back there and planted a powerful home-made bomb there. Unfortunately, it only partially ignited because we didn't construct it properly, but we had reiterated our point.
We had also carried out an arson attack on Redford Army Barracks in Edinburgh. It was a very risky operation with a high risk of us being caught red-handed. Because of this, in order to cover our SNLA credentials we used the cover name of the "Scottish Independence Army" for this operation. We even had some literature done up using this name and we scattered it around in the dormitories. The barracks were practically deserted at the time although it was only early evening, and we never had any trouble with getting caught.
The only trouble we had was with the petrol which was in plastic bottles. Our plan was to tip the bottles over on their sides so that some of the petrol from the bottles ran into balloons which we had attached to the necks of the bottles. Then we intended to light candles and "snakes" - these are coils of slow-burning material which are intended to be used to repel insects - which when they burned down would ignite the petrol in the balloons. This was to provide a delay to give us time to get out before the fires started.
The trouble was the petrol just ate through the balloons as soon as it made contact with them. This shouldn't have happened because we had tested the technique in training and it worked perfectly then. So we just said "Fuck it", and sprinkled the petrol from the bottles all over two big dormitories. Then we lit the petrol by hand using some of the papers we had brought.
Then we just drove out of the barracks without anyone stopping us or taking any notice of us. The dormitories were badly damaged by the fires we had started, but the main effect on us was to boost our confidence. If we could just drive into a major British Army base and set it on fire, then what couldn't we do? We were absolutely full of confidence in ourselves.
Another major action which took place around this time - I think it was February 1983 - was the letter bomb sent to Glasgow's Lord Provost, Michael Kelly, at the Glasgow City Chambers. It was timed to coincide with the day of Princess Diana's first official visit to Glasgow. Michael Kelly wasn't really the target - although the letter bomb was actually addressed to him - he only became a target because he was due to welcome Diana to Glasgow.
There was a problem around this time as the State, which in this case means the police and the media, had routinely begun to play down, to denigrate or simply to deny SNLA claims.
We planned the letter bomb attack on the day of Diana's visit as a "spectacular", and we couldn't take the risk that the police Press Officer would simply deny that anything had taken place. We wanted the media to be right there on the spot so that the police couldn't cover up anything and we could maximize the propaganda effect.
The whole thing was meticulously planned. We used Willie McRae's office in Buchanan Street as a base from which we could monitor the routine and the timing of postal deliveries in central Glasgow. We quickly established that mail to the City Chambers was delivered well prior to 9am each morning, while mail to the media offices in the area - including the STV (Scottish Television) offices in Cowcaddens - was always delivered slightly later in the morning.
What we did was to send the incendiary letter bomb to the City Chambers, and in the same post we sent out stenciled statements in which we gave exact details about the letter bomb which had been delivered to the City Chambers. These statements were only sent to each of the media offices in the area which we knew received their mail after the City Chambers received its mail. The plan worked perfectly.
The letter bomb was delivered to the City Chambers first, while the media offices in the area received full details of it, including its location, in the post shortly afterwards, and the media then descended on the City Chambers in droves.
The letter bomb was opened by the Lord Provost's secretary, a guy called Eric Hamilton, while he was in his office interviewing, of all people, Miss Glasgow. The device ignited, Eric Hamilton was burned on the wrist or hand, and the top of his desk and the paperwork on it was also burned. Finally, the device fell to the floor where it burned a large hole in the carpet before somebody got hold of a fire extinguisher and put it out.
Soon after, the media pack turned up outside the City Chambers with photographers and even a film crew in attendance. The police couldn't stop them swarming all over the place and everything was filmed or photographed for TV or the Press. Everyone involved except Eric Hamilton, who had been taken to hospital for treatment for burns, was interviewed by the media. This included Miss Glasgow, who was present when the bomb went off, and the porter who had finally extinguished the blaze with the fire extinguisher.
This was a major news event not just in the UK, where it was the main news story of the day, but worldwide.
Our communiqué had made it plain that this action had taken place to disrupt the first official visit of Diana to Glasgow, which, of course, was taking place that very morning, and it had worked. The Royal Visit was completely overshadowed by the letter bomb attack. It was a political and military success and a tremendous propaganda coup for us.
Another bonus for us was that while the police for their own propaganda purposes had routinely begun to describe our letter bombs as "crude" and "amateurish", the photographs and film of the damage to the inside of the office gave the lie to their propaganda. Even a senior police officer at the scene was forced to admit that the letter bomb was very artfully made, and the media quoted this statement - much to our delight.
What is also interesting about the whole affair is that it shows the importance that the British State gives to the prestige and propaganda value of the Royal Family.
We had severely dented that prestige, and turned the whole thing into a propaganda victory for the SNLA, and in response the State arranged an unscheduled Royal visit to Glasgow several weeks later. This time Diana was accompanied by Charlie (Prince Charles) and there was massive security. It was reported in the Press that college students were told they could take time off to go and see the Royal couple - but the students had to promise that they wouldn't demonstrate against the Royal visitors.
I guess you could say that the SNLA had won that round!"
But not all SNLA actions were so successful.
There was a conspiracy to assassinate Mrs Thatcher at the Scottish Tory party conference in Perth in May 1983, but it was aborted despite the fact that a considerable amount of planning had been put into it.
The plan - to put a bomb underneath the stage from which the Prime Minister would address the conference - had to be abandoned when it became obvious that the State had got wind of a similar plan being loudly promoted by a short-lived nationalist splinter group called the "Arm nan Gaidheal" or, in English, the "Army Of The Gael" - although there is no evidence that the splinter group's "plan" ever amounted to any more than wishful thinking. (Note 3.)
But, even so, there were compensations for the SNLA. Security at the Tory conference, which normally consisted of a token police presence, was stepped up to such an extent that media commentators began to refer to the "fortress city of Perth".
Unperturbed and audacious, the SNLA decided on an alternative plan.
Note 1: Years later the SNLA started a fire in the Ministry of Defence HQ in London. According to Alec, the building was undergoing extensive renovations at the time and the SNLA's operators simply walked in without being challenged - as they had done at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh.
Note 2: The "Black Book" is the disparaging SNLA name for the book "Britain's Secret War", which the SNLA believe is State-inspired propaganda. It is largely inaccurate nonsense and was written by two people, one of whom was once employed in a senior position by the former SNP leader Gordon Wilson MP.
Note 3: The "Army Of The Gael" did however manage to carry out one or two more or less successful arson attacks circa early 1983. Some of their members received non-custodial sentences for some of these offences.
The SNLA's alternative plan involved the sending of a letter bomb to Scone Palace near Perth, home of the Tory Earl of Mansfield, where Mrs Thatcher would stay during the Scottish Tory Party Conference.
Accordingly, an incendiary letter bomb was prepared and posted in central Glasgow on the afternoon of May 12th 1983 by David Michael Dinsmore, a Falkirk youth who had been a member of the SNLA since early the previous year. The letter bomb would have reached Scone Palace on the following day to coincide with Mrs Thatcher's presence.
However, the letter bomb never reached its target. It was discovered in a post box in central Glasgow, shortly after David Dinsmore, who was being followed by detectives, was seen posting a letter there. Dinsmore had been identified by the police as an SNLA member, and had been kept under strict surveillance during most of May 12th, 1983.
In the early hours of May 13th, 1983, he was arrested at his parents' Falkirk home. Among the items taken as evidence from Dinsmore's room in his parents' home was a business card belonging to Willie McRae which had writing on its reverse side.
(See the later chapter on the mysterious death of Willie McRae for more details and the significance of this.)
Arrested under the Prevention Of Terrorism legislation, David Dinsmore was taken into police custody but maintained an absolute silence. Adam Busby was also arrested in Paisley under the anti-terrorism legislation later the same day, but, lacking any evidence, the police were forced to release him without charge shortly afterwards.
David Dinsmore was charged in connection with the letter bomb which had been intercepted on its way to Scone Palace, was denied bail, and remanded in custody to Longriggend Remand Centre. Dinsmore thus became the first person to be charged with participation in letter bomb attacks or SNLA activities.
During the period of his detention the letter bomb attacks continued unabated, and SNLA members set fire to forestry plantations near Perth in retaliation for Dinsmore's arrest. The fires raged for days.
A group to campaign for Dinsmore's release was also formed which campaigned on the basis that David Dinsmore had been framed by the authorities. The campaign group was, in fact, an SNLA-founded propaganda front although most of its members and supporters had no links to the SNLA.
The campaign was proactive and determined, with the emphasis on Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA). It carried out a number of actions including a picket of Glasgow Sheriff Court on the date of David Dinsmore's remand court appearance.
During this picket of the court, then based in Ingram Street, a large police bus used to transport prisoners was put out of action when its tyres were mysteriously slashed.
Later that evening, posters demanding the release of David Dinsmore were pasted on the windows of the Sheriff Court buildings and the ground floor windows were then smashed by bricks. It was a daring and audacious attack because it took place in the brightness of the early evening. It was also extremely insulting to the police and the judiciary.
An anonymous call was then made to a freelance journalist who operated a small Press Agency called "Quill Enterprises", and who lived fairly nearby in the West End of Glasgow. The journalist hastened to the scene of the incident and saw the posters, the broken windows, and discussed the incident with a number of uniformed policemen who had been called to the scene, and with workmen who were beginning to erect hoardings over the broken windows.
Finally, in order to complete his story, the journalist used a phone kiosk in the street nearby to phone the police Press Officer for an official comment. This is standard journalistic procedure as no news story of this type will be published without an official comment or confirmation from the police Press Officer. The police Press Officer is a police officer who has been trained to deal with the media, or a journalist who is employed by the police to handle media enquiries. Each police force has its own Press Officer or Officers.
To the freelance journalist's utter astonishment, the police Press Officer denied that any such attack on the Glasgow Sheriff Court had taken place. Despite the freelancer's protests that he was still at the scene of the incident, and had seen the posters and the damage for himself only a few minutes before, and had even discussed the incident with investigating police officers, the police Press Officer continued to maintain that no such incident had taken place.
As a result of the Press Officer's insistence, the incident could not be reported as no newspaper would carry a story about an incident which had been officially denied by the police.
Such blatant lying, which is no more than a means to impose censorship on the media and the public, was to become standard procedure for the Scottish police forces and the British government in the years to come, and has now (in the year 2005) reached epidemic levels. It is also a simple attempt by the State to use the media to conduct a propaganda war against the SNLA, as, by denying and ridiculing their claims as "false", they can then portray the group as liars and fantasists.
While the campaign to support David Dinsmore kept up the momentum, the police realised that Dinsmore was just one of a number of very determined individuals who made up the SNLA, and that their intelligence on the remainder was extremely limited or non-existent.
Most of the little they did know came from their informers in the ranks of two minor groupings called "Siol nan Gaidheal" and the "Scottish Republican Socialist Party".
Both Dinsmore and Busby had been members of Siol nan Gaidheal - the name in Gaelic means "Seed Of The Gael" - and Adam Busby had actually formed the Scottish Republican Socialist Party the previous year.
Both groups had proved a severe disappointment to the SNLA members. Adam Busby and David Dinsmore had both been expelled by Siol nan Gaidheal which advertised itself as a militant, activist group. Ironically they were both expelled from Siol nan Gaidheal quite simply because they were militant activists, while most of the rest of the group most certainly were not.
Their expulsions were a result of their taking part in militant activities. Dinsmore and Busby had sparked a riot on the Wallace Day memorial march and rally in Renfrewshire in 1982. It led to fighting with the police and the siege of the local police station. Both Dinsmore and Busby were arrested as were a number of others.
In a separate incident, Adam Busby had thrown smoke bombs at SDP leader Roy Jenkins at a Glasgow rally of the Social Democratic Party in 1981.
These and similar incidents had horrified the ultra-conservative elements within Siol nan Gaidheal and the SNP.
The Scottish Republican Socialist Party was an even greater disappointment.
Founded by Adam Busby in late 1982 as the Scottish Republican Movement to promote non-constitutional and anti-constitutional activities such as Non-Violent Direct Action, the group had been inundated by pro-SNP elements some of whom were informers who later testified against SNLA suspects in court.
Adam Busby abandoned the group in disgust in early 1983.
But, despite Dinsmore's continued incarceration, the wave of letter bomb attacks continued unabated. During this period, for example, a letter bomb was addressed to the manager of Cardowan Colliery near Stepps which was threatened with closure.
This was in August 1983 and, although the device failed to ignite, it received widespread publicity. Predictably, the police Press Officer described the device as a "crude incendiary device" - although how such a supposedly "crude" device escaped detection in the postal system was not made clear.
However, after several months on remand in prison Dinsmore was suddenly and unexpectedly released on bail later in 1983.
Both Busby and Dinsmore suspected that this was merely a ploy to entrap them in conspiracy charges by exposing Dinsmore to the informers in the "Scottish Republican Socialist Party" (SRSP). This feeling was underlined when, within days of his release, an SRSP informer persuaded Dinsmore to commit a technical breach of the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism legislation. As a result, Dinsmore was re-arrested.
Dinsmore, on completion of an additional month of imprisonment for the breach, decided to avoid conspiracy charges by absconding to Ireland as soon as possible. Adam Busby, also a target for conspiracy charges, decided to abscond with Dinsmore.
With the assistance of two comrades, Tommy Kelly and Willie McRae, Busby and Dinsmore evaded police surveillance, and flew from Scotland to the Irish Republic on the 16th of September 1983.
Anxious to take advantage of the Irish Republic's extradition laws, which banned extradition for political offences, Busby and Dinsmore engineered their own arrest in the Irish Republic in December 1983.
Remanded in custody awaiting appeals against extradition, Busby and Dinsmore were not granted bail until late 1984.
Tommy Kelly, the friend who helped Dinsmore and Kelly to escape from Scotland in September 1983, was arrested shortly afterwards on the word of yet another SRSP informer and was charged with an SNLA conspiracy. His alleged conspirators were named later in the High Court as David Dinsmore and Adam Busby.
Kelly, betrayed by a so-called "Supergrass", received a ten year sentence for SNLA activities, and in 1984 became the first person ever to be convicted of SNLA activities.
Eighteen months after Busby and Dinsmore fled Scotland, Willie McRae was shot dead in a mysterious incident which shall be dealt with in detail in another chapter.
Roy Jenkins (later Lord Jenkins), one of the members of the "Gang Of Four" and a founder member of the Social Democratic Party, had been elected as the Member of Parliament for the Glasgow Hillhead constituency in a sensational by-election in 1982. In order to avoid accusations that he was simply a "carpetbagger" and an incomer, Roy Jenkins MP bought a small tenement apartment in the Kirklee area of Glasgow near the city's Botanic Gardens.
The SNLA quickly acquired the address of the new MP's apartment and began to closely monitor Roy Jenkins' movements. They soon discovered that Jenkins was not a permanent resident in Glasgow. He only used the new apartment for overnight stays when he visited his constituency at the weekends to conduct the surgeries which are a normal part of an MP's workload. As the MP's surgeries were openly advertised for the benefit of Jenkins' constituents, it was a simple matter to keep a close watch on Jenkins' overnight stays at the Glasgow apartment.
They discovered that Jenkins almost invariably stayed in the apartment on Friday nights, and sometimes on Saturday nights. He was usually alone although sometimes accompanied by an aide. The SNLA noted that there was absolutely no security of any kind at Jenkins’ home.
They also noted that it was an up-market but typical Glasgow tenement building, complete with the common stair (known in Glasgow as the "close") and that Jenkins' apartment was on an upper floor, and had only one entrance - a door with a large and, to the SNLA, a very inviting letter box.
The SNLA calculated that if a single gallon of petrol was poured through the letter box and ignited in the early hours of the morning, then the elderly sleeping Jenkins would have no means of escape, and would die in the flames and smoke with little hope of rescue.
"The smoke would have got him in a few minutes, and he would probably have died without waking", as an SNLA insider put it.
The prospect of pulling off such a "sensational" exploit had an enormous appeal to the SNLA, and it was decided to carry out the action at a significant date when its effect would be magnified.
The date chosen for the proposed attack was in the immediate run-up to the European Parliamentary Elections in 1984. The SNLA is, of course, strongly anti-European Union while Roy Jenkins was strongly and vociferously pro-European Union.
By the time chosen for the murder bid, however, the SNLA was severely disorganized. Adam Busby and David Dinsmore were in prison in Dublin awaiting appeals against extradition to the UK, and communications between the rest of the group were not good.
The result of the murder attempt was a fiasco.
Alec tells the story:
"The guy who was in charge of the operation had all the details and could have carried out the attack himself and without any assistance. But he got cold feet and on the right night when he knew that Jenkins was asleep inside, he called in a person who hadn't even been properly briefed and didn't have any of the details or know the layout.
The new guy was simply taken to the right street in the middle of the night, the house was pointed out to him and he was handed a gallon of petrol and left to get on with it on his own. His so-called briefing only lasted a couple of minutes in the dark of night, before the other fellow drove off.
He - the new guy - naturally got it all wrong. He went to the right house but went to the wrong door in the house. Ironically, if he had been able to study the building in daylight he would have known which was Jenkins' apartment, because it was being used as an SDP election HQ during the European elections, and there were SDP posters in the window. Instead, he began to pour the petrol through a letter box, but it was the wrong door in the right building.
Fortunately the people in that house were awake and spotted what was going on. They probably thought it was kids at first, but, when they looked through their door and saw a guy wearing a balaclava pouring petrol through their letter box, the woman began to scream.
The woman's screams alerted our guy because he knew there shouldn't have been anyone else present except Jenkins, and so he knew he was in the wrong place and he didn't light the petrol and left the scene rapidly.
The whole thing was a screw-up and a near-disaster. A near massacre of the innocent in fact.
Eventually, a guy called Steve Wilson from near Glasgow was charged with the attempted murder of the people inside - whose family name was Connell, I think - but there was no evidence against him and he was released after spending a few weeks on remand in Barlinnie. He wasn't lucky - he just didn't do it. (Note 1.)
The lucky one was Roy Jenkins. He had a very narrow escape.
We were furious because the simplest operation had been turned into a total fiasco. The rule in all operations is to keep it simple, then simplify and simplify again. But one guy had still managed to blow even the simplest operation because he crapped it and handed the whole thing over to someone who had only the vaguest idea of what was going on.
If he had only had Jenkins' door pointed out to him in daylight, then it would have been different, but the idiot who took charge of the operation didn't even do that. The truth is he lost his wits as well as his nerve.
Was it a massive fuck-up? Yes, it was undoubtedly, and it was also one of the greatest lost opportunities we ever experienced."
But the SNLA was quick to find even more "opportunities".
Note 1: The person referred to by Alec was Stephen Bertram Wilson. He was charged with attempted murder and remanded in custody in Barlinnie prison, Glasgow, but was eventually released due to lack of evidence.
When the extradition appeals were due to be heard in Dublin High Court in October 1984, Adam Busby and David Dinsmore were both on bail after eight months in custody in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin.
It was quickly discovered that David Dinsmore had absconded to parts unknown. In fact, Dinsmore had traveled by air to Spain posing as a tourist and using a false Irish passport, from where he eventually made his way to Brazil. The authorities would not discover Dinsmore's whereabouts until nine years later when Dinsmore surrendered to the British authorities as the result of a deal brokered in Brazil.
Because of Dinsmore's non-appearance in the High Court, only the appeal against extradition by Adam Busby was heard.
Because of the fundamental differences between the British and Irish laws on conspiracy, no action could be taken to extradite Busby or Dinsmore for the SNLA conspiracy - although both were named as conspirators during the trial of Tommy Kelly in early 1984.
Instead of the conspiracy charges, the British could only bring criminal damage charges against Adam Busby. These related to a non-SNLA political protest which had taken place in Berwick.
In a one-day hearing before Mr Justice Donal Barrington, Busby's legal team, headed by Mr Seamus Sorahan SC, who was himself a former Irish Republican activist, brought forward very detailed evidence to the effect that Adam Busby was a person who had been involved in political dispute with the British State for many years.
The High Court accepted this, and Mr Justice Donal Barrington in his ruling accepted that the alleged offences at Berwick were political offences and granted Adam Busby "relief" (immunity) from extradition. It would, he ruled, be "obnoxious" to the Irish Constitution to extradite Adam Busby to the UK.
There is a principle in international law which prohibits the extradition of certain categories of fugitive offenders. These categories are political, revenue and military offenders. The prohibition exists because, whereas in an ordinary criminal offence the State which requests the extradition is impartial in the prosecution of an ordinary criminal case, because it merely prosecutes on behalf of the community, in a case involving political offences against the State, or offences involving the State's revenue or its military forces, the State which requests the extradition is the actual victim of the offence and cannot be considered impartial.
In Irish law, under the terms of the 1965 Extradition Act, fugitive offenders cannot be extradited even for an ordinary criminal offence where there is a possibility that they will be forced to stand trial for a political offence or where their position may be prejudiced for political reasons, or for any other reason which would make their legal position "invidious".
As a result, it is practically and legally impossible to extradite a person who has already won a ruling from the Irish High Court which declares that they are political offenders. There has never been a second or subsequent attempt to extradite a person who has already won an appeal against extradition on political grounds.
Ireland has a written constitution which includes emphasis on personal liberty. The High Court is the constitutional court in Ireland, and it rules on all constitutional matters, including personal liberty, and since extradition involves the loss of personal freedom, extradition appeals are included among the constitutional matters on which the High Court rules.
Effectively, the ruling had rendered Adam Busby immune from future extradition attempts and, because deportation cannot be used as a "backdoor" to extradition, from the threat of deportation from Ireland.
This is a fact which the Scottish media, the politicians, and even the Scottish police have failed to grasp - as the clamour for his extradition - which has escalated over the years, even being the subject of several separate parliamentary questions recorded in Hansard - aptly demonstrates. One such question is reproduced below:
Hansard 26th October 1995:
Mr. John D. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans the Director of Public Prosecutions has to seek the extradition of Adam Busby from the Irish Republic.
The Attorney-General : I have been asked to reply.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 16 October 1995 by the Minister of State at the Scottish Office to the hon. Member for Kingston Upon Hull North (Mr. McNamara),
Official Report, column 16.
No warrant for the arrest of Adam Busby has been issued in England or Wales, and therefore the question of extradition to this jurisdiction has not arisen."
However, as a result of the decision of the Irish High Court, Adam Busby had won a safe legal refuge in Ireland. He has remained in Ireland ever since, and is believed to have used the Irish Republic as a base from which to mastermind the SNLA's operations.