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Dr Robert D McIntyre
Chapter 9 - The Scottish National Party


The 1940ís - King Johnís Rule

Despite the high profile of some of the leaders of the SNP, particularly John MacCormick, the Party in the 1940ís was in extremely poor shape. Robert McIntyreís ability to combine a number of taxing assignments was severely strained in his early period as Organiser, and later as Secretary. He discovered that there was really a small coterie of active branches:

Edinburgh, Glasgow Central and places like Aberdeen and Paisley were exceptions to the general rule and the total membership was only around 600.

McIntyre was bold in shocking the Partyís Executive with this knowledge. His view was, "I had been given the job of Organiser and I took it seriously." In normal times, to reverse the process of stagnation would be difficult, but, given all the constraints of the War, it was almost impossible. Almost before he could get started, the Party entered into a schism of real conflict, which could have proved terminal to its survival.

Arthur Donaldson took the view that, "The split in 1942 was, without question, the most serious threat ever to the National Movementís continuation in Scotland. It divided the Party into two almost equal factions."

However, the situation of the Party, specifically relating to a brush with authority of some of its members, had a considerable effect on the overall climate.

At the commencement of the Second World War, a sizeable proportion of the Party activists were extremely hostile to being involved in war, without having a democratic say in such issues as conscription. Among those who took this stance were Arthur Donaldson and Douglas Young, who differed in character and, indeed, on long-term political aims and strategy.

Simultaneously, at around 7am on 3rd May 1941, a number of raids were made by the police on the homes of individuals whom they suspected of "subversive" activities, including Arthur Donaldson at Lugton, Douglas Young in Aberdeen, Roland E Muirhead at Lochwinnoch and Muriel Gibson in Glasgow.

The files on this event, which were only made available in 1995, after more than 50 years, contain a remarkable vignette of the attitude of Military Intelligence.

Vi Donaldson gives a vivid description of the events at Lugton. As it happened, at the time of Arthurís arrest, the Donaldsons were paying host to more than twenty evacuees from Clydebank and, when the police arrived to carry out the search and arrest, a cousin of Arthurís, David Donaldson, who had been bombed out in Clydebank, was also a "guest". As the police arrived, David was about to catch the train to get on his way to his work at John Brownís, Clydebank, and he just walked right through the police lines - hardly an exercise in efficient pursuit of subversives!

Arthur was conveyed at first to Kilmarnock and thence to Barlinnie, Glasgow. This action was taken under Section 18 (b) of Defence (General) Regulation 1939 and, among those acting on behalf of the aptly named Major P Perfect, Scottish Regional Security Officer, was R Brooman-White, a future Tory Minister at the Scottish Office. The Secretary of State for Scotland, Tom Johnston, was in an extremely awkward position, the more so as one of his mentors, Roland E Muirhead, was involved.

Muirheadís contribution to the Scottish Nationalist cause should be given adequate recognition some day. Johnston in his "Memories" pays him scant compliment. Squeezed between Jimmy Maxton and Sir Alfred Duff Cooper, Johnston supplies a "thumbnail" sketch of Roland Muirhead which deals with the incident of the search on his house in the following manner; "At the time, somebody took it upon himself to hint to the police that Roland might be a sympathiser with Hitler, or at any rate anti-English, to warrant a raid upon his house. A raid duly took place and after some locks had been forced there was borne off in triumph a sporting rifle of the last century vintage which had belonged to an uncle or brother...

Fortunately, there existed at the time in the offices of the Crown Prosecutor and the Lord Advocate a sense of humour, and the engines of war referred to were hurriedly ordered to be returned, so that Roland Muirhead was deprived of a martyrís crown...".

Even allowing for the elapse of ten years from the event, it is difficult to recognise that Johnston was writing of an individual whom he had known for nearly fifty years and who had bankrolled the paper "Forward" which Johnston had been instrumental in founding in 1906 and of which he had been Editor.

Much nearer the truth is the disclosure in the files in the Scottish Record Office of a Secretary of State struggling to reconcile his "Home Rule" and socialism past with the actions of an establishment in panic.

His office was bombarded with letters and James Maxton, MP, to his eternal credit, did not hesitate to keep up an attack by means of Parliamentary Questions.

What the Military Intelligence were up to, no one will ever really know. In a memo dated 10th May 1941 for Tom Johnston, it is stated: "Grave suspicions attach to Arthur Donaldson of Lugton against whom there is a considerable body of evidence demonstrating highly subversive activities extending over a long period".

"Donaldson ... like other Quislings", it is suggested, " ... uses a local Home Rule Movement as a basis for subversive activities."

What was the nature of this supposed evidence? Given that Arthur Donaldson never sought to hide his activities, this Ďso calledí "considerable body of evidence" available to the authorities has never been revealed. The almost amateurish nature of the approach to the gathering of such evidence is shown in a report compiled by the Chief Constable of Glasgow, P J Sillitoe, on a meeting held on Sunday, 5th April 1942 to commemorate the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.

Arthur Donaldson who had returned to the bosom of his family in June 1941, after six weeks in Barlinnie, was one of the speakers along with Hugh MacDiarntid, Alexander Sloan MP and Oliver Brown.

The Chief Constableís five page report for the Scottish Office goes into remarkable detail on the activities of these "subversives", campaigning in the open air, aided by the "Clan MacKenzie Pipe Band - playing the platform party on to a lorry".

According to this report, Arthur was quite frank that, "They should not be frightened by the fact of his having been in Barlinnie. He had been put there because he was a Scotsman trying to obtain the freedom, politically, socially and economically of his country".

Hugh MacDiarmid is reported to have told the crowd, of approximately one hundred, that he, "hated facisim wherever he found it, were it Germany, Italy, Spain or England!".

Next came Alexander Sloan MP who launched a bitter attack on Labourís Herbert Morrison, as Home Secretary, and the last speaker was Oliver Brown who gave his views on the war issue by, "calling upon Scottish men and women to support democracy by reviving the spirit of the 1320 Declaration, as at present we have a sham Parliament, a sham democracy, a sham religion and a sham army".

The report concludes by stating: "During the meeting a collection was taken on behalf of the St Andrewís Ambulance Association".

Thus the hammer of Glasgow "Razor Gangs" reported to his political masters on those who were being accused of undermining the state.

One of the above group, Hugh MacDiarmid, had written to the Secretary of State regarding the return of a 20,000 word typescript entitled, "A brief Survey of Modern Scottish Politics - in the Light of Dialectical Materialism" which he thought had been taken in one of the raids in May, 1941. The letter from Whalasay to Tom Johnston began, "Dear Comrade" and concluded with an attack on the governmentís imposition of conscription by asserting that the Secretary of State, "must be aware that all the legislation under which conscription and other war time measures are being applied in Scotland is utterly illegal". It is little wonder that the Civil Servants of the time had some difficulty in determining Tom Johnstonís reply.

An indication of the extent to which the authorities did go to try to obtain "evidence" relating to Arthur Donaldsonís activities is given by their treatment of other Nationalists like Muriel Gibson and Isa (Hillhouse) Fisher.

The events surrounding their searches of Muriel Gibsonís premises vary from the bizarre to the comic.

Muriel had been a supporter of the Nationalist cause since 1932 when she became a member of the National Party of Scotland in Glasgow. At the outbreak of war, she chose to join the Red Cross and eventually was called up to the Voluntary Aid Detachment, which gave clerical and administrative assistance to the army.

On 3rd May 1941 when she was billeted in Gilsochill School in Maryhill, she was awakened at 7am by the police who proceeded to search her quarters and belongings.

Muriel always had "her books" with her and, as it happened, one - which she admits she had not read - happened to be "Mein Kampf", which must have at least aroused suspicions as to the future loyalties of the young recruit!

Additional cause for concern was provided by copies of Arthur Donaldsonís monthly newsletter "Scottish News and Comment".

Murielís explanation for this was that she had been in the habit of getting eggs from Arthurís farm at Lugton and, in addition to supplying food for the body, he had thought it appropriate to sustain the mind as well by keeping her supplied with his own views on current events.

When the police officers escorted Muriel back to her home in West Regent Street, Glasgow her anxious Mother, Mrs Charlotte Gibson, awaited them. Mrs Gibson was small of stature but certainly no push over for the Glasgow Police. One can picture her increasing agitation as she witnesed the search of the rooms, drawer by drawer, inch by inch before Muriel was conveyed to the Central Police Station.

Mrs Gibson summoned every bit of spirit in her 5 ft frame and cautioned the Police Officers over the tenement stair bannister, "Be sure and bring that girl back in the same condition that youíre taking her away!"

More importantly for the record is that Muriel Gibsonís future career in the army was one of great distinction and advancement. Having entered the ATS as a private, she achieved the rank of Major by the end of 1945 and eventually left the Womenís Royal Army Corps as a Lt Colonel. As they say "What would she have achieved had she read Mein Kampf?"

But this and other investigations go to prove that the authorities were really determined to seek out those who had relationships, albeit of a minor nature, with Nationalist leaders, particularly of the calibre of Arthur Donaldson in order to try to implicate those who appeared to be the great challenge to the established and establishmentís opinions and desires.


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