ONCE he was notorious as the militant face of the anti-abortion movement in Scotland. Now Jim Dowson is once again back in the spotlight of extremism after being named one of Britain’s most influential far-right activists.

The Sunday Herald can reveal Dowson claims he is an advisor to more than 150 companies, groups and parties around the world, running offices in Budapest, Fort Worth in the US, and Belgrade.

His activities in the US and Europe led to anti-fascism campaign group Hope Not Hate placing Dowson at number one in a “Dirty Dozen” list of Britain’s most influential far-right activists in its annual State of Hate report last week.

Dowson, 52, who was born in Airdrie, has a long history of extremist activities, including a spell as a prominent member of the BNP and founding the far-right, anti-Muslim group Britain First.

His apparent global reach now is a far cry from the late 1990s, when he was living in a former council house in Cumbernauld and running his own church, the Reformed Evangelical Mission, from a Portakabin.

As a young man, Dowson was a member of the local Orange lodge. In one interview he “lost interest” as it was just “mindless, sectarian Catholic-hating bigotry”. Other reports, however, state he was forced to leave as his views were too extreme, with senior figures in the Grand Orange Order of Scotland describing him as a “zealot”.

Perhaps little surprise then, that Dowson soon became known for running militant pro-Life groups including Precious Life Scotland. But the group's campaigning sparked anger by mimicking shocking tactics of US campaigners such as using graphic images of aborted foetuses and threatening to post the details of staff working in abortion clinics on the internet.

As his activities came under scrutiny, the Sunday Herald revealed his past involvement in hard-line Loyalist groups in the West of Scotland, as a former organiser of flute band which produced a tape of music in tribute to Loyalist Michael Stone, who murdered three Catholics in 1988. In the wake of these revelations, the Catholic Church subsequently moved to distance itself from the Precious Life group.

In the mid-2000s, Dowson became involved with the BNP, becoming its chief fundraiser and leader Nick Griffin’s right-hand man. He claims to have raised £4 million for the organisation between 2007 and 2010.

But that association was not to last. By 2010, Dowson had quit the party amid a fallout and an allegation he groped a female activist, which he denied.

A year later, he went on to found the ultra-right Britain First, which dubbed itself a “Christian” group opposing the rise of radical Islam and provoked huge controversy after invading mosques in England and Scotland and threatening imams. He quit that group in 2014, saying the raids were “provocative and counterproductive” and were attracting “racists and extremists”.

Just before that he also had also popped up in the thick of the union flag protests in Belfast in 2013, during which disturbances were triggered by the city council’s decision to restrict the flying of the union flag at city hall. He was subsequently given a three-month suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to participating in unlawful public processions.

Now the activities of Dowson are under scrutiny once again. In December, the New York Times ran an investigation linking him to a number of websites including the Patriot News, which it says “pumped out pro-Trump hoaxes tying his opponent Hillary Clinton to Satanism, paedophilia and other conspiracies”. The postings were viewed and shared tens of thousands of times in the US, according to the report.

Hope Not Hate’s State of Hate report for 2017 also named him as one of Britain's most influential far-right activists, describing him as a Christian Fundamentalist and anti-Muslim, who set up anti-immigrant group the Knights Templar International (KTI) soon after leaving Britain First.

The report states he controls a number of Facebook pages and ‘news’ websites which have an enormous reach across social media and that he is active in countries including Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the UK, Poland, Russia, Serbia and Syria.

Recent activities it says Dowson has been involved in include travelling with ex-BNP leader Nick Griffin to Bulgaria to supply materials to an extreme right-wing militia group patrolling the border.

The report added: “Both have also spoken at conferences on the “demographics” they claim prove the white race (read Christian” in Dowson’s phraseology) is facing extinction.

“Both are now regular visitors to Budapest, where Dowson’s KTI has opened a “hub” in an Old Reform Church building for far-right guests from as far afield as Sweden and the United States.”

Other activities KTI have been involved in include advertising homes in a village in Hungary which has banned the wearing of Muslim dress such as the hjijab and the call to prayer, as well as public displays of affection by gay people. In a report by the BBC earlier this month Laszlo Toroczkai, the Mayor of Asotthalom - who wants to attract Christian Europeans who object to multiculturalism to live in the village - said he had been contacted by Dowson who had visited with Griffin “just to have a look”.

Dowson’s activities have attracted the attention of far-right leaders in central and eastern Europe, according to Hope Not Hate - including Aleksandr Dugin, a “Russian academic and fascist with alleged links to the Kremlin and Russian military”, who is said to have helped Dowson open an office in Belgrade. Dugin has advocated for the formation of a 'Eurasian Empire' to rival the 'liberal' West.

In 2015, Dowson spoke at an annual gathering of far-right leaders in St Petersburg, known as the International Russian Conservative Forum. A report in the Financial Times told how he addressed the crowd saying: “In the west we have been brainwashed to hate Vladimir Putin…[But] Vladimir Putin understands the right of the majority should be put in front of the whims and the fancies of the minorities.

“The West has been polluted by the virus of decadence, of liberalism, of homosexuality, of the destruction of the family.”

Dowson declined to be interviewed by phone, but agreed to answer questions put by the Sunday Herald by email. When it comes to pinning down his activities, he denies a lot, and is also light on much of the detail. His answers are reproduced here as sent.

On being named as one of the most influential far-right activists in Britain, he said the claim was “almost too ridiculous to warrant an answer”.

Asked to clarify his ideology and whether he is anti-immigrant, he said: “For the record I am a socially conservative Christian. I reject all forms of race politics as blasphemous as God created ALL men and to judge a man on skin pigmentation is not only wicked by rather stupid.”

Dowson may use language much associated with the ‘alt-right’ ideology – such as ‘snowflake’, a pejorative term for an entitled person – but rejected the alt-right as a reaction to the “bigotry” of the liberal establishment, adding much of it is “nothing more than Muslim baiting or anti jihad libertarians.”

He added: “I have more in common with a decent Muslim than I have with most Alt Right leaders and that is scary!”

On the issue of reports he helped Trump to victory by spreading “fake news” he wrote: “Totally untrue, without merit or foundation, nothing more than a shocking FAKE NEWS story from the main stream media, similar garbage we heard after Brexit. Snowflake arrogance manifest in lies.

"Trump won, the liberal clowns need to grow up and deal with it.”

Dowson said he had assisted with “one or two projects” with KTI, but did not hold a “position, title or authority”. He said he had no involvement with Patriot News Agency “other than they are a branch of a client's portofolio.”

He also denied Aleksandr Dugin had helped establish the office in Belgrade and said he had “never even heard of this guy” until the report from Hope Not Hate. “Again, total and utter fabrication of the most bizarre kind,” he added.

He did say he is advisor to “over 150 companies and groups/parties who do [run websites] in a wide range of forms from business to political in many countries around the world”, but did not provide any further details.

When it comes to how he makes his money, Dowson said it was from providing business services. One of his key successful tactics, according to Hope not Hate, is to employ a knowledge of algorithms to flood social media pages with right-wing material, particularly using emotive memes.

His concerted campaign to promote Trump during the US presidential elections was conducted from his Budapest bolthole. The Hope Not Hate report said: “Operating behind a plethora of websites and Facebook groups, Dowson announced his mission to “spread devastating anti-Clinton, pro-Trump memes and sounds bites into sections of the population too disillusioned with politics to have taken any notice of conventional campaigning”.

Long before the advent of social media, Dowson recognised the value of the looming digital era during his anti-abortion campaigning. In an interview in 1999 he said: “We live in a media age. Pictures mean everything.”

In its latest edition, Crusader, a magazine published by the KTI, states that in the run-up to Brexit there were seven “skilled and devoted KTI social media experts” working 12-hour shifts six days a week for 16 weeks, “producing or finding and promoting stories, memes and videos that we fed out to literally millions of people daily across the UK”.

It added: “All-in-all, we played the key role in a grassroots Brexit campaign force which had a social media reach more than three times than that of the official ‘Out’ campaign. Now that’s Templar power and influence!”

Another article in the summer 2014 edition of Crusader outlines a chilling vision of engagement in a ‘Holy cyber-war’. It claims the group has identified an ideal way to “mobilise our people all over the world in a powerful internet strike force”.

It added: “We have already identified the very best system and are now negotiating to buy it, because top-notch cyber info-war capability doesn’t come cheap.

“We can tell you that the system will enable Templars and active militant Christian cyber-warriors everywhere to deliver crushing blows in the Information War, switching targets between the Islamists, the atheistic left and other deadly enemies of tradition, decency and freedom to hammer who deserves it the most.

“We look forward to telling you more and to giving you a way to get involved in our own Holy War.”

But Dowson dismissed any notion he sees himself as involved in some kind of cyber ‘Holy War’. Despite his past and present involvement with extremist groups, he was at pains to insist he is just a normal guy. In his email to the Sunday Herald he wrote: “I am a 52-year-old father and grandfather to 11 wonderful children, not a spotty teenager sitting in a bedroom in a batman cape ffs!”


‘You journalists are nutty’ – how Dowson responded to questions over funding

The Sunday Herald asked Jim Dowson the simple question of how his work was funded – and given his links with Russia raised in various reports, whether there was any funding from Russian sources.

Dowson wrote an outraged response which said: “Seriously, are you daft hen?? I am in business, I provide a service and people pay me?? You do understand the basics of our capitalist society I take it ? Or are you so far left as to have no knowledge on how people earn a living??

“And NO I have NEVER received a penny from ANY Russians or anyone linked to or action on behalf of any Russians.

“You left journos are going batshit crazy with this Russian stuff. Have you any idea how nutty you sound?? (I say you in the context of the media in general not YOU personally, Judith, as that would be very rude of me.”

He also attacked the “mass media” saying it was responsible for the Brexit vote and election of US president Donald Trump.

He added: “Why? People are finally fed up with hard left liberal and leftist activists masquerading as journalists, pumping crap into us all these last 40 years and then calling ANYONE who disagrees…Racist, Homophobe, Bigot…Etc, Etc. Etc.

“You guys in the media caused the swing to the right and I really do fear that we all ‘ain’t seen nothing yet’!”