Scottish Politics in Crisis as Craig Murray Testifies on ‘Plot’ Against Alex Salmond

The former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan has testified about an alleged plot from SNP insiders against the former first minister Alex Salmond, an allegation that is rocking Scottish politics, reports Joe Lauria.

Bute House, official residence of First Minister of Scotland (Kim Traynor/Wikimedia Commons)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

A political scandal is rocking Scotland. Pressure is mounting on Scotland’s first minister as a government inquiry deepens into an alleged plot by Scottish National Party (SNP) insiders against the former First Minister Alex Salmond, details of which were claimed in a sworn affidavit by former British diplomat Craig Murray released after his contempt of court trial last month.

A cross-party inquiry is looking into whether SNP officials, including possibly First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, conspired to arrange anonymous civil servants to level sexual assault and attempted rape charges against Sturgeon’s political rival Salmond, who was ultimately acquitted of 13 sex charges in March 2020.

The trial against Salmond went ahead even though the Scottish High Court had found that the government had abused the process after the lead investigator had prior contact with Salmond accusers. Sturgeon is also being investigated for allegedly lying to Parliament about the case.

Salmond has accused Sturgeon of being part of the conspiracy against him. Her spokeswoman accused Salmond of “spinning false conspiracy theories” to deflect attention from the accusations, even after he was acquitted.  Sturgeon said: “I have faced accusations of ‘conspiring’ against Alex Salmond and also of ‘colluding’ with him. I reject in the strongest possible terms both of these suggestions.” 

Last Monday a member of the Scottish parliament from Sturgeon’s SNP party told Sky News:

“There is one text message between two senior members of staff seeking to put pressure on one of the alleged victims who was expressing reluctance about proceeding and they discussed ways of getting her ‘back in the game.’ … This is nothing to do with the witnesses and the alleged victims, it is everything to do with internal SNP machinations.” 

Both Salmond and Sturgeon are set to testify at the inquiry, while Sturgeon’s husband, the party’s chief executive, twice refused to appear and has been compelled to testify on Monday. He will answer questions about text messages that he at first said did not exist.  

The strongest evidence so far pointing to a possible conspiracy against Salmond is contained in two sworn affidavits given by Murray in his contempt of court trial.  Murray has been charged with contempt of court for allegedly revealing the identity of an anonymous accuser indirectly; of writing about the exclusion of two jurors in violation of a court order and of allegedly prejudicing the case in Salmond’s favor. A judgement is pending following his one-day trial on Jan. 27.

Explosive Affidavits

Police Scotland headquarters on the River Clyde at Dalmarnock, Glasgow. (Alec MacKinnon/Wikipedia)

The strong political flavor of both the Salmond and Murray cases is laid out in the two affidavits Murray gave in his case, which he published the day after his trial, with no objection so far from prosecutors. Murray’s sworn testimony outlines a plot to silence himself and to apparently prevent Salmond from reentering politics.   

Murray’s affidavits, if true, expose deep corruption and collusion between the SNP, Crown prosecutors, Police Scotland and parts of the mainstream media.  

Citing unnamed, insider sources that he says were in a position to know, Murray testified under oath that the sex crimes allegations against Salmond were an orchestrated attempt to destroy Salmond’s political career by rivals inside the Scottish National Party. 

Murray testified that after reading of the allegations against Salmond in August 2018 he “made no attempt to discover the identity of the civil servant involved, but I did make strenuous efforts to discover who had leaked the story to the media.”  After conferring with his contacts he “discovered with a high degree of certainty that the leaker was Liz Lloyd, Chief of Staff to Nicola Sturgeon.” 

Murray testified that he called in an article for the sacking of two civil servants found in Salmond’s judicial review to have abused the process and that “if Nicola Sturgeon failed to act against them, it might indicate that she was herself involved in the campaign of false allegation against Alex Salmond.” 

After this article appeared Salmond asked to meet Murray at the George Hotel in Edinburgh. “Here, for the first time, he told me that Nicola Sturgeon had been behind the process designed to generate false accusations against him,” Murray testified.  He said that Salmon won his judicial review case because, “It was on the day that witnesses from Nicola Sturgeon’s private office were due to give evidence as to her own knowledge and involvement, that the Scottish Government suddenly conceded the case rather than have this evidence heard.” 

Murray went on: 

“Mr Salmond further told me that there was a massive police operation underway to try to get accusers to come forward against him. This was going to ludicrous lengths. He showed me an email from one woman to him, in which she stated that she had been called in and interviewed by the police because many years ago Alex Salmond had been said by another person to have been seen kissing her on the cheeks in a theatre foyer. The woman stated she had told them it was a perfectly normal greeting. She wished to warn Alex of the police fishing expedition against him. He understood that over 400 people had been interviewed by the police.”

Murray testified that he asked Salmond what the motive against him could be. “Alex replied that he did not know; perhaps it lay in King Lear. He said that he had genuinely intended to quit politics and had lined up a position as Chairman of Johnstone Press, which had fallen because of these allegations. But he had retired from the party leadership before, and then come back, and perhaps Nicola had concluded he needed a stake through the heart,” Murray said. 

Murray also testified that a source who had been present at a meeting with Sturgeon and some of her ministers told him that multiple charges had been brought against Salmond so that if just one conviction could be won Salmond would be destroyed as a sexual predator.

Armed with this information, Murray testified that he was faced with a dilemma. He wrote:

“To expose that it was Nicola Sturgeon who masterminded the conspiracy against him would be a real blow to the Independence movement. But to watch a plot to imprison an innocent man potentially for the rest of his life unfold before my eyes was also horrifying. Particularly as the most cynical part of the plot, to use the court anonymity granted to accusers of sexual abuse, to disguise who was actually behind the allegations, appeared to be working.”
Murray went on:
“The Crown can release salacious detail about attempted rape while lying naked on top of somebody in bed, and the media can echo this to the heavens. But from that moment, nobody can publish anything to contradict the Crown without being in contempt of court. It seemed to me that, in these circumstances, the Crown ought to have been a great deal more restrained in the amount of salacious detail it was making available. Certainly, there was nothing in what was happening which would contradict the information I had been given of the Crown Office being party to a political plot to destroy Salmond.”
Murray said he became knowledgeable of a meeting in which women were being pressured by SNP leaders to accuse Salmond.
“In or around March 2019, and from time to time over several months thereafter, I became aware of information tending to show that senior members of the SNP had sought improperly to involve themselves in the Salmond case. This included meeting with women to urge them to make or persevere with complaints to the police, coordination of complainers and their stories, liaison with the police over charges and attempts to persuade individuals other than the complainers to come forward as witnesses to allegations, which attempts were unsuccessful.” 

Murray’s Contempt Trial

High Court building in Edinburgh. (Scottish Courts and Tribunals.)

Murray’s attorney argued in a virtual Scottish court on Jan. 27 that prosecutors were on shaky ground  by waiting until after Salmond’s not guilty verdict to accuse Murray of prejudicing the case.

Murray is charged with contravening an order by the Crown prosecutors to stop writing about the matter. Representatives of the Crown say Murray was warned of this in January 2020 and in August 2020. 

Murray was charged in April 2020 with writing two articles on his website that led to the alleged prejudice in the Salmond case and to possible “jig-saw” identification, despite a court order of anonymity, of one of the women who alleged sexual assault against Salmond. The accusers’ identities were to remain anonymous by order of Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, who presided over both Salmond’s and Murray’s trials. 

The 1981 Contempt of Court Act applies to “a publication which creates a substantial risk that the course of justice in the proceedings in question will be seriously impeded or prejudiced.”  Murray faces up to two years in prison and could also be finedNo date for judgement day has been set.

The Crown alleged in the one-day trial on Jan. 27, conducted entirely online and observed by Consortium News, that identifying characteristics Murray provided in his articles could be pieced together to reveal the identity of one of Salmond’s nine accusers, all of whom on March 10, 2020 were ordered to remain anonymous.

The prosecutor, Alex Prentice QC, advocate depute for the Crown, told the court Murray’s writings, as well as reader comments on his site, allegedly led to a “risk of prejudice” in the Salmond case, even though he admitted prosecutors never warned the court until after the Salmond trial was over. Murray’s articles in question were published in August 2019 (“The Alex Salmond Fit-Up”) and in January 2020 (“Yes Minister Fan Fiction.”) 

Lady Dorrian, who is leading a tribunal in Murray’s case, asked Prentice why the court was not informed before Slamond’s trial of the possible prejudice by Murray’s writings. “If the Crown was of the view that these articles pose a substantial risk to the proceedings it seems strange that the Crown did not take any action at that time, or even bring it to court?” Dorrian asked.

“I accept that,” Prentice replied. “There were a number of considerations, but the Lady is right and I recognize that is a factor the court can take into account in assessing this.” 

Dorrian replied: “I understand that material written after the order may attract a certain shading in conjunction with an earlier article. My difficulty is that those earlier arguments could breach an order that wasn’t issued until March 10.”

“At the time it didn’t apply, but [the articles] are still available so they can be taken into account,” Prentice argued. 

Lady Dorrian also challenged that putting identifying characteristics of an unnamed accuser in a search engine would bring up different results over time. Prentice maintained that Murray’s writings must be seen together, not in isolation, acting as “magnet” to draw together “needles in a haystack” to identify the anonymous accuser.

Murray’s counsel, John Scott argued before the tribunal that Murray’s response to the Crown’s letter in March was to seek press accreditation to cover the Salmond case, which he was denied. Instead Murray relied on the reporting of other journalists to write analyses of the trial. Murray had redacted the names of the anonymous accusers, Scott argued. 

On the jig-saw matter, Scott said “it is clear that he was aware of the names of the complainers and his sworn evidence is he was aware of them before the court order, but that it would not be responsible journalism to name them. …If he had wanted to do what the Crown says he did he could have done so.”

On the issue of prejudicing the trial, Scott said that if the Crown was “worried about the case they ought to have brought this to the attention of the court. … It is too late after trial. …  They can’t wait to see how it developed and after acquittal then say there was prejudice.”

On the matter of the juror, Scott said Murray’s article only speculated on why the jurors were excluded and did not report the actual reasons. The Crown called Murray’s speculation  “bizarre and unfounded,” while at the same time saying it violated the prohibition on mentioning the actual “issues raised by the Advocate Depute” in support of removing the the jurors.

Accusers’ Identity

Murray’s attorney told the court that mainstream media had reported details of the accusers. The BBC reported, for instance, in April: “The women who made the allegations against Mr Salmond included an SNP politician, a party worker and several current and former Scottish government civil servants and officials.”  In his affidavit, Murray testified:

If they genuinely thought my article might influence a jury, given they were well aware of the article and wrote to me about it, the Crown Office had an obvious public duty to act before a trial to prevent that evil. I would have happily turned up in court and argued my case. To wait until long after the trial, after it is far too late to avert the evil they purport to be concerned about, and then make that allegation against me, is plainly pointless and vindictive and, again, sinister.

It appears that Murray may have been a Crown target for the contempt charge because he was among few writers defending Salmond and was vindicated by Salmond’s acquittal. Murray’s writings and his affidavits also revealed the troubling evidence of a conspiracy against Salmond, possibly including Scotland’s top political leader. 

Thorn in Their Side

 

Murray has been a thorn in the Establishment’s side since he blew the whistle on Britain’s acquiescence of torture in Uzbekistan in 2002. He later testified about it to a parliamentary committee, a portion of which is in the video above.

Since then, Murray has been a fierce advocate for his friend Julian Assange, the imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher, whom the United States is trying to extradite from Britain.  Murray is also a strong supporter of Scottish independence, which the British establishment vehemently opposes. 

As his testimony shows, he is a rare pro-Salmond journalist. And he testified under oath about details of the alleged plot against Salmond. All these reasons may explain why Scottish prosecutors have gone after him. 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe  

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8 comments for “Scottish Politics in Crisis as Craig Murray Testifies on ‘Plot’ Against Alex Salmond

  1. pogopat
    February 8, 2021 at 14:55

    The general indy movement is in denial mode. Truth tellers are always thrown to the wolves and people like Craig Murray along with others are now demonised as ‘Agents of the Union’ I’m gutted, and now the quandry of who to vote for in the Scottish elections later this year. It was easy for me to say to my dear American friend that voting for the lesser evil in Biden was not the way to go (with the threat of Trump getting back in looming). Do I really want an independent Scotland shaped by a party I no longer trust.

  2. February 8, 2021 at 13:28

    A fine, clear, concise, and accurate account of the attempted “stich-up” against Murray, Joe. I read Murray’s affidavits quite closely earlier and they too seem to establish the embarrassing poverty of the case against him very convincingly. I have little doubt that Murray will be acquitted of all the clearly politically motivated and malice suffused charges against him.

    That said, the trial also raises important questions about the direction of juridical procedures today, and hardly only in Scotland. Just as in the long, if ultimately futile, Mueller investigation of the Dem/security state’s long litany of accusations of “collusion” between the 2016 Trump campaign and alleged Russian government actors, just as in the recent Assange extradition hearings at Old Bailey, where the prosecution altered its charges so frequently as to reveal that they had no idea themselves what it was exactly that Assange had done which constituted some vague and tenuous form of criminal “espionage,” worthy of torturing him for an addition 165 years of solitary confinement, and just as in so many of the still ongoing #MeToo sexual harassment trials on both sides of the Atlantic, we can detect a major, and hardly salutary, shift in the most basic juridical procedures permissible and even embraced in initiating and litigating criminal cases.

    What all of these cases, and many others which also pop to mind, have in common is that it is now quite acceptable for the prosecuting parties to ignore the older and standard requirement to provide demonstrated evidence that the specified crime actually occurred, rather than being allowed to pass off all manner of “hearsay” claims, maliciously-motivated accusations, pseudo-corroborations, and, increasingly, patently fallacious arguments, in an attempt to sway a judge or jury to be emotionally moved to convict, instead of actually undertaking the traditional legal burden of proof to establish the defendant’s guilt, under the precise statute specified in the prosecution’s indictment, — and no other introduced ad hoc in the hopes that it might stick where the others haven’t, — “beyond all reasonable doubt.”

    This opening of the process to all manner of other circumstantial and hearsay claims, however numerous, and perhaps even forceful, is responsible for the spurious conviction of ever more innocent victims of prosecutorial zeal, even when that zeal may be motivated by a strong desire to ameliorate perceived social ills, as, say, is most evident in the many successful sexual harassment convictions based upon little more than some tenuous chain of “she said, he said, she said, he did x” hearsay accusations based upon nothing more than an accuser’s highly fallible best remembrance of events which may have transpired 40 years earlier, based, that is, on nothing more than rewarmed rumors amassed in order to bolster, for whatever suspect reason, an ulterior motive to bring the accused to trial and see them punished by the state, especially in those trials where the case out never to have been brought to, and, a fortiori, never permitted by the court in the first place but rather rejected at once for providing no plausible factual evidence of criminal behavior.

  3. evelync
    February 8, 2021 at 12:14

    Hmmm…..
    Here’s a conspiracy theory that comes from my years and years of reading about this kinda thing.
    Let’s be generous and say this conspiracy theory has a 5% chance of having had any role in this sad “scandal”.
    Even if it’s nonsense, given what I’ve read about deep state vicious plots to manipulate the public to vote against their own interests I can’t help my nagging curiosity…..

    I knew nothing about this political war in Scotland till I read about it today on CN and then just read this BBC piece on it: bbc DOT com/news/uk-politics-55738179

    My question was why would a successor PM with a supposedly friendly relationship with her predecessor in the same PARTY want to falsely accuse that predecessor of wrongdoing? Especially if her predecessor was getting ready to retire? What good could it do for anyone, especially if the accusations were false?
    – Unless those accusations were based on evidence that was so convincing that they were believed to be true ?
    And the political pressure to come out ahead of the “scandal” was overwhelming ?

    Could this have had anything to do with it?:
    “Scotland hopes to rejoin the EU as an independent nation”
    Saturday, 02 January 2021
    brusselstimes DOT com/news/147867/scotland-hopes-to-rejoin-the-eu-as-an-independent-nation/

    So the obvious even if unlikely “theory” is – did the “deep state” uncover real or perhaps “concoct” false evidence to whip up a scandal that was so explosive that the bait was taken and the charges filed?

    And now, if those charges are proven false, will the damage have been done? discrediting the leader of the SNP?
    Won’t the public have lost confidence in their current leadership?
    Might that not scuttle the vote for independence?

    A simple divide and conquer maneuver? The “division” being the current war between two trusted leaders who had been considered allies?

    I would understand if CN refuses to publish this comment because Robert Parry risked everything and spent years finding the evidence to prove whatever he was willing to publish.
    And a comment like this might reasonably be seen as flying in the face of everything he stood for, given that he was a man of great courage and integrity.
    Thanks…as an editor I’d probably be reluctant to publish this too…..

    • pogopat
      February 9, 2021 at 13:21

      “My question was why would a successor PM with a supposedly friendly relationship with her predecessor in the same PARTY want to falsely accuse that predecessor of wrongdoing? Especially if her predecessor was getting ready to retire? What good could it do for anyone, especially if the accusations were false?
      – Unless those accusations were based on evidence that was so convincing that they were believed to be true ?
      And the political pressure to come out ahead of the “scandal” was overwhelming ?”

      That friendly relationship changed after Sturgeon gained power with disagreements over the importance and speed of independence along with a couple of personal slights. It is surmised using the evidence available that the SNP leadership thought that Salmond was going to make a comeback and challenge Sturgeon. This had happened previously where Salmond came out of retirement to defeat John Swinney our current deputy first minister. Those in power like to keep it. It is not thought initially they wanted to go this far but that is the power of unintended consequences. The initial Scottish government inquiry if successful would have been enough to stop Salmonds political career but having being called out and losing they turned to the criminal courts. Somehow in our system the Lord Advocate is also on the Scottish government cabinet as a legal advisor. Ripe for corruption. In a government that thinks independence comes behind ‘wokeness’ then destroying Salmond politically whilst also having Scotlands ‘me too’ moment made perfect sense at the time. But now…no ones wins apart from the unionists and the establishment who are only too happy to help out.

  4. Ames Gilbert
    February 8, 2021 at 11:53

    Craig Murray is one of the few brave people willing to buck the establishment narrative, and do so consistently, at peril of his freedom. Fighting the U.K. government, with its basically unlimited resources, also takes money, so please support him financially as well as encouraging him. See how, at his blog.

    The same applies to Julian Assange. He not only needs moral encouragement, but his defense team needs money. They must confront not only the unlimited resources of the U.K. government, but that of the U.S. as well! Please also help his team cover their expenses.

    These two journalists are shining examples of what it truly means to be a real, effective journalist, and if their enemies prevail, it will make it far more difficult to expose the secrets and corruption of governments the world over.

  5. Antiwar7
    February 8, 2021 at 11:28

    Thanks a lot, Joe, for giving this important news the attention it deserves.

    Another reason I’m happy to support Consortium News.

  6. charles
    February 8, 2021 at 10:19

    It seems that now governments of the world have learned that they can build a case using rape as a major factor (trumped up). Assange has had that finally lifted off his case …one many of false allegations. Our world has turned into a sorry state of affairs.

  7. Johan Meyer
    February 8, 2021 at 10:02

    The fishing expedition described seems to be a scaled down version of Hillary Clinton’s campaign to achieve a fraudulent rape conviction against Jean Paul Akayesu. Except that that campaign succeeded. The book, Justice Belied, by John Philpot and Sébastien Chartrand (editors) is devoted to Akayesu.

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