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Soapbox: Exposing #SPYCOPS in Scotland


Written by Tilly Gifford, who is an environmental and social justice campaigner and artist, in Scotland. 

The Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI), unlike the undercover officers who freely and frequently came and went from Scotland, stops at the border. The inquiry is only for England and Wales.

In Scotland there is nothing. No recourse to truth, justice, accountability.

No mechanism at all.  

The general public are hungry to know more.

We demand the England and Wales Inquiry release the undercover names so that people might realise their former flatmate, their ex-fiance, their colleague in campaigning was actually a paid policeman, placed into their lives to spy on them or people in their friendship group.

I was spied on in 2009 in Scotland. It was well-documented by the mainstream media. After participating in a nonviolent campaign on aviation and climate change, I was wrongfully arrested. I was held for 3 days, and my house keys were confiscated. Some days later, two men summoned me for a "coffee" and said they would return my keys.  Thereafter, for a month they would request me to meet for coffee somewhere secret, in order to set up a “business arrangement” whereby I would get paid for passing on information on my group. I met them 4 times, and with two fellow activists we secretly recorded these meetings - and then made the recordings public.

We still we do not know who these two men were, yet they had my keys, they followed me and threatened me when I didn’t comply. Which department do they work for? Who was their superior who chose me as a target?

One year ago five of us, all targets of undercover policing in Scotland, met with Scottish Justice Minister Michael Matheson. Faced with first-person accounts of spying on Scottish soil, the Minister squirmed when maintaining that “…there is no need for an inquiry in Scotland”, but insisted that we should await a report, at that time being compiled.

Shockingly, Matheson commissioned the police to compile the report, to decide whether there is a need for clarity on undercover police practices in Scotland. This was a massively offensive move: inviting the abusers to write their own report. Asking the police to mark their own homework. No one was surprised when the report was published in February 2018 and the minister for justice was glad to declare there is no need for a Public Inquiry in Scotland, as no abuses of undercover political policing ever took place in Scotland - the police report says so.

It is outrageous that the Scottish public has no access to truth or justice. For this reason, we’re challenging their decision legally. There is a Judicial Review in my name, which asks the question “Did Governments of Westminster and Scotland act lawfully, refusing an Inquiry north of the border?”. I am questioning both The UK Home Office for not extending the Inquiry to Scotland and Scottish ministers for not having their own Inquiry.

Undeniably, it is very intimidating to go public like this - unsettling to have my name and face out there. You can’t help but feel exposed. However, from being alone with this case, suddenly messages trickled in, building into a wave of responses. “I am one of those blacklisted building workers. So I fully support your fight for justice”. “I am very interested in the outcome as close friends and family were targeted by Mark Kennedy. Good luck and solidarity!!”.

Suddenly, I was in the presence of so many people who had their lives altered by undercover abuses.  Indeed maybe it’s not surprising, considering we now know that undercover political policing is targeting trade unionists, socialist parties, justice campaigners, people working on anti-racism campaigns, and environmentalists – thus destroying campaign groups, livelihoods and deeply and irreversibly affecting personal lives.

The court dates for my judicial review case are on July 19th & 20th 2018. However, notwithstanding the intricate and complex court mechanisms, we are building a campaign. People in Scotland, otherwise silenced by a lack of a public inquiry, need to have a voice and we need to build a campaign here against undercover political policing.

On June 23rd, we are holding a public conference in Glasgow. This will be a point where people can hear stories of undercover abuses in Scotland, bring their own stories and skills. Present will be women targeted for long-term intimate relationships, construction workers blacklisted and thus condemned to unemployment, environmental movements and trade unionists, and many more. It is important this alliance is formed now, as this is the group that will relentlessly demand an inquiry, regardless whether my one singular and technical legal case wins in court, or doesn’t.

The Police in the UK may strive to serve the public. However, sections of the Police are clearly part of an industry of information gathering and spying and need to be seen and understood as such. Safeguards can only be put in place when we are finally allowed to know what happened, and how.

The UCPI either needs to be extended to Scotland, or the Scottish Government needs to call its own independent inquiry into political policing so that we can shed light on these sinister operations,  begin to obtain truth and justice on these issues and put proper safeguards in place for the future.

Find out more about the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance in Scotland: www.facebook.com/COPSScotland


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Comment (1)
1 Comment


about 2 years ago

Although LUSH is saying "looks like you haven't bought anything from us yet", in actual fact, I've bought quite a lot of Lush products, as birthday or Christmas gifts for my wife or daughters, but it would have been in their names - anyway: while I wholeheartedly agree with campaigning to expose police spying on peace activists, environmentalists, and trade unionists in Scotland, and while I wholeheartedly condemn the Scottish Government allowing the Police to write their own report saying there was no need for an enquiry, I do have to point out an unfortunate mistake in this article. In wanting the Home Office to "extend their enquiry to Scotland" you are definitely barking up the wrong tree. They can't. Indeed, any attempt by them to do so would have to be vigorously opposed. At a time when Scottish campaigners are resisting a "power grab" by Westminster, you are proposing adding yet ANOTHER item to that "power grab". The right course of action is to put pressure on the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government to take urgent action on this DEVOLVED matter.