Native Shore by Phil Mac Giolla Bháin, Front Line Noir Books, £12.99 paperback.
Author, playwright, blogger and journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bháin’s novel Native Shore is a fictional account of the security services role in a ‘near-future’ Scotland. The novel is a thriller in the Frederic Forsyth / John Buchan genre, though the author shares none of those writers politics.
The novel imagines a Scotland in which the opinion polls show a clear lead for independence, and the panic and black ops which ensue. Those of us who remember the dread as the poll in 2014 drew near and the polls showing a lead for Yes will find little of this outlandish.
The central plot centre’s around the British security forces creating False Flags by creating a re-born Scottish National Liberation Army to scare ordinary Scots against the move for sovereignty.
“SNLA campaign created by MI5 Officers in order to sabotage indyref2. Exclusive by Mary Feeney” reads one headline.
If that seems far-fetched you have to consider the lengths to which the British State has stooped in the period 2013-2023 and the desperation that has been exposed.
The plot is fast-paced, the dialogue is real-world and the book is immaculately researched from the intricacies of burner phones and intelligence etiquette to the floor plans of Queensberry House.
The author combines a deep knowledge of Scottish politics with an intimate knowledge of the security services operation in Ireland.
The question isn’t ‘Are there security forces operating in Scotland?’ There clearly are. The question isn’t ‘Has the British state got a history of Black Ops?’ They clearly have, from the Wilson plots to the Stalker Affair, from the Kincora Boys’ Home scandal to the Colin Wallace affair we have detailed history of some of it.
As Campbell Martin outlines in a guest post on Barrhead Boy here “In 1984, a woman called Cathy Massiter went public about her former work as an MI5 officer. One of the reasons Cathy Massiter gave for leaving MI5 was that the job had changed, she said it had become more political. She added that the role of MI5 had changed from counter-espionage to domestic surveillance.”
No doubt this is true. As the Cold War subsided the security forces turned inwards. ‘The Enemy Within’ became the focus of attention.
But Martin observes the SNP leadership at the time of the coronation: “How captured the SNP has become was encapsulated for me in the final letter Nicola Sturgeon wrote as First Minister of Scotland. It was a letter of resignation to the English King, Charles III. The final sentence of the letter, just above Nicola Sturgeon’s signature, read: ‘I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient servant’.
“No-one who sees Scotland as a progressive, potentially independent country, could have signed their name to such a grovelling letter to the pinnacle of the English/British establishment. To also see Nicola and then Humza Yousaf bow their heads to the English King confirmed the total capture of the SNP by the British State.” He concludes: “The SNP is completely compromised, it has been captured and controlled by the British State.”
Clearly this is deranged but has become part of the narrative of the fringe of the movement.
Native Shore can be read as an enjoyable political thriller, but the question remains is it Fiction or Non-Fiction? The problem is not to identify the covert operations of the British state, or to be alert to disinformation propaganda and black ops. The problem is if you assert that the reason for failure in 2014 (or today) is down to the security services. This gets you onto dodgy ground because you cede agency and give-up responsibility. You literally make yourself powerless.
Without giving too much away the black ops SNLA campaign goes horribly wrong and Native Shore reaches a political crescendo imagining a fully-fledged Holyrood-based Easter Proclamation for Scotland. In a sense the political imaginings are more interesting than the security stuff and the reason the book is elevated from a thriller to a book of politics. It reminded me of Alasdair Gray’s line about ‘imagining Glasgow’ in Lanark: “Glasgow is a magnificent city,” said McAlpin. “Why do we hardly ever notice that?”
“Because nobody imagines living here…think of Florence, Paris, London, New York. Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger because he’s already visited them in paintings, novels, history books and films. But if a city hasn’t been used by an artist not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively.”
Imagining real independence, imagining real radical politicians and real radical movements is an important act. Imagine living there.