The intermittent activities of fringe nationalist groups during the

seventies and eighties led to a rapid increase in the activities of

Special Branch in Scotland where the authorities were particularly

concerned to prevent any terrorist infection from Northern Ireland. It

was also a period in which a thousand conspiracy theories bloomed. On

the second day of our examination of Extremists in Exile, Robbie

Dinwoodie looks at the escape and

bleak exile of two men wanted by the authorities in Scotland.


TEN years ago the net tightened on the men who would be dubbed in

court ''the two most successful letter-bombers in Scottish history'',

but they managed to jump bail and flee the country and have been at

large ever since. David Dinsmore was a 20-year-old nationalist extremist

from Falkirk charged with posting a device to Scone Palace, home of Tory

Minister the Earl of Mansfield. Other similar charges were being

prepared. Adam Busby was later arrested on a minor holding charge

involving vandalising an Army vehicle, but a major terrorist conspiracy

trial involving both undoubtedly loomed.

Then on September 16, 1983, to the embarrassment of the police and

security services, they escaped. Busby said: ''Knowing that the Special

Branch officer at Glasgow Airport went off duty early, we booked on to

the last flight to Dublin under the bogus names and addresses of real

people -- respectable SNP members! -- so that nothing untoward would

show up on the passenger list.

''We then cancelled the reservations and phoned up as late as possible

asking if there was any space on the flight, picked up the cancellations

and booked in our own names. Turning up after the Special Branch officer

had gone off duty we collected our tickets and caught our flight. We

were so pleased we forgot to pick up our duty-free.''

Busby and Dinsmore have claimed that the lawyer and SNP activist

Willie McRae gave help and assistance to SNLA operations, including

their flight. Since McRae's mysterious death from a gunshot wound to the

head in April, 1985 many different factions within the nationalist

movement have conducted a tug-of-war over his life and death. The SNLA

claim is that he was killed by the British state for his involvement

with them, a suggestion that enrages others who say he did not condone


Whoever financed their flight, Busby and Dinsmore claim they

engineered their own arrest on shoplifting charges in Dublin in order to

fight extradition and free themselves from a life on the run. After

several months in jail, Busby successfully contested the granting of

extradition, but Dinsmore, facing the more serious charges and rightly

suspecting a change in the Republic's attitude to extradition, jumped

bail a second time.

Dinsmore is believed to be in France or Spain under an assumed name,

an Interpol warrant out for his capture. Busby now lives alone. His

father died not having seen him for years; his mother dreads his

periodic appearances in terrorist headlines in the Scottish press. Exile

broke up his first relationship with the mother of his teenage children,

and now the mother of his toddler son has gone off back to her family in

the West of Ireland, having had enough of Dublin on the dole.

HE claims the extradition battle cost a six-figure sum, which he hints

was raised in part by armed raids by supporters in Scotland. Dinsmore

will be a fugitive indefinitely, but Busby says: ''His main task is to

remain free. It is 10 years since they first arrested David Dinsmore and

since he went on the run they have never got close to him. Much time,

money, and trouble has been invested in keeping him free.

''If he was involved in a minor traffic accident and a policeman

checked his identity it would be claimed as great detective work and

they would call it a big success, but because they haven't got a clue

where he is they play it down.''

Dinsmore has cheeked the authorities by sending Christmas cards while

on the run, and only last month a lengthy exposition on the McRae death

alleging the SNP leadership's collusion in a cover-up arrived on the

desk of the Solicitor-General. The covering letter was signed by the

''International Officer of the Scottish National League (the SNLA's

political wing), David Dinsmore.''

Busby was born 44 years ago into a professional family in Old

Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire. He joined the SNP on his sixteenth birthday

and served briefly with the local regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland

Highlanders, including a tour in Borneo.

On demob he became involved in Dumbarton Young Scottish Nationalists

and a group of activists younger than himself who fell under the

influence of Major Frederick Boothby -- now widely seen as an agent

provocateur for the security services but regarded by Busby as simply a

crank. In 1975 the teenagers used explosives made from weedkiller to

make crude bombs, which they planted on the local railway-line and at

the entrance to the Clyde Tunnel. Two were jailed and one received a

deferred sentence.

Around this time Busby says he drifted out of the SNP, claiming: ''It

isn't really a nationalist party at all. It's not interested in the

language, history and culture of Scotland. It's a party with a Home Rule

background, a small'' -- this from someone whose own organisation's

membership is probably in single figures -- ''small, class-based

organisation drawn from the lower middle class.

''They don't understand Scottish history. 1707 wasn't the great

landmark -- that came when Cromwell conquered Scotland by force of arms.

I had no time for the SNP. As they became more powerful politically they

became a less honest party. They still talked independence but they were

heading for devolution.

''I came not to trust the political process. It was a game played by

the media and the political parties to keep people away from

self-determination, to prevent them taking control of their own lives --

a prospect that would terrify the SNP.''

He became a Gaelic-language activist with An Comunn Albannach,

launching a manifesto in 1977 attacking the myth of the Highland-Lowland

divide and calling for a Scotland ''entirely Gaidhlig in speech''. He

also became involved in the paramilitary nationalist group Siol nan

Gael, whose national organiser was Dinsmore.

But it was not until the debacle of Peter Wardlaw's Army of the

Scottish People culminated in sentences totalling 72 years being handed

down in October, 1980 that it was decided to set up the SNLA. Further

impetus had come from the fizzling out of the SNP's Scottish Resistance

campaign of civil disobedience a year later. ''When that fell through

there was nothing left,'' said Busby.

The results were the first SNLA letter-bombs to Defence Secretary John

Nott (wrongly attributed to Irish terrorists because of the date, March

17, 1982, St Patrick's Day) and to the Glasgow and Edinburgh offices of

the ''English middle-class'' Social Democratic Party. Other devices

followed and the campaign was stepped up during the Queen's Park

by-election with attacks on party headquarters and constituency offices.

''We had to work out an attitude to the SNP and constitutional

politics, therefore we decided to run a two-stage operation -- putting

forward an interventionist candidate on an abstentionist ticket, while

separately launching attacks.''

The attacks continued. ''We made a hell of a lot of mistakes, we were

very lucky to survive at all,'' said Busby. ''There were no training

schools, after all. Gradually, through research, surveillance and

experience we improved and by 1983 we were getting better and better.

That year there was an attack of some kind every few days -- 27

letter-bombs or hoax devices.

''Myself and Dinsmore were pushing ourselves over the limit. We were

getting arrested and observed on demonstrations because we were running

the militant side of Siol nan Gael. We all expected to end up in jail. I

never expected to end up sitting here in Dublin 10 years later.''

At the height of SNLA activity letter-bombs were arriving regularly at

targets as diverse as the House of Commons, ministries, party

headquarters, armed forces headquarters and recruiting offices, offices

of nationalised industries, and Glasgow City Chambers on the day of a

visit by Princess Diana. It was claimed -- but always denied -- that a

bomb was placed at the Scottish Conservative Conference at Perth in 1983

in a failed assassination attempt on Margaret Thatcher.

HOWEVER, investigation of this wave of attacks brought scant reward

for the authorities. Thomas Kelly was sentenced to 10 years for

letter-bomb offences but his conviction was tainted by the use of a paid

supergrass, Benny Goodwin, whose evidence in court made him out to be

more of an agent provocateur. The SNLA has always said Kelly was only a

hanger-on on the fringes of the organisation. The only other successful

prosecution was of a 16-year-old Highland youth on whom blatant attempts

had been made to plant explosives to incriminate someone else. He

received one year in a young offenders' institution.

SNLA activity has continued sporadically since then; a small bomb deep

inside the Ministry of Defence in London in 1985, caused serious damage,

while the following year the British Steel headquarters and a British

Airways office in London were hit.

In 1989 damage estimated at hundreds of thousands of pounds was done

at the remote Glensanda quarry in Argyll, with the authorities somewhat

implausibly insisting that the damage was the result of an accident

despite the SNLA claim coming out before news of the incident was


In December, 1991 Busby told the Sunday Mail that the previous June an

SNLA team had breached security at Holyrood Palace in an effort to plant

a bomb but had to abort the operation. Police confirmed that some

equipment was found inside the wall but the seriousness of the threat

has never been properly evaluated.

Does Busby really believe this mixture of mayhem, damage, and

propaganda really advances the Scottish cause? ''Yes, I think Scotland

is a healthier place.''

Even if deaths were to result? ''Yes, it's worth it. There are people

dying all the time, people dying from neglect. Scotland needs

self-determination -- the Scottish people didn't choose the poll tax, or

military bases, or leukemia, or hospital closures, or closed coalmines.

Every one of these comes straight from Westminster.''

Even if it led to an Ulster-style conflict? ''That would be a price

worth paying. In many ways Scotland is a country that is already dead.

The spirit of people and their natural genius has been sapped. People

are ignorant of who they are and can't even speak their own language.''

In a bizarre way, Busby seems genuinely to believe all this, talking

of the inevitable, historical process of revolutionary nationalism

overcoming constitutional nationalism, comparing himself to the Irish

Republican Brotherhood before 1916, imagining how historians will judge

him a hundred years from now.

Will they look back and say that a man in a bleak Dublin bedsit,

listening to Radio Scotland as he puts clothes-pegs and phials of

lighter-fuel in manila envelopes, knows better than his five million

compatriots getting on with their lives back home?


* SINCE the seventies, the security services have used informers to

penetrate and incriminate the recurring groups of fringe extremists.

A classic technique of counter-insurgency is the use of the agent

provocateur who, posing as an extremist, flushes out any potential

threats to the state. Conspiracists are convinced that the late Major F.

A. C. Boothby (pictured left being escorted on to a police vehicle), who

recruited Adam Busby and other young men into the extremist cause, was

almost certainly such a figure, although he vigorously denied it when

journalists George Hume and Colin Bell questioned him in 1976.

A cousin of Lord Boothby and remotely descended from the Irish

aristocracy, he was active in nationalist circles in Edinburgh in the

late fifties. He turned up in Edinburgh again in the late sixties,

having left Surrey under suspicion of beguiling teenagers into satanic

rituals in the woods. He joined the 1320 Club, set up in 1967.

Membership of it was later proscribed by the SNP.

It was named after the year of the Declaration of Abroath, and many of

its members believed the British imperial state would not yield power to

Scotland without violence.

Hugh MacDiarmid, the 1320 Club president, identified Boothby as a

police spy and denounced him as such. Boothby published a magazine which

contained instructions for bomb-making, set up his ''Army of Provisional

Government'' on a cellular basis, and gave himself the number 01 and the

nom de guerre Clydesdale.

With this alluring prospect of excitement, he recruited bored young

men and they carried out a number of bank raids with notable


He was interviewed by Hume and Bell in his lonely and rather squalid

cottage near Broughton in 1976. Against his denials of being an agent

provocateur had to be set his unusually favourable treatment. He had

been released after serving less than a year of a three-year sentence

for his activities in the APG. He died in 1979.