Anthony Glees’ comments on Scottish independence

8 Sep

The Scotsman reported this morning that there was a ‘“Scottish independence link” to ISIS Scots hostage’ David Haines. The short article was made up almost entirely of quotations from Professor Anthony Glees of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham.

Glees’ comments seem to originate in an article in the Sunday Post in which he says that ‘ISIS are masters of propaganda and realise the impact of selecting a Scot. They will hope by showing the UK is weak and unable to defend its citizens it will drive Scots to embrace independence.’

He goes on to argue that ‘One of the UK’s big selling points in remaining together is the strength of the UK on the world stage – their sword and shield. If they can no longer strike hostile forces who attack their citizens, the UK is clearly in danger of being a spent force heading towards division. And a weakened UK is exactly what the ISIS wants.’

It is interesting that Glees gives absolutely zero evidence for his argument aside from the supposedly logic leap from Haines being Scottish to ISIS aiming to influence the independence referendum. Indeed, it is questionable whether Haines being Scottish and having family in Scotland is of any interest to ISIS at all. Glees’ appears to be building his argument on attributing motivations to ISIS that there isn’t really any evidence for.

As Glees highlights, ISIS are masters of propaganda, so it’s strange that they have completely failed to mention that Haines is Scottish. The video in which they threatened to execute Haines as they have done James Foley and Steven Sotlof makes no explicit reference to Haines being Scottish and the this fact is something reported in the press based on their own investigations and not on information provided by ISIS. It is tenuous at best to argue, as Glees does, that ISIS is deliberately trying to influence the outcome of the independence referendum.

What is less tenuous is the argument that Glees, in contributing to the debate around ISIS in this way, is trying to influence the result of the referendum. Glees has made perfectly clear on his Twitter account that he is opposed to Scottish independence, posting several messages like these over the last few weeks:

Glees’ comments then, far from being an unbiased, academic contribution to the debate based on his experience as an scholar of intelligence look instead to be a concerted attempt to introduce the prospect that by voting Yes Scots are playing into the hands of ISIS.

From what I can tell, the argument has been met with the derision it deserves on social media, but nonetheless Professor Glees should be called to account for such inflammatory and groundless accusations that, one could easily claim, exploit the shocking executions by ISIS for his own interest in seeing the UK remain a single state.


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