MacDiarmid - under surveillance and a threat to national security

Files released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal for the first time how the government viewed Hugh MacDiarmid as more than just a communist sympathiser, and saw him as a potential traitor deserving of internment. During the Second World War, Hugh MacDiarmid was branded an undesirable by the government which feared his political activism.

The extent of the perceived threat the poet posed to national security is only now known, with the declassification of a secret dossier of surveillance intelligence which stretches to more than 100 double pages. Contained in the dossier are notes from informants, soldiers and security agents who kept MacDiarmid under surveillance.

One "informant's" note from a London meeting of the Communist party in 1931 reported a lecture given by MacDiarmid on The Essentials of Scottish Nationalism. It quoted the poet as telling his audience: "It is time we in Scotland put England in its proper place and instead of our leaning on England and taking inspiration from her, we should lean and turn to Europe, for it is there that our future prosperity lies."

As the war progressed, the view held in Edinburgh was that MacDiarmid could pose a security threat, with references to him as a "fanatic only too ready to give his allegiance to any extremist cause".

Revealed: MacDiarmid was spied on (The Herald, 5 September 2005)