A SCOTTISH Labour candidate and former Better Together boss has been called on to explain her links to a “military propaganda unit” within the British Army.

Kate Watson is believed to be part of the Berkshire-based 77th Brigade, which was described by one newspaper as a "special force of Facebook warriors".

She declined to comment, but David Miller, a professor of political sociology at Bristol University, said: “The 77th Brigade is involved in manipulation of the media including using fake online profiles.

Glasgow East is traditional Labour territory.

“A Labour candidate seeking to represent it should be transparent about their affiliations and commitments.”

Formed in 2015, the 77th Brigade specialises in non-lethal warfare in the age of 24/7 rolling news and social media platforms.

With Vladimir Putin’s Russia being accused of exploiting the openness of Western democracies – pumping out conspiracy theories on state-owned TV stations, and spreading fake stories on Twitter and Facebook – the military has been determined to regain control of the narrative.

In a November article, Wired magazine reported that the Brigade’s soldiers do not fight, but instead “edit videos, record podcasts and write viral posts”.

Given access to the unit, the magazine said of the office: “There was a suite full of large, electronic sketch pads and multi-screened desktops loaded with digital editing software.

“The men and women of the 77th knew how to set up cameras, record sound, edit videos. Plucked from across the military, they were proficient in graphic design, social media advertising, and data analytics.

“Some may have taken the army’s course in Defence Media Operations, and almost half were reservists from civvy street, with full-time jobs in marketing or consumer research.”

According to the Army’s website, the Brigade is a combined “Regular and Army Reserve” unit, which aims to challenge the “difficulties of modern warfare” through “non-lethal engagement” and “legitimate non-military levers”.

Using marketing jargon, the Army says that the 77th conducts “audience, actor and adversary analysis”, as well as “supporting counter-adversarial information activity”.

In a nod to its social media purpose, the website adds that the 77th Brigade collects, creates and disseminates “digital and wider media content in support of designated tasks”.

Journalists, social media experts and researchers are listed as potential recruits.

As director of operations at Better Together, Watson played a key day-to-day role in an organisation set up to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.

After the referendum, she got a job working for Consequitur, a consultancy owned by former Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander. According to The Courier newspaper, she also graduated with a postgraduate qualification in terrorism studies in 2013.

She also has political ambitions, having stood for Labour in Glasgow East at the last General Election and losing by 75 votes. She has since been selected to contest the same seat.

An online left-wing magazine, in a write-up of the fiercely-contested Labour selection contest, claimed in June last year that she is part of the 77th Brigade, which Miller told this newspaper is a “secretive military propaganda unit”.

Another politician linked to the unit is Tory junior defence minister Mark Lancaster. The MP’s website states that he has been “selected as Deputy Commander 77 Brigade”.

Speaking about the Brigade in Parliament last week, Lancaster said: “We have focused on just one aspect of the role of 77th Brigade, which is web ops, but it also encompasses some of the traditional capabilities we also have, be that what we would know as CIMIC – civil-military co-operation – the outreach group or the media group.

“By bringing all those components together, you are effectively updating what was a 20th-century capability for the 21st century and the introduction of the web and the internet. There is no doubt that information advantage is very much a key component of all the work that we will be doing in the future.

“I will give one example of interest to us as politicians, where recently I went on an exercise. Traditionally, military exercises tend to escalate upwards, but actually the key component there to allow de-escalation, which politicians are always interested in, was the use of information advantage and the web.”

Between February 2017 and February 2018, 29 personnel from 77th Brigade were “forward deployed” on operations, according to a written parliamentary answer.

Meanwhile, it was reported in December that a security alert had been issued at UK military bases in Britain after a Russian TV crew was seen outside the 77th Brigade’s headquarters. A journalist was spotted filming close to the Brigade’s 25ft barbed wire perimeter fence, but he later denied trying to infiltrate the army base.

The MoD said the journalist’s “suspicious” behaviour was monitored by the base’s security systems.