Russian President Vladimir Putin considers the SNP a threat because it is seeking to strengthen the EU and NATO – “the very institutions that Russia wants to try and weaken”. David Clark, a former government foreign policy adviser, said Mr Putin would seek to undermine Nicola Sturgeon’s bid to drag Scotland out of the Union.
He said there had been a turnaround in Mr Putin’s tactics because Ms Sturgeon’s bid for independence would have previously suited his agenda.
It was previously believed Russia would benefit from Scottish independence as it would weaken the UK and NATO by putting Trident’s future under threat.
But now Ms Sturgeon’s party is a threat to his fight to destabilise Europe, according to Mr Clark.
He told The Times: “In 2014 the clear-cut strategic calculation for Russia was that independence would benefit their agenda of trying to prise apart western institutions and promote the break-up of Western countries.
“Scotland would not only be leaving the UK, but at least initially leaving Nato and the EU with question marks over how quickly they would be able to rejoin.
“After Brexit, the picture is more mixed.
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Mr Clark said the SNP would now be a target for the Russian leader.
His warning comes after Kremlin-backed TV network Russia Today attempted to undermine Stewart McDonald, SNP defence spokesperson, after he warned of Russian attempts to swing the independence debate.
In response, Russia Today’s Margarita Simonyan claimed Mr McDonald was “haunted by the ghost of the Loch Ness Monster”.
It comes after Russia Today previously played a key role in Scotland’s bid for independence, providing a regular platform for the then First Minister Alex Salmond and other top SNP ministers.
In August 2013, newsreader Sophie Shevardnadze – granddaughter of Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze – flew to Shetland to interview Mr Salmond.