Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Scottish Nationalist Quisling, revisited

A while (eek! more than year) ago I posted about the wartime travails of leading Nat Arthur Donaldson, who became SNP leader in the 1960s. Apparently he had been the subject of accusations (and MI5 / police investigations) that he had been talking about setting himself up as some kind of Scottish "Quisling", in the event of a Nazi invasion of the UK.

(This had been prompted by a post by the Grumpy Spindoctor, and led to a 2005 Sunday Times article.)

I said then that, when opportunity arose, I would have a look at the file in the Kew PRO and see what it said. I managed to do that last week, while there having a look at some of the naval stuff I normally go there to research.

So, here is a transcript of one of the key documents in HO 45/23801:

"Edinburgh City Police CID – 8 Jan 1941


I beg to report that our contact with the above Movement and Thomas Maxwell of the Young Nationalist Party, visited Arthur Donaldson at North Halkett, Lugton, Ayrshire on Sunday 5 January1941.During a long conversation, Donaldson gave great praise to Germany saying that England would be completely crushed by the early spring; the Government would leave the country and that England's position would be absolutely hopeless, as poverty and famine would be their only reward for declaring war on Germany. Scotland on the other hand had great possibilities.

We must, he declared, be able to show the German Government that we are organised and that we have a clear cut policy for the betterment of Scotland; that we have tried our best to persuade the English Government that we want Scottish Independence and that we are not in with them in this war. If we can do that you can be sure that Germany will give us every possible assistance in our early struggle. The time is not yet ripe for us to start a virile campaign against England, but when fire and confusion is at its height in England, we can start in earnest. He then went on to tell them that he had an idea in his mind for fixing up a wireless transmitting set in a thickly populated district in Glasgow or Edinburgh, in order to give broadcasts to the public.

At the moment he is working very hard in an endeavour to combine all the Nationalists together as a unit, whereby they can strike out with great force when the time comes. He is naming this combined body “The National Aid Society”. If any questions are asked, he said, you can say it is to help the dependents of young men who have been called to the Services. Actually it is to help members who have refused to fight and are at present in hiding. He mentioned that he had a number of places that could be used as hide-outs."

I think we can work out why MI5 and CID were interested in this bloke, can't we?
Of course, an obvious retort would be that this is all a fit-up, was never stood up in court, and at worse could be "pub chat".

But the file also contained a number of the leaflets and flyers which Donaldson produced and distributed - complete with his name and address. Lots of exhortations to Scots not to "fight for England" and instead dodge the call-up.

One was particularly interesting, because it brought together the two reasons I was there:

"Scottish News and Comment – No.28 - March 1941


The German aerial attack in January on the English Mediterranean Fleet...

The possibilities are enormous as the English admitted losses show...

The German campaign against English shipping..."

Our Arthur is referring to the Luftwaffe Stuka attack on the aircraft-carrier HMS Illustrious, on 10 January 1941. The ship was crippled and had to limp into Malta for emergency repairs, although she later escaped and received full repairs (lasting around a year) in the US. 126 men were killed and 96 men were wounded in the attack, and there were further Maltese casualties in the "Illustrious Blitz" of bombing raids which took place as the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica tried to finish her off. With the Mediterranean Fleet now shorn of air cover, the Luftwaffe were also able to bomb the cruiser HMS Southampton so heavily that she had to be abandoned and sunk, with further loss of life.

Still, it's nice and wholesome to know that Mr Donaldson thought that all these losses to the armed forces attempting to save Europe from Nazism were "English", isn't it?

And that he thought that the "possibilities were enormous"?

So, while I don't know whether the person who wrote these things is also likely to have planned to set himself up as a Scottish Quisling under Nazi occupation, I know what I think.

Make your own mind up.


Not the Messiah said...

I think we all know who is the fanatic here.

Social Democrat said...


If the accusation that the individual in question had a desire to be a "Scottish Quisling" was true then that would indeed represent an appalling treachery to the Scottish people and an extreme affront to morality. However, it is only fair to highlight that Arthur Donaldson passionately and robustly denied the accusations made against him (especially now that he has passed away and can no longer defend himself).

I feel the need to ask what relevance these historical allegations against one man have to the modern discourse over the constitutional future of Scotland? You are surely not suggesting that all of us who have voted for the SNP (a progressive, social democratic party) or those of us who support independence (a constitutional status that is the norm for nations around the world) are secretly evil fascists due to unfounded allegations made against one individual 70 years ago? That would be crazy!

Furthermore, I’m sure you are aware that thousands upon thousands of supporters of home rule and later independence (including many members and supporters of the SNP) fought the Nazis in the war? Many of us Scottish independistas continue to actively campaign against neo-nazis and would be more than willing to make the sacrifices our grandparents made to protect the World from fascism if (God forbid) the need ever arose again.

For the sake of balance and respect surely those facts should be recognised and acknowledged in your blog?

The Aberdonian said...

Social Democrat - A good example was the late Donald Stewart, the former SNP parliamentary leader who served in the navy during the war.

And of course the still living Paul H Scott, the former party vice-president who served in Germany I think with the Royal Artillery.

There were definate attempts however by the Germans in World War Two to attract Scottish nationalists to their cause. I believe that some Scottish prisoners of war used to transmit on a Nazi-propaganda channel called "Radio Free Scotland" or something like that.

It is an old trick amongst warring nations to attract nationalist dissidents within their enemies' states. World War I was a classic.

The Germans/Central Powers were supportive of Irish nationalism (as they had been supportive of Irish Loyalists before the war I might add - Larne Gun run anyone?). They also backed Polish and Ukrainian nationalists within the Russian Empire with vague promises of puppet states etc.

The Allies in turn backed dissidents in the Habsburg Empire, notably the Czech and Slovak movements. That was how Benes came to prominence.

We also backed the "Yugoslav" movement with promises of backing a Yugoslav state (whilst promising half of it to the Italians for their support).

And the piece de resistance, Britain and France backing Arab nationalists against the Turks and then stabbing them in the back with Sykes-Picot. We are still living with the consequences of that one. Makes you proud -what?

Quisling is maybe not an accurate name. More maybe a wannabee Scottish Tiso of Slovakia or Pavelic of Croatia would be more accurate.

Not the Messiah said...

Probably the worst post ever on this blog, nes pas?

Not the Messiah said...

"Let's keep David Cameron on the ropes, not appease him"

Alan Cochrane

Is isn't acceptable like above, why is it anymore acceptable when it's Alec Salmond's name?

Unionists is a fanatical ideology hell bent on maintaining the union at ANY cost.

sm753 said...


The original context of this was both me and the Grumpy SD being a little tired of being called traitor / Uncle Tom / Quisling etc, and finding the Donaldson case deliciously ironic.

(I've put in links back to the original post - forgot them before.)

So Donaldson denied it - he would, wouldn't he?

Probably, the episode as a bit of unwise "big talk" after a few glasses.

The Scottish Office at the time seemed to think so - they did not take Donaldson's activities very seriously, which is why his internment was so brief. There had been a bit of an intra-Government scuffle - the Home Office had marched in without consulting.

However, having seen the various pamphlets in that file, I feel pretty sure that the man who wrote them would have been likely to have said the things he was reported to.

Maybe the likes of Ewing and Swinney should think twice before ever again using phrases like "traitors within the gate" or "tell the Brits to git aff".

Braveheart said...

Wasn't one of the previous SNP leaders well up the arse of the Orange Order as well?

Nice people...

Observer said...

I'm a tad late to the party, but first of all may I agree wholeheartedly that calling people traitors and quislings, and imagining there is only one unionist in Scotland, and claiming that nationalists are more Scottish than anyone else is immensely irritating. It's just not a form of argument and is completely irrelevant.

As is banging on about Arthur Donaldson, in my view he was a well dodgy bloke, but that was then and this is now. And he wasn't a threat as he would not then have been released. He would have been bumped off.

sm753 said...

"Bumped off"?

Come off it - who else was treated that way?

He would have been locked up indefinitely under war powers, and then tried or released when hostilities were over.

I've only banged on about this twice - once last April, and in this post. I said I would go look at the original docs when I got the chance - how could Muttley forgive me if I didn't?

Anonymous said...

I ran a small bar on one of the islands 12 years ago and was astounded to hear the old men excitedly remembering how the villagers would rewater the German submarines "reet oonder the naze ov the Real Navee" The tribalism runs deep and liberal supporters of an Independent Scotland should realise their freedoms might not be respected if they are not obedient.

Anonymous said...

As a family member of Arthur Donaldson all I can say to you is...get a were not a part of what went on at that time....everyone had their reasons for what they did. Many people in this world were accused of things....not all of which was true. At times when things were going wrong in the war the government had to find things and people to take the countries mind off the disasters that were happening due to bad planning. My Great Uncle Arthur was not a bad man....he was a politician that had his beliefs. I am not an SNP supporter but everyone is entitled to their own beliefs...apparently.