WHITEWASH in the Government, exaggerated influence and why Vladimir Putin supports Scottish independence were the topics debated by columnists and contributors in the newspapers.

The Guardian

Marina Hyde said the publication of the Russia report revealed ‘grotesque incuriosity.’

“The outrage isn’t that there was interference,” explained intelligence and security committee member Kevan Jones of suggestions the Brexit vote may have been compromised,” she said. “The outrage is that no one [in government] would want to know if there was interference.”

She said the report showed successive Conservative governments and intelligence agencies seemed to have regarded the issue as ‘best left unsolved.’

“With the exception of those with something to hide – or to lose – most would surely agree it’s quite clear that Russia has sought to influence the results of elections, both here and in other nation states,” she said. “Russia brings down passenger planes and lies about it; it uses nerve agent to poison UK citizens in our historic market towns, then sends the would-be assassins on TV to give deadpan interviews about spire heights.”

She said the British state had always had more whitewash than the deepest whitewash-mining concession in the Urals.

“Presumably this is why the intelligence services didn’t even bother looking for evidence of electoral interference,” she added. “So yes, you don’t particularly need to put a smoking gun to my head to get me to say: I think we pretty much know Russia tries to influence UK affairs, including elections.”

The Daily Express

Tim Newark said the Russian report made it clear Russian agents sought to influence the 2014 independence referendum to weaken the UK.

“In contrast to this, the ISC report concludes there is no direct evidence of Russian influence in the 2016 Brexit referendum,” he said. “Ever since Leave triumphed, Remainers have been desperate to prove the involvement of Russia as a means of invalidating the result.”

He said the Left couldn’t abide the fact that thousands of British and American working class voters had deserted them and they sought to ‘blame Russia or anyone else for their failures rather than their own misguided policies.’

“It is true that a lot of Russian money has found its way into Britain and seeks to buy influence but it certainly hasn’t lessened British government outrage at Putin’s aggressive foreign policy, especially following the Salisbury poisonings,” he said. “The ISC reports wonders if the UK government has taken “its eye off for the ball on Russia” when it comes to defending Britain against cyber attacks. Without doubt, Vladimir Putin is happy to unleash an army of hackers on our national institutions, always seeking weak points.”

He said the report showed that where there are willing UK participants in ‘Russian shenanigans’ Putin could exploit that but, in the end, when it came to Brexit or general elections his ‘malign influence has been much exaggerated.’

“He thrives on being seen as an international arch villain, but it takes more than a bit of fake news to sway the great British people,” he concluded.

The Scotsman

Dr Azeem Ibrahim, research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, said Putin had been casting Russia as the natural opponent of the Western world since coming into power in late 1999.

“He has failed miserably at rebuilding Russia internally into the economic and scientific powerhouse it used to be, but he has managed to place Russia into a position of permanent antagonism to everything “Western”,” he said. “To dismantle the UK is a feverish wet dream for Putin and the deluded revanchist nationalists that surround him in the Kremlin. And the prospect of Scottish independence is the most immediate way in which this may come to pass.”

He said the first consequence of independence would be an ‘unholy mess’ about the nuclear deterrent, with the SNP making clear they want Trident gone from the Clyde but nowhere else in the UK as ‘strategically sound.’

“A newly independent Scotland governed by anyone other than the SNP would also struggle to resist Moscow if the latter continued to apply pressure to the British Isles, in the way they have been recently testing our national airspace and our territorial waters,” he warned.