THE SNP has called for democratic reform to be put at the heart of defence strategy amid concerns the UK can be undermined from the inside.

Nationalists have long been asking the Tories to launch a full investigation into some of the warnings of Kremlin meddling outlined in this summer’s Russia Report from the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).

Now they say Britain must see cleaning up politics – flushing out dark money and beefing up defences against authoritarian propaganda – as being as important as tanks, planes and ships.

Defence spokesman Stewart McDonald MP said Britain’s defences against non-military “hybrid” threats, anything from cyber attacks to disinformation and influence operations, was “all over the place”.

He and his SNP colleagues have formally set out a series of proposals for the UK Government’s delayed integrated review of defence and foreign policy, precisely to plug these defensive gaps.

They want to see a “hybrid affairs ambassador” appointed to focus on non-military threats across the board. This would mirror tactics adopted in countries such as Spain, Poland, Finland and Lithuania.

“These European countries have a  much more holistic approach, in understanding you have to have military readiness – of course you do – but the day to day threats that they are facing are hybrid.”

Mr McDonald cited Ukraine, which saw part of its territory seized by Russia in 2014 and is fighting a proxy war in its east, as an example of the “extreme end” of what hybrid warfare can achieve. 

But he also warned of a recent cyber attack on the Norwegian parliament as evidence that western European countries were not immune.

The SNP submission – though a response to UK challenges – is also being pitched as a whole new doctrine for the defence and foreign policy stances of an independent country.

In a calculated swipe at Conservatives who have taken Russian money, the submission says “good governance has now become an issue of national security”. 

It adds: “The Government’s approach to international law and domestic governance institutional – particularly institutional and electoral reform – must reflect this. 

“These issues – particularly funding of political parties and effective application of the rule of law – were also repeatedly raised in the ISC’s report on Russia. 

“Additionally, the ISC’s report highlighted that the Government’s ‘failure to prepare’ for Russian interference in the UK’s democratic processes stemmed from the fact that ‘the Government had badly underestimated the Russian threat and the response it required’.

“The problem of state capture – particularly through funding of political parties – has been shown to be a systemic vulnerability in liberal democracy. It is clear that United Kingdom remains highly vulnerable to hybrid threats and no concerted effort has been made to build national resilience.”

The SNP also wants Whitehall to acknowledge that foreign policy is not just for London, that devolved nations need to be brought on board. That would mean consulting, for example, with Edinburgh on issues in the “high north”, the Arctic theatre which the SNP sees as a priority.

And they want the Foreign Office to let Scottish Government officials once again use embassies and consulates – just as UK opposition ones can.

Conservatives have rejected claims that donations received from Kremlin-connected individuals present a security threat. They have also said that they are vigilant to disinformation, propaganda and dirty money in the  economy.

They were scheduled to publish their full review this autumn but – amid Covid and other issues – it is now not clear when they will do so.