General

  By a Newsnet reporter  
 
Moves by anti-independence campaign group Better Together to smear rivals Yes Scotland have emerged today after more details of the alleged email hacking of a Yes Scotland email account were released.
 
Yesterday morning it was revealed that police were investigating claims that an email account belonging to the pro-independence group had been illegally accessed after Yes Scotland became suspicious when a journalist contacted the campaign group with a media inquiry.

Suspicions were raised after the journalist was found to be in the possession of confidential information that could only have been obtained by accessing the email account.  The information related to an article written by constitutional expert Dr Elliot Bulmer.

Late last night Yes Scotland released a statement which gave more details behind the alleged unauthorised hacking and the inquiry that alerted them to the possible email security breach.

The statement said: “This matter was first brought to our attention last Wednesday when we were asked for comment on Dr Bulmer and the article in question.

“We responded quickly, confirming that a small fee had been paid to Dr Bulmer at his request. We were perfectly relaxed and transparent about this.

“However, later that day it became apparent that an email account at Yes Scotland had been accessed illegally and that the information relating to this matter had been gleaned as a result.”

The statement added: “We would now ask that this serious criminal investigation is allowed to continue unhindered by further unhelpful speculation, accusation and misinformation.”

Newsnet Scotland can also reveal that a day prior to this information being released by Yes Scotland, Dr Bulmer was himself contacted by a journalist working for a well-known UK national newspaper who asked about a piece the academic had written for the Herald newspaper.

According to copies of emails seen by Newsnet Scotland, the journalist contacted Dr Bulmer at 16:23 on Tuesday – the day the hacking claims emerged and before any public reference to the academic had been made.

The journalist, who we will not name, asked Dr Bulmer:

“I hope you can help me with a piece I’m looking at writing.  I understand that you were paid by Yes Scotland to write an opinion piece for the Herald newspaper.  Can you let me know if that is the case and what the remit for the article was?”

After a further prompt from the journalist, Dr Bulmer who is a constitutional expert, responded saying:

“I was asked to write a piece based on my constitutional expertise.  I accepted fair payment for my work – as I, as a freelance academic and contributor, have every right to do.  I would do the same if anyone else asked for a working day of my time.  I had full editorial control and was not given any direction on what to say, neither by Yes Scotland nor by my Constitutional Commission colleagues.

“Although my position as Research Director of the Constitutional Commission was mentioned in the author bio, the article was written in a personal capacity.  That said, there was nothing in the article that would compromise the Constitutional Commission’s position, nor conflict with its charitable remit.

“Moreover, while my own preference for independence is a matter of public record – I’ve never been shy about it – the Constitutional Commission exists to provide well-researched information to the public about constitutional choices, and its membership contains divergent views on a range of constitutional questions, including the question of whether Scotland should be an independent state.”

The article – A Scottish constitution to serve the common weal – appeared in the Herald in July and gave Dr Bulmer’s views on how an independent Scotland could benefit from a written constitution.

Newsnet Scotland understands that there are now attempts underway by the Better Together campaign and elements within the media to try to deflect from the hacking claims by smearing both Dr Bulmer and Yes Scotland.

In a statement issued late on Wednesday, Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said: “How can we believe what they say if they are secretly paying supposedly impartial experts?  The leadership of Yes Scotland must take responsibility for this and answer these accusations.

“Who else received payment? Who knew that this kind of payment was being authorised by the campaign’s chief executive?

“What other supposedly independent voices are being paid to say what the nationalists want? What else are they willing to do to deceive the people of Scotland?”

A spokesman for Scottish Labour said: “Blair Jenkins has called for an honest debate, yet his organisation appears to be guilty of deep dishonesty and deception.  Perhaps one way of ensuring an honest debate would be if Blair Jenkins stepped down and removed himself from it.”

However there will now be growing suspicions that the attack on Dr Bulmer’s integrity and the attempt to smear Yes Scotland head Blair Jenkins was already being planned and that the media inquiry which alerted Yes Scotland to the alleged security breach, was in fact the precursor to the campaign.

On Tuesday First Minister Alex Salmond said the hacking allegations, if true, were “very, very serious”.

Mr Salmond said: “What I would say is this: If it turns out, and of course it’s still to be determined, that a newspaper has been involved in some way, given everything that’s happened over the last few years with illegal hacking and the whole scandal that erupted from that; if that turns out to be the case then it would be a very, very serious matter indeed.”

Comments  

 
#
maisiedotts
2013-08-22 01:12

Yes this is very very serious we now need oversight by UN invigilators. I hope Alex or the Electoral Commission takes steps to ensure this is urgently attended to.

I don’t want to say more at this time as clearly the matter is sub judice.
 
 
#
Scotsfox
2013-08-22 14:07

Please sign & share widely… change.org/…/…
 

 
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Paul Toy
2013-08-22 03:08

Not wishing to unnecessarily stoke any possible feelings of paranoia, however, its worth the note that GCHQ (for but one agency) have an apparently free access to pretty well anyone’s email in the UK, we learn.

So well worth Yes Scotland undertaking an IT security audit at this juncture, to include the most hack proof email encryption system it can come up with.
 
 
#
Macart
2013-08-22 04:21

I’m struggling to see where any deception lies in paying an expert academic for his time. For example, do graphic designers and printers who produce a polished front for varied political parties on a yearly basis now constitute some form of underhand deception? The glossy leaflets, presentations, researchers, copy writers, photographers, journalists, mac workers… etc. They all do this for free do they? Does BT and their constituent parties fondly believe that such expertise works on their material alone or for free? Mr Bulmer is an expert in his field and was engaged for that expertise in the form of a considered article. Can anyone explain to me just how this constitutes a deceitful act either by the YES campaign or Mr Bulmer?

I smell don’t look over here, look over there.
 
 
#
Breeks
2013-08-22 04:26

And here was me thinking this might be some ‘nerdy-no-mates’ hacking for mischief.
I’m at a loss for words. IF, and it has to stay if for the present, but if it emerges there is a deliberate campaign to use hacking for information for a newspaper and Scottish Labour to attempt to smear Blair Jenkins and YES, we should all take stock an re-evaluate the integrity of the whole anti independence campaign.
It is a massive relief that YES have tuned in to this potentially illegal conspiracy so quickly, and personally, I feel like something important has changed. The stakes in this could not be higher and we will hopefully learn quickly who is implicated. I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes right now.
 
 
#
Macart
2013-08-22 04:47

It doesn’t get any more serious Breeks. If this hacking case is both proven and proven to be deliberately orchestrated, someone out there has just stepped over a line. The use of such an action could well bring fairly serious consequences upon those who perpetrated the act. Not to mention those who have benefitted from the act. At the very least if someone has tried to capitalise on tainted information, they will have to explain just how they came by it.
 
 
#
john__
2013-08-22 10:02

The word “watergate” comes to mind.

John
 
 
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Breeks
2013-08-22 12:21

Good call. It didn’t right away, but certainly does now.
 
 
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Macart
2013-08-22 14:26

All it takes is one mistake to bring the house down. Looking forward to seeing the culprit revealed and to whom they’ve been talking to.
 
 
#
maisiedotts
2013-08-22 15:59

Quoting Macart:

All it takes is one mistake to bring the house down. Looking forward to seeing the culprit revealed and to whom they’ve been talking to.



Mistake made I think Macart do you remember the srgument I had with certain Labour supporters on the issue of charities supporting one side or the other because it benefited the charity and the issue of charity law v personal stance of trustees/directors of charities? discussion.theguardian.com/…/…

 

 
#
skintybroko
2013-08-22 06:45

Call me a cynic but when the BBC lead with this it smells that the establishment will close ranks and we will find that it was an unknown independent journalist who couldn’t hack his own email if he forgot his password.
 
 
#
clootie
2013-08-22 06:55

The intent is to smear Blair Jenkins. It does not matter if an explanation is valid or not. This is the gutter type politics imported from the USA. Unfortunately it is of little surprise to those active in the independence campaign. I only hope that the police are fully empowered to follow this through.

I suspect this is the start of the real dirty tricks. The unionists are
too far down the road of negative campaigning to change tack. They are going to go dirty with the defence that the end justifies the means.

However do not forget how willing a partner the media has been ( I include the BBC of course)
 
 
#
G. P. Walrus
2013-08-22 07:10

It is absolutely routine for academics to be paid a small honorarium for an expert opinion or piece of writing on their expert area. I have done so on a few occasions. It is not a substitute for the day job, nor does it ever generate a significant amount of income.

Expertise, time and thought goes into producing such an article. Expertise time and thought is what academics are paid for.
 
 
#
mealer
2013-08-22 07:37

Fear and Smear.This sort of thing is only to be expected from a NO Scotland campaign that offers NO positive future for Scotland.And the media are part of that campaign.
But lets all remember that the YES campaign is a positive one offering a bright future for Scotland.
 
 
#
springster
2013-08-22 07:46

If it is proven that the information was indeed acquired illegally them the No campaign will pay a heavy price. It will prove a watershed moment for the Scottish media and many journalists.

Interestingly, Newsent has the name of one journalist who had the information relating to Bulmer before Yes Scotland released its statement. One assumes that many other reporters also were in posession of these details.

The question is where did they get it from?

On the smear itself, I am at bewildered that an industry that survives on people being paid to write falls over itself to present as inappropriate someone being commissioned to write an article on their field of expertise. If this is now seen as off limits what then BBC Scotland’s Raymond Buchanan who based a report attacking the Scottish government over oil, on a document handed to him by Better Together. I don’t recall either Buchanan or BT volunteering this info.
 
 
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Davy
2013-08-22 07:57

Many thanks to NNS for publishing this article, it needs someone to show what is actually happening with this deception. The main story is ofcourse the hacking scandel, but if the NO campaign is trying to move the emphasis away from that fact to whinning about someone getting paid for writing an article, that is very suspicious.

I bet some people are very nervous right now and it wont be anyone on the YES side, keep up the good work on this NNS.

PS. A friend told me their was a large sign advertising “NewsNet Scotland” in Inverness just along from the Runrig concert, cool.
 
 
#
EphemeralDeception
2013-08-22 08:34

The No campaign are not fundamentally interested in details of a Scottish Constitution as there is obviously no need for a constitution for a Region of the UK.

They have been demanding Yes Scotland for answers for all aspects of independence and the constitution is a key area for YES to get detail. It is completely sensible and professional that YES actually engage constitutional experts. They are probably (hopefully) not limiting themselves to one academic either.

It is clear that the No campaign have failed in their agenda that YES = SNP = Alex S. They are now going after the YES campaign and its front man who is much more visible and recognisable to the public than Blair ‘lower than snakes belly’ McDougall .
 
 
#
Blanco
2013-08-22 08:39

As if unionists aren’t paid all the time for their opinions. For example at the ‘supposedly impartial’ BBC.

As for the hacking, a tip for yes Scotland staff (or any independence supporter), avoid variations on ‘thirteen14’ as your login password, it is too easy to guess.
 
 
#
Blanco
2013-08-22 09:53

Unless of course the Yes campaign *wanted* this account with its not very interesting information to be hacked and they deliberately set the password to something easy to guess…. 😉
 
 
#
BillCo
2013-08-22 11:50

Good point, Blanco.

We, whether we be for or against independence, pay our TV Licence subscription which supports an ‘impartial’ BBC. BBC Scotland have a coterie of paid ‘experts’ whose opinions are consistently firmly in line with the No camp’s agenda without any balance shown towards the other side of the debate.

Worse than that it could be argued that some of the management, editorial staff and presenters at BBC Scotland are taking their salaries in default of their BBC Charter obligations to be unbiased.
 

 
#
nemo
2013-08-22 09:17

As well as trying to smear Blair Jenkins, the accusations also impugn the integrity of Dr Bulmer. They are really suggesting he can be bought for thirty pieces of silver. I hope any accusers are asked the question “are you saying Dr Bulmer lied in the article because of this payment” – if the answer is no, it must surely fizzle out and if ‘yes’ I imagine Dr Bulmer will be able to sue.
 
 
#
call me dave
2013-08-22 10:33

Telegraph at 10:30pm last night.
—————————————
Opponents said the disclosure “fatally undermined” trust in the independence campaign, while the pro-independence group insisted it was “relaxed and transparent” about the matter.
It paid a fee to Elliot Bulmer, of the Constitutional Commission, for an opinion piece on the importance of a written constitution in an independent Scotland.

Information about the payment, thought to be £100, came from private emails that Yes Scotland believes were hacked from outside the organisation.

telegraph.co.uk/…/…
———————————-

I await the usual boomeranging effect associated with the NO campaign to kick in later today.

The story seems ‘small beer’ but it may lead to other things that the No’s will not like.
 
 
#
Massan_Gow
2013-08-22 11:06

The No Scotland campaign asking for resignations over a £100 fee paid transparently and in good faith?

Any comments on Mr Taylor’s £500,000 donation to ‘No’ Mr McDougall? Particularly seeing as Labour called his donations to the Tories as tainted?
 
 
#
cjmjr
2013-08-22 13:15

Just how many consultants work for free. ?? : A consultant (from Latin: consultare “to discuss”) is a professional who provides professional or expert advice[1] in a particular area such as security (electronic or physical), management, accountancy, law (tax law, in particular), human resources, marketing (and public relations), finance, engineering, or any of many other specialized fields. Its not yet against the law to pay someone for their time and effort but give Westminster time we will all be working for free.
 
 
#
Dowanhill
2013-08-22 13:40

When I first heard about this story : I thought to myself ‘Jesus, this is bad. The ‘Yes’ camp has paid somebody thousands for this piece and has been caught. The phrase ‘rabbits caught in headlights’ sprang to mind.

Then the actual amount Paid to Dr Bulmer : £100? Not a £1000 or £10,000 but an token fee that would barely cover expenses. I was jubiliant.

And it got me thinking that this has engulfed all those supposedly unbias MSM broadsheets and the biggest culprit : BBC Scotland to run with the story that the ‘Yes’ campaign is paying for biased advice for promotion.

Only £100 fee for a newspaper piece? e-mails confirming this information was illegally obtained? Subject to a police investigation?

I think MSM and in particular BBC Scotland have been stitched briliantly. Well done to the person who thought this up.
 
 
#
Eddie
2013-08-22 13:41

If I knew how to do such things I would start digging around to see if anyone speaking up for the Union had ever received any payment or favour from Better Together for any television or printed article.

Could it be that Better Together are hoping to fling a lot of mud before the brown stuff comes to their door?
 
 
#
weegie38
2013-08-22 13:47

The Telegraph seems to be leading from the front on this smear.

Remind me, which paper led from the front on the last really big political smear campaign in the UK – MPs expenses*?

Pure coincidence, I’m sure.

*no matter that many of us were in agreement with much of that story’s findings – it was a story similarly based on illegally sourced information.
 
 
#
call me dave
2013-08-22 14:17

Well the YES knows which reporter phoned in to make the initial enquiry that raised suspicions. Also interconnection trails might lead somewhere.
Two other things
Daily Record:
Hacker was from outside UK.

Scotsman:
Just repeating the story without the usual vitriol !!
Maybe saving their powder for a volley at the weekend.
BBC TV and Radio have trundled out ‘The Blether’ who was cautious in his appraisal but left some dirty finger marks just the same.
Mainly though they are shouting about the payment bit – see over here!
Don’t worry about the hacking part – nothing to see there move along.

I still wait for the unintended consequences when the boomerang comes back.
 
 
#
Diabloandco
2013-08-22 17:03

I do hope you are right about the boomerang – could we attach an exocet missile to it, just to improve its efficacy?
 

 
#
gus1940
2013-08-22 17:33

I am puzzled although not surprised that the BT lot are trying to turn this into some sort of YES scandal instead of a hacking one.

What precisely is wrong with YES commissioning a report and paying a
nominal fee to the writer of said report?

There might have been something worth questioning if, after receiving the report, YES had paid The Herald to get the report published.

What about the following – are they all unreported scandals:-

The series of reports produced by Westminster civil servants attacking the concept of Independence all paid for by taxpayers.

The various anti-Independence reports excreted by The Commons Scottish Affairs Committee again paid for by taxpayers.

BBC Scotland sending their reporters all over the world trying to
get anti-independence quotes from Politicians and Academics plus the combined efforts of the Bradford/Baillie axis aginst the Scottish NHS using License money. contd.
 
 
#
brusque
2013-08-22 18:03

Westminster’s Consultant fees run at about 1000 times that of this Scottish Government, and during the 13 years NuLabour were in power, there were the fees paid out for the Millennium Dome, (failed and sold for pennies)
ID (failed)cards, Child Support Agency (failed on a grand scale), PFI nightmares and calamitous IT projects: each and every one of these Projects utilised Consultants (mainly Labour friendly ones) and have cost billions.

I think the alleged payment of £100 is more than reasonable as a fee.
 
 
#
gus1940
2013-08-22 18:12

contd. from previous post

The dead tree press which is 100% anti-Independence apart from the daily propaaganda from their staffers are full of paid articles from Unionist politicos and apparatchiks.The Scotsman in particular has a full stable of freelancers such as Brian Wilson, Michael Kelly, Brian Monteith and John McTernan who all contribute weekly columns for which they are presumably paid by JP’s Shareholders.

There was a great hoo hah about Campaigning Funds. BT don’t really need any funds – they get their campaigning free from all of the above while YES who have no supporters in the Broadcast and print media have to pay for their own campaigning.

Typical of the reporting of this hacking business is the BBC who state that ‘YES have ADMITTED that they paid for the article’ – that is akin to saying that they PLEAD GUILTY.

The hypocrisy displayed by BT over this is disgusting – almost Orwellian – it’s as if they are saying Black is White.
 
 
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colin8652
2013-08-23 08:20

So the phoney war is over. They have exhausted the scare stories , currency Europe defence economy oil and even the commonwealth (as if anyone cared about that one) Now the barrel of “positive cases” for the union is empty they are fighting with all they have left. Smear and lies. And there is still over a year to go.what’s next for better together. watch your back.
 

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