AFTER almost a decade in power at Holyrood, the SNP is the dominant force in Scottish politics and has growing influence at both Westminster and on the wider international stage.For the majority of the new supporters who have flocked to the party in recent years, the Nationalists represent a shining beacon of progressive, forward-thinking democracy. However, these new converts to the cause would no doubt be shocked by the SNP's historic links to Adolf Hitler, Fascism and the Nazis both before and during Second World War. Rather embarrassingly for current leader Nicola Sturgeon, the details are laid bare in a major new political anthology called Scottish National Party Leaders.Featuring pen portraits by leading academics and writers of all the people who have stood at the helm of the SNP during its tumultous 88-year history, this heavyweight tome has been described as "remarkable", "compelling" and "long overdue". Former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill even enthused: "A fascinating backdrop to the interesting political times Scotland now faces and the characters that lived the dream that has never died." One of these "characters" is founder member Andrew Dewar Gibb, who became the second chairman of the party in 1934 and frequently quoted Hitler in his public speeches.This chapter is written by the historian Dr Catriona Macdonald, of Glasgow University, who states: "Gibb was clearly sympathetic to Nazism as a bulwark against communism (or at least as the lesser of two evils), and shared its anti-Semitic anxieties, even if he did not support its approach to dealing with them." Although Gibb gave his backing to Winston Churchill when war was declared, he admitted in his diary "I don't care who wins" and offered to resign at a party meeting in Edinburgh, saying he "made no secret of my distinct Fascist leanings". He was replaced by the journalist William Power, who had previously argued that the "overthrow of Hitlerism" was "not legitimate", before he in turn was replaced by the socialist firebrand Douglas Young.Young was strongly opposed to the war and led the campaign against conscription on the basis that Westminster had no legal right to order Scots into battle. This stance saw him jailed after a sensational trial and he began his leadership of the party from behind bars. Another historian, Dr Gordon Pentland of Edinburgh University, describes a "dark side to Young's nationalism", illustrated by articles such as "Scotland and the New World Order" and "Quislings in Scotland". Discussing the war against Hitler's Germany, Young once wrote: "The SNP must not be thirled to democracy in case democracy should be the wrong camp."He stood down when the party ruled he could not continue to be a member of both Labour and the SNP, to be replaced by Bruce Watson, a chemist at Aberdeen University. His son, Roderick Watson, recalls the family home being raided in 1941 by MI5 officers looking for "subversive literature and weapons", although they left empty handed. Further raids carried out by the police in the same year led to Arthur Donaldson, who went on to become SNP chairman in 1957. Officers found five revolvers, ammunition, Fascist material and a letter to Nazi secret agent Dr Gerhard von Taverner, leading to Donaldson being imprisoned as a potential collaborator. According to MI5 files, Donaldson believed that Scotland should make a deal with Hitler as England would be "completely crushed" by the Nazis, although author Ewen Angus Cameron claims this "looks more like hearsay". Cameron writes: "Nevertheless, Arthur Donaldson's own writing illustrated that he had no loyalty to the British state. In 1942, he commenced a pamphlet by describing three possible outcomes to the war: defeat, victory or negotiated stalemate. "He believed that any of the three would leave Scotland in a better position than the slide towards exploited colony that he regarded the pre-war years as having been. He clearly had no grasp of what a Nazi occupation would have looked like and consequently held both sides in the war in equal contempt."For Donaldson, the British Empire was certainly not a force for good." The British Empire may not have always been a force for good but, unlike Hitler's Third Reich which so enamoured some early SNP leaders, at least it was not a force for unadulterated evil.
Scottish National Party Leaders, edited by James Mitchell and Gerry Hassan, is out now from Biteback priced £25.