||The Scottish National Liberation Army was, and still is, a very small violent Scottish nationalist movement with the aim of establishing an independent Scottish Republic. From their inception in 1980 they knew how to make the headlines of the newspapers through an insistent campaign of letter bombs to important figures like Lady Diana, Margaret Thatcher and even the queen. They planned bomb hoaxes and were even responsible for some actual bombings. Somehow they were, however, never really (visibly) taken seriously by the media or the authorities. And that might just be one of the reasons why they did not become a large terrorist movement.
The aim of this study is to contribute to wider terrorism research by looking at the factors that kept the SNLA from becoming a large terrorist movement. By figuring out what kept the SNLA from becoming the Scottish equivalent of, for example, the IRA we might be able to recreate these conditions and policies in our societies today and reduce the number of people joining such a movement resulting in the gradual decline of terrorist movements.
Beatrice de Graaf’s theory on performative power proved to be of crucial importance to answer the research question of this paper: Why did the Scottish National Liberation Army not become a large terrorist movement during the years 1979-1997? By building on a firm theoretical framework of new and proven terrorism research and investigating newspaper articles and parliamentary debates from that period for anything relating to the SNLA this study has come to the conclusion that one of the major factors that contributed to the SNLA remaining a small and obscure movement was (1) the low performative power of the British Government.
By publically ignoring the SNLA and letting the infiltration be done by local authorities and intelligence agencies thus not involving the public in the terrorism discourse, the British government minimised the performative power and thus the influence of the movement. Other factors were; (2) the way the media reported the actions of the SNLA, which was usually with disdain; (3) errors from within the SNLA itself, like failed attacks or other actions and; (4) there were other alternatives for the SNLA, movements like the trade union or political parties which were more successful at achieving the same goals as the SNLA but through legal means.
On this basis it is recommended for future counterterrorism policies to keep the performative power of the government as low as possible and to keep an open dialogue with and invest in the alienated and marginalised groups of society. Providing them with other alternatives for terrorism.