The Intelligence and Security Committee has published its long-awaited report into Russian influence in the UK, saying it was "the new normal".

ISC members said there were many Russians with “very close links” to President Vladimir Putin who are “well integrated into the UK business and social scene”.

So what have we learned from the report and the press conference elaborating on its publication?

What are the key conclusions 

  • The UK government has "actively avoided" looking for Russian interference during the EU referendum
  • The UK remains a top target for Russia in spreading such disinformation, as it views the country as an adversary
  • Russian interference has become "the new normal" since activity was first seen in the immediate aftermath of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, when Russian media published stories on so-called voting irregularities
  • The committee has said it was "beyond them" to try and work out "why there has been such an omission and information of potential interference was never requested" by the UK government
  • Westminster ruled out holding an investigation into meddling by Russia in the EU referendum.

Russia represents an “established threat”

The UK was labelled as one of Russia’s “top Western intelligence targets” for “disinformation campaigns and political influence operations” in the ISC report.

It argued that murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 showed that Russia had moved from “potential partner to an established threat” under Mr Putin.

UK Government playing catch up warn ISC 

The UK Government has “badly underestimated” the response needed to the threat from Russia and is still “playing catch up”, the ISC warned.

It claimed responsibility for defending the UK’s democratic processes from interference is being treated like a “hot potato” by organisations in the country’s wider intelligence community.

What impact did Russia have on Brexit?

The ISC said assessing allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 EU referendum would be “difficult – if not impossible”, with the ISC not seeking to do so.

The Government said there was “no evidence” of successful Russian interference in the Brexit vote but the committee – which oversees the work of Britain’s spies – suggested that there was no proper investigation.

READ MORE: Westminster rules out probe into Russian meddling in Brexit

MI5 provided just “six lines of text” when asked whether there was secret intelligence on the issue of potential Russian meddling in the referendum.

But the Government has rejected the committee’s call for a full analysis of whether Vladimir Putin’s government did attempt to influence the result of the 2016 vote.

The report was drawn up by the ISC’s members in the last parliament and its publication was delayed by Mr Johnson’s decision to call a general election and the slow process of appointing a successor committee.

What does the report mean for Scottish independence?

The committee found there had been “credible open source commentary” suggesting Russia tried to influence the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

One of the major talking points that has emerged from the report is whether or not there was interference during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. 

Speaking ahead of the referendum, Vladimir Putin said:  "It's not a matter for Russia - it's a domestic issue for the United Kingdom.

"Any people has a right to self-determination and now in Europe the process of diluting national sovereignty in the framework of a united Europe is more accepted.

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: Every time Scotland and independence is mentioned in the Russia report

"But I believe one should not forget that being part of a single, strong state has some advantages and one should not overlook this.

"But it's a choice for each and every people, according to their own circumstances."

Following the released of the ISC report,  SNP MP Stewart McDonald, the party's defence spokesman, said: "It is clear that the Tory government deliberately failed in its duty to assess the level of Russian interference in the EU referendum, and the potential impact that had on the Brexit result - seemingly because it didn't want to know the answers. An independent inquiry must now happen.

“Despite the growing threat posed by sophisticated Russian misinformation campaigns, the report found that the UK government only ‘belatedly realised’ the level of threat after the DNC hack and leak operation. The Tory government clearly took its eye off the ball.

"During the election campaign, Boris Johnson claimed 'There is absolutely no evidence that I know of to show any interference in any British electoral event'. The report – which the Prime Minister had already read at that point - now makes clear that this is because the Tory government was not looking for it. This botched attempt at a cover up by Downing Street has been laid bare by the committee’s findings.

"The UK government must now work with our international allies and set out how it will get a grip of Russian interference. Any narrow party-political attempt to use this report to stymie democracy in the UK would be unacceptable. We need a sober reflection from government and parliament, and a thoughtful way ahead. The public would expect nothing less."

What happens next?

Committee members said they had not received any post-EU referendum assessment of Russian attempts at interference, highlighting it was in “stark contrast” to the US handling of allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

It called for a UK assessment to be carried out into potential Russian interference in the EU referendum.

The ISC said the UK’s paper-based voting system is “largely sound” and makes “significant interference difficult”, but it should not be “complacent” about other interference.

Members of the House of Lords’ Russia-linked business interests need to be “carefully scrutinised” due to the potential for Russia to “exploit” them, the ISC said.

The ISC said new laws were need to give the UK’s intelligence community the “tools” it needed to “tackle espionage, the illicit financial dealings of the Russian elite and the ‘enablers’ who support this activity”.

What has Boris Johnson said following the report?

Boris Johnson's official response to the Russia report states: "We have seen no evidence of successful interference in the EU Referendum.

"The Intelligence and Security Agencies produce and contribute to regular assessments of the threat posed by Hostile State Activity, including around potential interference in UK democratic processes

"We keep such assessments under review and, where necessary, update them in response to new intelligence, including during democratic events such as elections and referendums.

HeraldScotland:

"Where new information emerges, the Government will always consider the most appropriate use of any intelligence it develops or receives, including whether it is appropriate to make this public.

"Given this long standing approach, a retrospective assessment of the EU Referendum is not necessary."

What has Nicola Sturgeon said?

Nicola Sturgeon said  "I would say firstly, we should not be at any point complacent about the possibility of Russian interference in our democratic processes. 

"Secondly, I don't think you can really draw any conclusions from the three lines or thereabouts that the report has on the Scottish independence referendum, but I would include that in my general remarks about not being complacent about Russian interference, although I would say that the Scottish independence movement and the values I and my party stand for I don't think could be further removed from the kind of values that Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime stand for.

"On the Brexit referendum, it appears that the committee concludes that there's no evidence of interference there because the UK Government hasn't looked for it. 

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon accuses UK Government of 'negligence' over Russia

"And that brings me to my last point... I do think the main message out of an initial reading of this report would be what I think could possibly be described as negligence on the part of the UK Government in the face of potential Russian interference. 

"I hope that this report leads to a much more rigorous approach and to the UK Government taking these threats to our democratic processes much more seriously than they appear to have been doing so far."

Why was the report delayed?

The report from the ISC was delayed in being published, however, the reason for the delay is not fully known.

Julian Lewis, the new chair of the committee said: "This committee has been subjected to unprecedented delay and dislocation.

"This really must never happen again.

"The sooner normal relations are restored between this committee and the government the better it will be for all concerned.

READ MORE: Committee asked if Alex Salmond is 'defacto agent' of Russia

 Dominic Grieve says he has “no idea” why the report was delayed.

“There are two schools of thought - one is that they didn't like part of the content and they didn't want it publish just before the election.

"I’ve never really understood that - there are some things that might make uncomfortable reading but I think it was a very much in the public interest.

"Yet that prospect has not been helped by the government refusing to tell us what was in the written ministerial statement that was written about this report which the government chose to table in the Commons at 10:30 this morning to clash with the start of this event."

HeraldScotland:

What has the Kremlin said?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Kremlin dismissed the report with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying: "Russia has never interfered in electoral processes in any country"