The Scotsman 7 March 2007
Special Branch to badge up after campus spying claims
KEVIN SCHOFIELD EDUCATION CORRESPONDENT
SPECIAL Branch officers last night said they would wear badges identifying themselves if they visit a university campus in future, after they were accused of “spying” on students.
Craig Murray, the former diplomat who last month succeeded TV personality Lorraine Kelly as rector of Dundee University, said he had been “appalled” to learn that members of Special Branch had attended the university’s student freshers’ fair last year. Mr Murray, 48, claimed that the officers, who were members of Tayside Police’s community contact unit (CCU), had been taking down the names of students who signed up to support the “Stop the War” movement – a claim the force has strenuously denied.
Mr Murray, who left the Foreign Office three years ago after alleging that the United States and Britain were involved in torture in Uzbekistan, said: “I was approached by students at Dundee who told me that Special Branch were on the campus spying on Muslim students. “They were at the fresher’s fair taking notes of those who joined the Stop the War movement. That seemed appalling to me. I began to wonder what I could do about it, so I decided to stand for rector.” Mr Murray defeated former Scotland rugby captain Andy Nicol last month in a two-horse election race to succeed Ms Kelly as the university’s rector.
Detective Chief Superintendent Angela Wilson, who has overall responsibility for the CCU, last night denied that students’ names had been taken down and insisted Special Branch officers would identify themselves more clearly in future. She said: “I’m not aware of names being taken down. They were handed leaflets and the person who handed them out said that if they’d known who they were, they wouldn’t have done it. “Our policy has always been to be very open about these things and they didn’t disguise who they were. But in future, they would wear a badge identifying themselves. “And if people were uncomfortable with them being there, all they would have to do is ask them to leave and they will.”
Det Chief Supt Wilson added: “Having been made aware that Mr Murray may have these views, should he have any continuing concerns, I’m more than happy to meet with him. But I haven’t been approached as yet.” The CCU was established in the wake of the terrorist bombings in London on 7 July, 2005 to provide information on potential extremism. The Muslim Association of Britain has claimed that the unit has contributed to a deterioration in relations between the police and the Islamic community. The force, however, insists that they have actually created closer community links.
Ambassador who attacked ‘selling of souls’
CRAIG Murray was appointed the British ambassador to Uzbekistan in 2002. While serving as ambassador, Mr Murray protested that intelligence on Islamic terror suspects in the landlocked country was being gained through torture. He branded the practice unreliable, immoral and illegal and accused the British government of “selling our souls for dross”. The story of his time in Uzbekistan is set to be turned into a film, with comic Steve Coogan signed up to play the lead role. Angelina Jolie is set to play Nadira, a young Uzbek hairdresser with whom Mr Murray admits having an affair, costing him his marriage. He has also criticised extraordinary rendition – the CIA practice of flying terrorism suspects to countries in Asia and other parts of the world for interrogation.