Scotland elections hit with Iranian ‘disinformation’ campaigns to break up UK – Report


The Henry Jackson Society think tank published a report that claimed Iranian backed-accounts are targeting Scottish voters online. Posing as sympathetic to pro-independence parties, the accounts encourage real users to share pro-separatist material, graphics, memes and cartoons with their contacts online.

Findings from the report also suggested Iranian actors have set up fake websites to influence campaigns and to mislead potential voters.

The society said the alleged Iranian misinformation campaign is designed to create division in rival nations to weaken them.

It stated the growing online presence of material encouraging Scottish independence was an attempt by Iran to “attack the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom”.

It followed a report from Facebook and analytics company Graphika saying Iranian cyber agents used fake social media accounts to try to influence the 2014 independence referendum in favour of a “yes” vote.

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Henry Jackson Society’s report concluded Iran attempted to influence Scotland to leave the Union in a similar way to Russia’s alleged interference in US elections.

Their report said: “Iran has shown itself to be a country which engages in Russian-style disinformation campaigns, repeatedly establishing fake websites and internet accounts in an effort to disrupt the political systems of liberal democracies.

“Judged within this context, Iran is almost certainly looking to disrupt our current elections, most likely those under way for the Scottish assembly.”

The study also warned: “Iran has become increasingly sophisticated in both the scope and choice of its target.”

Dr Paul Stott, the report’s author, also said Iran could no longer be considered a “third tier” country in terms of cyber capabilities.

While Iran generally targets its cyber activity towards Iraq, Israel and Afghanistan, it has been increasingly detected in Scotland over the past year.

The report says independence campaigns generated by agents acting on behalf of the Iranian regime so its leaders can deny responsibility and avoid repercussions.

It added the aim is to “cause harm to adversaries with clear military superiority, and at the same time, maintain a margin of denial that will prevent international censure or even sanctions and a counterattack”.


Scottish people will head to the polls on May 6, with Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP on track to win a majority.

A survey for The Herald by BMG Research suggests the SNP is set to win 68 seats while other projections show the Alba Party will take two seats, once the regional distribution of its support is taken into account.

Robert Struthers, head of polling at BMG, told the newspaper: “There is no question that the SNP will be returned as the largest party in Holyrood next week, but their prospect of a majority remains on a knife-edge.

“With little movement since our last poll in mid-March, there is no real evidence that any party has gathered significant momentum ahead of voters casting their ballots next week.

“Using a uniform seat calculator – a general guide of estimating how votes might translate into seats – our numbers suggest that the SNP could win a small majority of seven, thanks to a close to clean sweep of constituencies.”

BMG polled 1,023 Scots aged 16 or over between April 27 and 30.


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