Iranian agents ‘pose as Scottish separatists’ during crucial Holyrood election battle in attempt to undermine UK
- New report from think tank Henry Jackson Society highlights cyber activity in Iran
- It found that Tehran is trying to influence foreign elections, including in Scotland
- Cyber specialists who spread disinformation to encourage pro-independence
Cyber specialists acting on behalf of the Iranian regime are spreading disinformation online in an effort to bolster support for Scottish independence and weaken the UK, a new report said.
An investigation by the Henry Jackson Society think tank found that Iranian agents were creating fake accounts and pages on Twitter and Facebook.
The accounts and pages impersonated locals and then targeted Scottish voters, encouraging them to share pro-independence material with their contacts ahead of the Holyrood election crunch on Thursday this week.
The report, seen by The Times, concluded that the activity of the Iranian regime was an attempt to “attack the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”
Nicola Sturgeon hopes to win a SNP majority victory on May 6 as she tries to back up her demands for a second Scottish independence referendum.
An investigation by the Henry Jackson Society think tank found that Iranian agents were creating fake accounts and pages on Twitter and Facebook. Stock image.
Nicola Sturgeon hopes to win a SNP majority victory in the Holyrood election on May 6 as she tries to back up her demands for a second Scottish independence referendum.
The Henry Jackson Society report concluded, “Iran has shown itself to be a country engaged in Russian-style disinformation campaigns, repeatedly setting up fake websites and Internet accounts in an attempt to disrupt the political systems of liberal democracies.
Judged in this context, Iran almost certainly intends to disrupt our current elections, probably the one for the Scottish Assembly.
The report examined Iran’s broader attempts to influence foreign elections and found that much of its activities focused on its closest neighbors such as Israel and Iraq.
But the report would also have found increasing activity in Scotland over the past 12 months.
The report said the activity was carried out remotely from the Iranian government to enable Tehran’s leaders to deny their responsibility.
It argued that the purpose of the activity was to “ harm opponents with clear military superiority, while maintaining a margin of denial that will avoid international censorship or even sanctions and counterattack. ”
The report’s findings came after a Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times suggested that Ms. Sturgeon is on her way to victory on Thursday, but it could be tight if she wins a majority.
The poll, conducted between April 28 and April 30, suggested the SNP could win two seats in their 2016 count, giving them an outright majority of just one.
Sir John Curtice, a professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said the survey figures suggested the SNP could end up with 65 seats, the Tories three with 28, Labor six with 18, the Lib Dems one with six, the Greens three with nine and the Alba party with three.
Winning a majority is considered critical to Ms. Sturgeon’s hope of holding the 2014 independence vote again.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly ruled out authorizing a new border poll, but the SNP leader believes a landslide victory for her party would increase pressure on the prime minister to change his mind.