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The King’s shilling

Posted on February 10, 2013 by

The Telegraph’s crotchety old relic Alan Cochrane is usually a figure of comic fun for independence supporters. But now and again the Tory dinosaur’s prehistoric polemic conceals something more dangerous. In a misguided attempt to add hard numbers to a piece yesterday reporting Teresa May’s speech about spies, Cochrane seems to have used Wikipedia for some information on Swedish and Danish domestic intelligence services and come up with this:

“For instance, the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, which is part of the country’s police force, has 650 officers. Sweden, which is not a member of Nato, has over 1,000 officers in its security, counter terrorism and intelligence service – SAPO – which has an annual budget, according to one estimate, of £800 million.”

According to one estimate”? That’s an interesting choice of words. Unfortunately someone wasn’t reading closely enough. Wikipedia’s English-language page on Säpo does indeed say that it had a budget of around 800m in 2008. Except it wasn’t £800m, but 800 million Swedish Kronor. At today’s exchange rate that’s around £80 million. Mr Cochrane has, in his fury, overstated Sweden’s intelligence budget by 1,000%. Oops.

King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden gives the hapless Telegraph hack a special hard stare.

The latest budget for the Säkerhetspolisen, for 2013, is just over 1 billion Kronor, or £100m. Broadly speaking Säpo could be a useful yardstick for the cost of a domestic intelligence service in an independent Scotland. (It also includes Special Branch type functions, specialist firearms units and so on, but those would probably be needed in an independent Scotland anyway so we may as well be generous and include them.)

On the other hand, Scotland would probably need fewer people as Sweden is larger in every way that matters: five times the land area, almost twice the population and far, far longer borders. If we wanted to guesstimate a very approximate budget for a Scottish equivalent, half as much as Säpo spends – ie about £50m, rather than Cochrane’s £800m – might be a reasonable place to start.

The Danish domestic intelligence service – PET, Politiets Efterretningstjeneste – is a smaller organisation with perhaps 650 staff. With a budget of 800 million Danish Kroner (£90 million) it cost almost as much to run as Säpo in 2011, half of which went on staff costs. The higher costs could be explained by PET spending more on communications intelligence and computer security.

Instead of having to spend enormous amounts on spying – as claimed by multiple witnesses in front of the Commons Foreign Affairs and Scottish Affairs committees – or almost a billion pounds a year, as claimed by Mr Cochrane in the Telegraph, the reality is very different. As we’ve seen, the equivalent of MI5 and the domestic side of GCHQ in Denmark costs less than £100m a year and our guesstimate for an MI5 equivalent alone, based on Sweden’s Säpo, was around £50m.

If we were to use New Zealand as our yardstick, we might come up with even lower numbers, something a little over £42m. To use a Cochraneism, this is the kind of money that the Finance Secretary finds down the backs of the chairs at budget time. Spending 20 times as much to protect Scotland from terrorism seems like something of an overkill. We can only hope that when the time comes, the Scottish Government does its research a little more carefully than Alan Cochrane.


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    58 to “The King’s shilling”

    1. Ah huvtae say, yer a brave lad fir readin wee Cocks.

    2. Silverytay says:

      Anything to try and prove that we are to wee ‘ to poor and to stupid to run our own affairs ‘ even david cameron admits that an independent Scotland would be able to make its own way in the world .  How much longer are we expected to put up with these lies and scare stories that are coming at us on a daily basis from what are nothing more than propaganda mouthpieces for the british state .

    3. ianbrotherhood says:

      Who’s the dude in the picture? Doesn’t look too happy, maybe because he can’t afford a decent suit – that’s a John Colliers special he’s got on.

    4. Tris says:

      I see that no comments are allowed on the story, presumably because someone might point out the massive error, in what can only be described as atrocious journalism.

    5. Ghengis says:

      I wonder how much we currently spend for the UK intelligence services? Too much I imagine especially as they are probably beavering away in the interests of maintaining the rotten UK, against the interests of ordinary people in Scotland.

    6. Jeannie says:

      Great article, Angus.

    7. Vronsky says:

      Dunno about the John Collier suit, but he’s wearing one of those little enamel flag badges on his lapel.  They are now all but compulsory for American politicians, like poppies at the BBC.  A little enamel flag badge on a politician’s lapel is very bad sign and I hope we never see them here.

    8. Marian says:

      Its not quantity that counts but quality and the Swedish intelligence services have a first class reputation honed over decades of knowing who their real enemies are.
      Contrast that with the UK blunders over Iraq’s non-existant Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    9. Marcia says:

      The SNP have been well and truly spied on over the years:

    10. EdinScot says:

      Well spotted Rev.  And to think the likes of Cochers et al want to lecture us and rely on them for economic forecasts for a future independent Scotland.  No wonder his article is closed for comments as he is completely skewered.  As Queen used to sing, another one bites the dust!  This is why you are worth every one of our pennies and more.

    11. Gayle says:

      Oh gosh, you’d think he’d have read that wee bit of info more carefully before referencing it.

    12. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “Well spotted Rev.”

      Man, bylines really are invisible on this WordPress theme, aren’t they?


    13. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “Who’s the dude in the picture?”

      As per the caption, he’s King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden.

    14. iain says:

      He’s Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, obviously showing admirable Scandinavian solidarity with the plebs in his high street suit.

      edit: dagnabbit!

    15. Silverytay says:

      O/T  The b.b.c are allowing comments on the david cameron story of why we are better together . It could do with a few of you correcting the usual doom mongers right .

    16. frankieboy says:

        I find it incredible that Cochrane can mock whenever anybody from the Independent camp draw comparison with anything Scandinavian. Next he will be writing articles about interior design citing the IKEA catalogue. Remember, prices shown could be in euros and don’t forget the meatballs! 

    17. Stevie Mach says:

      er, don’t we already have our own swivel-eyed cybernats that could be press-ganged into our own security services. Apart from some ninja training and some nightvision googles that might cost a few quid, we’d save a fortune using expertise we already possess?

    18. Angus McLellan says:

      Today’s Sunday Times has a rather pointless article entitled “Scottish SAS ‘after independence'”. But buried among the rentaquotes there is this fascinating little section:

      A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “The brave men and women who form our special forces have built up tremendous skills and expertise and Scotland already gets a fantastic service from them — why would we want to set up our own? It is this sort of expensive and pointless duplication that undermines the Nationalists’ case for breaking up Britain. Scotland will always be stronger and more secure as part of the United Kingdom.”

      Expensive and pointless duplication? Like with the legal system, or the NHS, or anything else that Holyrood (and before it, the Scottish Office) controls? A resounding endorsement of the principle of devolution which the overwhelming majority of Scots favour by that anonymous SLAB spokesman there.

      I had thought that SLAB anti-devo folks would have all died off or retired or become devolutionists by now. Apparently not.

    19. iain says:

      @Stevie Mach
      ‘don’t we already have our own swivel-eyed cybernats that could be press-ganged into our own security services.’
      Ah, but for the true swivel-eyed cybernat, these boys may actually be agents provocateur so we might be clutching vipers to our bosoms.
      It’s all very confusing.

    20. Rended up Rev, 
      No caption shows. I am viewing on an ipad, could that be anything to do with it?

    21. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      Yeah, as far as I know there’s no way of seeing captions on mobile devices (as there’s no way of “hovering” a mouse pointer over them), which is irritating.

    22. Supposed to be ‘Reved up Rev’, not Rended. Sounded like a threat to have him rendered. All the result of fat fingers on an ipad key pad.

    23. KOF says:

      I had a wee google to see if I could find how much is already spent in the UK intelligence services. I found this article from The Telegraph in 2010.
      It put the cost at £2 billion, which would mean we already contribute around £180 million (ish?).
      I’d say even £80 million was a bargain.

    24. Colin Dunn says:

      >>“Who’s the dude in the picture?”
      > As per the caption, he’s King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden.

      Maybe he’s using a tablet? No caption visible on an iPad. 

    25. Barontorc says:

      Well done KOF – bugger! Found out again! Time for his cocoa.

    26. Amanayeman says:

      Whenever you see an article or comment or statement which diminishes Scotland or it’s ability to run it’s own affairs think on the following and why it is done becomes a little clearer.

      “Deprive the people of their national consciousness, treat them as a tribe, dilute their national pride, do not teach their history, propagate their language as inferior, imply they have a cultural void, emphasise their customs are primitive and dismiss independence as a barbaric anomaly”

      Do these comments ring a bell with anyone?

      Who said them? Reinhard Heydrich, Nazi Leader, styled Protector of Czechoslovakia.

    27. JLT says:

      Reinhard Heydrich, Nazi Leader, styled Protector of Czechoslovakia.
      And we all know what happened to him and his great cause…

    28. rapid says:

      The estimated costs for the new home of SOCAs at Gartcosh should be in public record and would be a similar, perhaps slightly lower, indication of costs for a small 500-750 officer force.  I.e. 10% of current UK.  I can’t find it on google but it was discussed in 2006ish.

    29. JLT says:

      Iain MacWhirter said a line in his column in the Herald today, that basically admits that the Yes campaign really do have a fight on their hands with the mainstream media. He said, and I quote…
      But the SNP had better get used to it, because it’ll be like this all the way to October 2014. The Scottish press’s flirtation with the SNP following the 2011 campaign is over. The year 2014 is going to be more like 1999, when the party were monstered by the Scottish press and ended up having to print their own paper in desperation.
      The key word here is ‘monstered’. It is almost an admission by the Scottish and UK media that it will come after the Yes campaign at every turn, and whether it is the truth or not; it will hammer the Yes campaign until the day of the referendum.
      I find this partial admission disturbing to be quite honest. At times, I think the likes of Iain MacWhirter and Ian Bell of the Herald seem to sway to the side of the Yes campaign. They are about the only two journalists at the Herald that I have a respect for. I do not believe these two men, deep down, are going to lie about the truth. 
      I think they do try to stay impartial when writing their respective pieces. I also believe, if the reins were allowed to be taken off them by their paymasters, I think they would tell it as it really is. This goes back to one of the Rev’s blogs only 2 or 3 weeks ago when we debated as to which journalist would jump first after being made pig-sick with all the lie-telling, and I believe these 2 gentlemen could be one of the first.
      But back to what Iain said; check the ‘Comments’ section to read his article. He definitely admits that the SNP and the Yes campaign are in for a rough ride with the media down to the Autumn of 2014 (that means there will be no let up on the lie-telling), but at the same time, it seems he almost ‘hopes’ that the No campaign continue to score own-goals, and thus deliver a Yes victory.
      I don’t know what others think, but I do believe, that not all of the journalists out there, are against the Yes campaign.

    30. BillyBigbaws says:

      @ Angus McLellan,
      We must accept the fact that an independent Scotland could not find the people to staff it’s own SAS in this tiny benighted country, despite the fact that the current SAS was founded by a Scot, and at one time the SAS consisted of 75% Scots-born personnel (according to Eddie Stone).

      It’s just another example of how we are uniquely crap among all the nations of the world.  I wonder why the UK and US are always trying to get the New Zealand Special Forces on board for their military adventures?  Oh yeah.  It’s because they’re internationally recognised as being among the best in the world, and have a US Presidential Citation to that effect.

      These insults (they can’t even be counted as scare stories any more, due to the lack of effort that goes into them) are getting really grating.

    31. Angus McLellan says:

      @KOF: The Single Intelligence Account budget is here: Your number is about right.

      But that name is misleading. The Single Intelligence Account isn’t. It does not include Special Branch, or the Met’s SO15 (Counter-Terrorism Command) or however much of the army’s Intelligence Corps (strength 1500 regulars) is relevant. And there may be more things which I haven’t even thought of.

    32. JLT says:

      Been on the BBC website with the Cameron statement about independence. It is going like a train, seriously (over a 1000 comments).
      The one sad thing is that half the comments from down south are the usual knuckle dragging variety. If we were anything but Scots, the website would be shut down for over-riding and blatant racism. Seriously, the BBC would have a new scandal on its hands. But when it comes to the Scots …’hey, continue to batter into them as usual’
      I’m seeing the same daft arguments – too wee, too stupid, too poor, we subsidise Scotland, we subsidise Scottish students, we subsidise this, we subsidise that!!
      This has two outcomes; the lies, abuse and growing hatred amongst some will increase, or Cameron and Salmond will need to step in and slap the media down. What I fear is, if it is a No vote, then it will be 1979 all over again, with a Tory-UKIP coalition that will hammer the Scots for ever daring to stand up to the establishment.

    33. Rod Mac says:

      This is my biggest worry if there is a NO Vote , Westminster and the British Establishment will come looking for revenge for daring to threaten them.
      A law will be passed by Westminster forbidding Holyrood from ever again questioning its primacy.

    34. KOF says:

      @Angus McLellan
      I’m quite sure there will be other bits and pieces to fund an intelligence network. However, I don’t think we’ll need anything like the scope of the current UK intelligence services. I mean we wouldn’t be trying to keep the remnants of a global empire together, we’d (surely?) only need a service which primarily is about keeping our own secrets first, protecting our borders and interests, not spying on the countries of half the world for reasons of global political puffery.

    35. muttley79 says:

      To be honest I found what McWhirter said about the referendum and the 1999 Scottish elections refreshing.   He was just being honest and lets face it, many of us I think know what is in store.  There has always been a bias against the SNP and independence in the media in Scotland.  I believe that the misinformation campaign started shortly after the 2011 elections, although the result stunned the media and the unionists for quite some time.  If you recall the run up to the council elections last year the media ran sustained coverage about the SNP and Murdoch.  This was just an indication of what is to come.  I believe that the media and the No campaign will virtually become one and the same thing, particuarly towards the final few months of the referendum.  The Sun newspaper in Scotland’s coverage, and opinion, on the referendum may well be significant.  I think the reason the Scottish Labour leadership were so angry last year was because they understand the implications of Murdoch’s potential support for independence.  I think NI have about 5,000-6,000 workers in Scotland.  I would find it hard to believe that they either do not have, or could not gain, information that would put unbearable pressures on the unionist core of Scottish Labour.     

    36. Macart says:

      Anyone think that Cochers will retract or apologize for the poor article or research ………………………………………………………………….????
      Right, ah’ll get ma coat.

    37. DougtheDug says:

      I had a quick look on Wikipedia on France’s Intelligence service costs. 
      For the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure which is the French equivalent of MI6 it costs them €592.70 (£500.57) Million
      For the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur which is the French equivalent of MI5 it costs them  €41.00  (£34.63) Million
      Total cost  €633.70 (£535.20) Million
      Adust for population  and Scotland’s total cost would be  €50.98 (£43.05) Million for an equivalent service.

    38. Jeannie says:

      How likely is it that only two major journalists in the whole of Scotland are persuaded of the benefits of voting for independence, when said benefits are so inarguably self-evident?  Are all the others absolutely convinced we’re better together?  I find that hard to believe.  So why are they willing to write so many utterly ridiculous articles?  It seems clear that in many instances it’s a case of the piper calling the tune.  And although it’s already a problem right now, I think it will be of even more significance in the future because the unionist paymasters are likely to pay for increasing amounts of free-lance, anti-independence articles in the run-up to the referendum – journalistic guns-for-hire, so to speak, motivated by a need for cash and the opportunity to establish a reputation.
      It’s hard to see a way around this, but I think Stu’s idea of inviting guest writers is a good one – new pro-indy journalists can be “brought on” and paid and can hone their skills over the next 18 months writing in support of independence.  We’re going to need all the help we can get. 
      And then there’s polling.  I was looking at the Angus Reid Poll on Lallands Peat Worrier’s site, which was analysing the results of the polling on whether people believed they would be better or worse off financially under independence or whether it would make no difference.  What I’d like to see is a similar poll asking the same question but in the context of remaining in the union.  It’s not just balanced journalism we need, it’s balanced polling.

    39. ianbrotherhood says:

      @JLT (4.57)
      ‘The year 2014 is going to be more like 1999, when the party were monstered by the Scottish press and ended up having to print their own paper in desperation.’
      What McWhirter isn’t addressing is the presence of this and other sites which are diligently monitoring MSM behaviour, and our collective ability to contest their preferred narrative. Aye, we did have a wee laugh wondering who might be first to tear off their shirt and start screaming ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!’. Whatever benefits these people enjoy as ‘professional’ journalists has to weighed against their desire to be perceived as honourable, truthful human beings. Presumably, McWhirter is above the kind of ‘monstering’ he envisages, in which case he and others who feel likewise can’t continue to draw salaries from such rotten institutions. (Poor wee sowels, facing such hefty ethical dilemmas…bless.)
      One of them – at some point -has to make a stand. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the Green Room at Pacific Quay…the atmosphere must be about as cheerful as a vasectomy waiting-room.

    40. muttley79 says:

      Which two major journalists were you thinking about?  I think only Ian Bell is a stick on, definite Yes.  There are others who I think lean, or are leaning towards Yes.  Lesley Riddoch, Ian McWhirter, Kevin McKenna, Joyce McMillan, Gerry Hassan etc.

    41. Jeannie says:

      @Muttley 79
      My own opinion would be Ian Bell and possibly Ian McWhirter or Lesley Riddoch, but I was actually just referring to Bell and McWhirter in the post as others had referred to them before. I remain sceptical with respect to all others except for the legendary Tom Shields. I’m sure he’s pro-indy, but not usually a political journalist.  Maybe Robert MacNeil too?

    42. muttley79 says:

      I am still not sure about McWhirter.  I think at heart he is a UK federalist but knows that is never going to happen now.

    43. Jeannie says:

      I’d tend to agree with that.

    44. Silverytay says:

      JLT  While we had the usual knuckle dusters on the bbc cameron story there was 1 refreshing thing about the story and that was the fact that they left up all the links to newsnetscotland . If there had been any undecided voters looking in hoping to find out any facts there was enough links to make them think about the lies the media have been spreading .  If we get one convert from these links and they then go on to tell their friends then all the abuse we had to put up with would have been worth it .

    45. deewal says:

      The BBC even showed thursday’s Question Time on BBC PARLIAMENT at 6pm tonight. Since when has a show which is a Category Discussion/Debate featuring comedians and talk show hosts and an Audience been anything to do with Parliament ?

    46. Angus McLellan says:

      @muttley @Jeannie: On BBC Radio Scotland Headlines this morning, the punditry (led  by Kevin McKenna) were wondering out loud whether the Sunday Herald would be the first broadsheet paper to endorse Yes. The programme is here: Not going to tell you where that section starts though because there are several interesting discussions in there that you’d miss if you didn’t listen to it all.

    47. Albalha says:

      For the BBC Ken McDonald has to be a YES

    48. Jeannie says:

      @Angus McLellan
      Thanks for that, Angus. I’ll have a wee listen to it later. It baffles me, though, as the Herald and Sunday Herald have the same owner.  If they’re giving out different messages, I’m wondering what’s going on.

    49. Jeannie says:

      Actually, it has crossed my mind on occasion that John MacKay of STV might be a Yes.  I was watching him interviewing someone from the Yes side – might’ve been Blair Jenkins – and the camera kept filming John from behind.  What was interesting was that John appeared to be nodding affirmatively a lot in response to the interviewee, quite possibly unconsciously. It just made me think.

    50. mato21 says:


      QT has been shown at this time on the Parliament programme for a long time   

    51. velofello says:

      I attended a discussion on the media at the Scottish Parliament. ian McWhirter was a participant, I’d mark him down as a Yes. Ian Bell has already declared himself as a Yes. Gerry Hassan just needs to untangle his verbosity a wee bit, he’s nearly there.
      Now if we raise enough money for Rev Stu then there could be the prospect of Rev Stu commissioning articles from these journalists. Gerry Hassan articles do appear on NNS.
      Oddly Ian Bell never seems to make it on to a BBC couch. Hassan and McWhirter are regulars. Would pro Indy articles cause them to lose their BBC invitations?
      A kernel of an idea, commission a pro Indy article by BBC regular Prof. Curtice – if that ensures that would be the last we would see/hear of him on BBC.

    52. Jeannie says:

      No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ian Bell on tv either, whether he’s not asked or refuses, I don’t know.  But I can’t get over some of the folk they DO interview on tv, such as Simon Pia, and I’ve noticed a few female journalists on from time to time that I’ve never heard of.  I’m still trying to figure out what the point is in having mediocre journalists talking to other mediocre journalists, as if their opinions were in some way important.
      It’s better, as you say, that we keep raising money for Stu’s site and maybe find a way to attract and support independence-supporting writers and journalists.  Maybe we could have a competition for new, young journalists to write a good, pro-indy article.  It would mean they’d have to do their own research into the issues and become more aware of the arguments. It might also attract a younger audience onto the blog as a counter-balance to some of us oldies. Also, the younger ones have their own mysterious ways of communicating what they’ve learned to friends in the same age group, that we’d have more difficulty reaching.  Just a thought.

    53. Dennis Smith says:

      On Ian Bell, people shouldn’t rush to see a conspiracy.  I’ve heard him speak in public and he has a slight stammer – nothing severe but maybe a hindrance on radio or TV.  Having a stammer myself, I can imagine he might not be keen on the stress of public speaking.

    54. Jeannie says:

      That’s good to know, Dennis.

    55. Craig P says:

      Robert MacNeill is a stick on for indy.
      Another pro-indy journalist is Robbie Dinwoodie.
      There are certainly pro-indy journalists out there, but as Murray Ritchie wrote a few years ago, being so openly has been a career limiting move for journalists in Scotland for a long time (the opposite is not true of course).

    56. Chic McGregor says:

      As Murray Ritchie, long since ex-political editor of the Herald said after he retired, even then political coercion vis a vis advertising revenue allocation etc. was manifest and that any journalist who treated the independence movement fairly was likely to find life becoming “unusually complicated” – a beautifully coined euphemism which conveys it all.
      And that was back in the day before project ‘U-takeover of the media’ was complete.

    57. Craig P says:

      Chic mac – I have been trying to find that article online to no avail, do you have a link? I remember reading it and it being one of the first wake up calls into media bias. Would like to see it again. 

    58. Alan Gerrish says:

      Chic McGregor says:
      10 February, 2013 at 11:53 pm

      As Murray Ritchie, long since ex-political editor of the Herald said after he retired, even then political coercion vis a vis advertising revenue allocation etc. was manifest and that any journalist who treated the independence movement fairly was likely to find life becoming “unusually complicated” 
      I think the stakes for the Beeb and MSM are even higher now given the seriousness of the Referendum, and it can’t be easy for journalists, particularly if they are of a YES persuasion to do or say anything which would compromise them with their employer. It’s one thing for freelancers like Macwhirter to suggest they might be in favour, albeit indirectly,of independence,  but where does a younger journalist go if relationships with management break down as alternative employment is probably impossible to find.  So I don’t think we can count on several YES-supporting journalists suddenly “coming out” and boosting the cause. However, the idea of commissioning an article from someone who has  retired, such as Murray if he were amenable, and getting then to tell it as it is/was might do a lot to blow the whistle on the institutionalised bias existing in the BBC and MSM and the pressure put on staff to write accordingly.

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