The illegal hacking of the computer system belonging to the pro-independence campaign group Yes Scotland is an “assault on democracy” their head has said.
Blair Jenkins gave his reaction as police continue to investigate an illegal breach which led to data ending up in the hands of a journalist.
Speaking yesterday evening on Radio Scotland, the Yes Scotland chief slammed the “serious criminal assault” which he said had been “designed to cause as much damage and disruption as possible” to the pro-independence campaign.
Mr Jenkins said: “This is a deliberate and quite sinister attempt to illegally access Yes Scotland email.”
He said his organisation had no idea who was behind the illegal breach but added: “We know this is serious, we know it’s been done with a level of sophistication, we don’t know what lies behind this.”
Mr Jenkins revealed that further investigation had since discovered the attacks on the Yes Scotland IT systems was worse than thought, which forced a shutdown of the entire online operation of the campaign yesterday.
“This is an assault, not just on the Scottish independence campaign, this is an assault on democracy and I think everyone who is concerned about a very good independence campaign, whatever your views are, I think should be deeply worried about this.” he added.
The Yes Scotland head also expressed disappointment and astonishment at the reaction from political rivals in the Better Together campaign who he said had not uttered one word of criticism of the illegal attack, despite it having been known for fully two days.
Describing the No campaign’s attacks on the information acquired through the illegal access, as “manufactured outrage” Mr Jenkins insisted it had been “entirely proper and appropriate” for Yes Scotland to have paid a modest fee of £100 to freelance academic writer Dr Elliot Bulmer who had been commissioned by his group to write an article for the Herald newspaper.
Blair Jenkins on Radio Scotland
Despite media reports that the Herald knew nothing of the payment, Newsnet Scotland yesterday revealed that the newspaper had been made fully aware that Dr Bulmer had sought a small fee to compensate for the time spent on drafting his article, but had declined to pay.
Speaking on STV last night, Blair Jenkins said the Yes campaign were frequently asked by media outlets to source contributions for programmes and articles, and that this was just another example.
However asked if he would pay for such contributions again, the Yes Scotland head said he would not due to what he called the extreme way the episode had been distorted and manipulation adding that he would not wish anyone to be subjected to the kind of experience endured by Dr Bulmer.
The episode has created controversy and heated debate amongst many observers of the independence debate with some angry that media outlets appear to have focused on the article by Dr Bulmer whilst downplaying the far more serious offence of illegal hacking.
However one pro-independence blogger attacked the decision of Yes Scotland to pay Dr Bulmer’s fee. Appearing on STV’s Scotland Tonight Kate Higgins claimed Yes Scotland had damaged the campaign for independence and “eroded trust and confidence” through their actions.
Higgins’ claims were dismissed by fellow STV guest, journalist Harry Reid, who suggested the blogger had “over-cooked” her outrage.
Claims by the blogger that the pro-independence campaign would now find it even more difficult to get articles published by newspapers were also dismissed as “groundless” by Mr Reid.