EXPOSING THE EXTENT OF UNDERCOVER POLICING IN SCOTLAND

Andrea renews the call for a public inquiry

The undercover policing scandal has been unfolding since 2010. As victims of political policing in Scotland, we seek the truth as to why we were spied upon and why our lives were so cruelly disrupted. We have asked for an independent public inquiry, in line with England and Wales, but the Scottish Government has repeatedly refused. Michael Matheson, then Justice Minister, commissioned the police to write their own report in 2016. This was co-authored by none other than Stephen Whitelock, lead inspector at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS). Unsurprisingly, the report concluded that there was ‘no evidence’ of police infiltrating campaign groups in Scotland.

Yet just this last month, we discovered that Scottish undercover officers, under Whitelock’s governance, incinerated ‘secret and highly sensitive files’ in a car park (Sunday Post 10 February 2019). This is disgraceful and corrupt, but as victims of undercover policing abuses we are not surprised.
In 2016, when it was announced that HMICS would conduct the review into undercover policing in Scotland, we warned that the report would be tainted by lack of impartiality. This is precisely what has happened. The HMICS review must now be considered seriously compromised. Inviting the police to investigate their own malpractice is farcical. The report only references operations from the year 2000, but we know that these secret undercover units have been operational since 1968. Finally, due to Whitelock’s central involvement in this damning case, and with his judgment, decision-making and treatment of the police whistleblower being seriously called into question, it is absolutely clear that his report is tainted by connection and corruption.

Many of us who were targeted by secret police in Scotland have been campaigning tirelessly for years to get answers, often carrying the weight of severe mental distress and trauma as a result of these state-sanctioned abuses. Amongst our number there are blacklisted construction workers, miners from the 1984/85 strike, union activists, environmental campaigners such as Tilly Gifford, and women like me, who were deceived into long-term sexual relationships. We have been fighting long and hard for truth, justice and access to our files.

MSPs are again calling for a full independent inquiry in order to have justice and clarity on the police abuses that have affected many people’s lives in Scotland. And still the police and the SNP government say ‘there is nothing to see here’. No need for scrutiny. And yet we see Police Scotland burning secret, perhaps crucial, files in a car park!

Were the destroyed papers from my file? I frequently visited family in Scotland with undercover officer, ‘Carlo Neri’, whom I believed to be a locksmith and union activist. I was engaged to him at the time, and we visited friends and family on a number of occasions. He was active in Scotland from 2002-2004. I want to know who was responsible for his activities in Scotland and which of his handlers secretly travelled with us when we crossed the border. Or did the incinerated files contain information on a construction worker who raised health and safety concerns on site, and who was subsequently and inexplicably condemned to a life of unemployment, put on the ‘blacklist’?

To be clear, this is not about the individual officer’s ‘integrity’. They were trained and paid to lie. We have seen from Kate Wilson’s ongoing Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) case (Guardian 3 October 2018) how these deployments were managed by multiple handlers, overseen and documented by seniors. Sexual relationships were known about and signed off by these managers. Deceiving women into long-term sexual relationships was part of the job they were employed to do. We frequently hear of an ‘absence of management’ leading to these police abuses. It is precisely this management we should be talking about, and we should not be fooled by the ‘few bad apples’ narrative. It is time for proper scrutiny and accountability.

A new report on Undercover Policing in Scotland by an expert witness, commissioned for Tilly Gifford’s legal case (BBC Scotland News 21 November 2018), is soon to be made public and will reveal more about the brevity of undercover policing practices in Scotland. It details undercover involvement at organisational level, from Scottish staff seconded to strategic positions, to the practical operational level. It also shows that the majority of the notorious Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) undercover unit – in which my ex ‘partner’ was a state spy – were active in Scotland prior to the G8 summit in 2005. The report lays out cases of suspected undercover activities, and there are new insights into Scottish police involvement in the blacklisting of union activists. None of these concerns, or the practice of deceiving women activists into long-term intimate relationships, were addressed by HMICS in its review. The extent of the corruption and the links between the SDS and Scotland are incontrovertible.

With the reach of undercover political policing becoming ever clearer and Whitelock’s questionable integrity now in the public domain, I sincerely hope that the government finally sees the need for an independent public inquiry in Scotland.

This article was first published on 19th March 2019 in Scottish Left Review

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