As Scotland is constitutionally defined as a part of the United Kingdom the safeguarding of Scotland as part of the UK is an integral component of British state interest. Since the discovery of North Sea oil in the late 1960s – in Scotland’s territorial waters – the preservation of the Union between England and Scotland by the Westminster government has been upgraded to a de facto priority security concern – oil being a primary geo-political strategic resource, giving its producers a significant competitive advantage over other nation state.
In March 1973 the Scottish National Party contested Dundee East in the by-election resulting from the Labour incumbent George Thomson being appointed European Commissioner, with the platform slogan “It’s Scotland’s Oil.” It was felt even then that the SNP might, one day, achieve its objective of Scottish independence – effectively depriving the British state of oil. At a time when the United States was keenly interested in protecting its non-Middle Eastern petrochemical supplies – at the height of the Cold War – the question of North Sea oil and Scottish independence quickly became a strategic interest to Washington as well as London.
It is with the US’ interest in North Sea oil that we get our first evidence of the intervention of state intelligence services in Scottish politics. The US State Department appointed Richard Funkhouser to Edinburgh as Consul. Funkhouser, according to Gordon Wilson – former SNP MP, was widely rumoured to be acting on behalf of the CIA and was known to have been involved in secret negotiations with the National Party.
Prior to his appointment to Scotland, in 1973, he had been briefed by high ranking Whitehall officials that the Scottish nationalists were “a very serious threat” – an indication that the British government too was engaged in covert operations north of the border. In spite of the British position on Scotland and North Sea oil Funkhouser adopted the pragmatic approach that Scotland might soon become an independent state and in control of its own oil resources; a signal to London that if it was already doing so, it ought to start its own clandestine operations in Scotland.
“To imagine that the apparatus of state security is not interested in maintaining its hold over North Sea oil is an absolute fantasy.”
Oil is still a vital strategic resource to the United Kingdom, and this remains the case regardless of the anti-independence argument that the price of crude oil is falling, low, or unstable. According to UK Oil and Gas Investments, an investment company investing primarily in oil and gas assets, oil is the “lifeblood of the industrialised nations,” that it has become “the world’s most important source of energy,” and that “its products underpin modern society.” The British state has no domestic resource more important than Scottish oil. To imagine that the apparatus of state security is not interested in maintaining its hold over North Sea oil – and therefore over Scotland – is an absolute fantasy. Our task is to better understand this apparatus; that of the British deep state, and familiarise ourselves with how it operates in the field.