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£25,000 Reward Offered for Copy of Geoff Aberdein Testimony 269

This website is offering a reward of £25,000 cash to help a public spirited whistleblower to come forward and reveal a copy of Geoff Aberdein’s evidence to the Sturgeon Inquiry, which the Committee of Crooks has refused to publish, accept or consider, because it categorically proves that Sturgeon lied to Parliament.

You work in the Crown Office. Did you really do all that studying and jump through all those hoops so you could aid and abet your ultra corrupt bosses in the fundamental suppression of both justice and democracy in Scotland? Did you never have any ideals of, at least, basic honesty when you started to work for the prosecutorial service?

Or you work for the Scottish Parliament. Did you never have a spring in your step at the thought you were enabling the democratic expression of the Scottish nation? As opposed to assisting the withholding of crucial information from both Parliament and from the Scottish people? Do you really want to be a part of making your parliament the most corrupted institution in Europe?

Set the truth free. Get to sleep easy at night again. Look your grandchildren in the eye one day when you advise them to live as honest people. As a whistleblower myself, I assure you there is life after whistleblowing, and our small reward will help you mitigate the risks or ease the transition to a more honest career. Release the testimony of Geoff Aberdein. You can reach me via the contact button top right.

Having published Alex Salmond’s redacted evidence yesterday, the Holyrood Parliament then redacted heavily a key part of it – the Submission on the Ministerial Code – and republished it in this redacted form. This has caused Alex Salmond to refuse to appear before the Committee. The point is that he would not be permitted to give evidence that touches on the redacted parts, and nor would any other witness. The committee would not be allowed in its final report to include information on the redacted parts.

Why does this matter? Because the redacted parts are nothing whatsoever to do with identification of Salmond’s false accusers (the corrupt Crown Office and SNP MSP’s excuse for blocking publication), but in truth are all about showing that Sturgeon lied to Parliament about when she first knew of the allegations against Salmond.

This is very easy proven, simply by publishing this now officially redacted submission in full, with the redactions outlined in bold.

Submission by Alex Salmond – Phase 4 – Ministerial Code

Introduction

1. This is a submission to the Parliamentary Committee under Phase Four of the Inquiry. This submission is compliant with all legal obligations under the committee’s approach to evidence handling and takes full account of the Opinion of Lady Dorrian in the High Court as published on 16th February 2021.

All WhatsApp messages between myself and the First Minister referred to in this submission, have previously been provided to the Parliamentary Committee by the First Minister and published by the Committee.

The Terms of Reference

2. Mr Hamilton, the independent adviser on the Ministerial Code, wrote to me on 8th September, 29th October, 16th November, 4th and 19th December. I replied on 6th and 17th October, 23rd November and 23rd December. I finally agreed under some protest to make a written submission.

The reason for my concern was that the remit drawn up for Mr Hamilton focuses on whether the First Minister intervened in a civil service process. As I have pointed out to Mr Hamilton, I know of no provisions in the Ministerial Code which makes it improper for a First Minister to so intervene.

3. To the contrary, intervention by the First Minister in an apparently unlawful process (subsequently confirmed by the Court of Session) would not constitute a breach precisely because the First Minister is under a duty in clause 2.30 of the Ministerial Code to avoid such illegality on the part of the Government she leads.

4. Further, to suggest intervention was a breach would be to ignore and contradict the express reliance of the procedure on the position of the First Minister as the leader of the party to which the former minister was a member in order to administer some unspecified sanction.

5. It will accordingly be a significant surprise if any breach of the Ministerial Code is found when the terms of reference have been tightly drafted by the
Deputy First Minister to focus on that aspect of the First Minister’s conduct.

6. By contrast, I have information which suggests other related breaches of the Ministerial Code which should properly be examined by Mr Hamilton. I have
asked that he undertake that investigation. I have drawn his attention to the apparent parliamentary assurance from the First Minister on 29th October 2020 that there was no restriction on Mr Hamilton preventing him from doing so.

7. Mr Hamilton has failed to give me a clear response as to whether these related matters relevant to the Ministerial Code, but outwith the specific remit, are going to be considered. However, in his letter of 4th December he did indicate that he was inclined to the view that such matters could be considered and will take into account arguments for their inclusion. Since that time I understand members of the Committee have received further assurances. It is on that basis I make this submission.

8. In doing so, I would note that it does not serve the public interest if the independent process of examination of the Ministerial Code (which I introduced as First Minister) is predetermined, or seen to be predetermined, by a restrictive remit given by the Deputy First Minister.

9. A restricted investigation would not achieve its purpose of genuine independent determination and would undermine confidence in what has been a useful innovation in public accountability.

10. I would accordingly urge Mr Hamilton to embrace the independence of his role and the express assurance given to the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister that he is free to expand the original remit drafted by the Deputy First Minister and to address each of the matters contained in this submission.

Breaches of the Ministerial Code.

11. Beyond the terms of the remit set for Mr Hamilton by the Deputy First Minister, there are other aspects of the conduct of the First Minister which, in my submission, require scrutiny and determination in relation to breaches of the Ministerial Code.

12. I was contacted by phone on or around 9 March 2018 and further the following week by Geoff Aberdein, my former Chief of Staff. The purpose of the contact was to tell me about meetings he had held with the First Minister’s Chief of Staff, Liz Lloyd, at her request.

13. In the second of these meetings she had informed him that she was aware of two complaints concerning me under a new complaints process introduced to include former Ministers. She named one of the complainers to him. At that stage I did not know the identity of the other complainer.

14. On receipt of the letter from the Permanent Secretary first informing me of complaints on 7th March 2018 I had secured Levy and McRae as my solicitors and Duncan Hamilton, Advocate and Ronnie Clancy QC as my counsel.

15. Even at this early stage we had identified that there were a range of serious deficiencies in the procedure. There was no public or parliamentary record of it
ever being adopted. In addition it contained many aspects of both procedural unfairness and substantive illegality. There was an obvious and immediate question over the respect to which the Scottish Government even had jurisdiction to consider the complaints. In relation to former Ministers (in contrast to current Ministers) it offered no opportunity for mediation. The complaints procedure of which I was familiar (‘Fairness at Work’) was based on the legislative foundation of the Ministerial Code in which the First Minister was the final decision maker. I wished to bring all of these matters to the attention of the First Minister. I did not know at that stage the degree of knowledge and involvement in the policy on the part of both the First Minister and her Chief of Staff.

16. Mr Aberdein had been asked by Ms Lloyd to be her contact with me and they jointly arranged a meeting with the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament on 29th March 2018. This meeting was for the purpose of discussing the complaints and thereafter arranging a direct meeting between myself and the First Minister. There was never the slightest doubt what the meeting was about. Any suggestion by the First Minister to the Scottish Parliament (Official Report, 8th October 2020) that the meeting was ‘fleeting or opportunistic’ is simply untrue. It was agreed on the 29th March 2018 at the meeting in the Scottish Parliament attended by Mr Aberdein and the First Minister and another individual that the meeting between myself and the First Minister would take place on 2nd April at her home near Glasgow. Self-evidently only the First Minister could issue that invitation to her private home.

17. In attendance at the meeting on 2nd April 2018 were Mr Aberdein, Mr Hamilton, Ms Lloyd and myself. The First Minister and I met privately and then there was a general discussion with all five of us. My purpose was to alert the First Minister to the illegality of the process (not being aware at that time of her involvement in it) and to seek an intervention from the First Minister to secure a mediation process to resolve the complaints.

18. I was well aware that under the Ministerial Code the First Minister should notify the civil service of the discussion and believed that this would be the point at which she would make her views known. The First Minister assured us that she would make such an intervention at an appropriate stage.

19. On 23rd April 2018, I phoned the First Minister by arrangement on WhatsApp to say that a formal offer of mediation was being made via my solicitor to the Permanent Secretary that day. In the event , this offer was declined by the Permanent Secretary, even before it was put to the complainers.

20. By the end of May, it was becoming clear that the substantial arguments my legal team were making in correspondence against the legality of the procedure were not having any impact with the Permanent Secretary. My legal team advised that it was impossible properly to defend myself against the complaints under such a flawed procedure. They advised that a petition for Judicial Review would have excellent prospects of success given the Government were acting
unlawfully. However I was extremely reluctant to sue the Government I once led. I wanted to avoid the damage both to the Scottish Government and the SNP which would inevitably result. To avoid such a drastic step, I resolved to let the First Minister see the draft petition for Judicial Review. As a lawyer, and as First Minister, I assumed that she would see the legal jeopardy into which the government was drifting. I therefore sought a further meeting.

21. On 1st June 2018 the First Minister sent me a message which was the opposite of the assurance she had given on the 2nd April 2018 suggesting instead that she had always said that intervention was “not the right thing to do”. That was both untrue and disturbing. On 3rd June 2018 I sent her a message on the implications for the Government in losing a Judicial Review and pointing to her obligation (under the Ministerial Code) to ensure that her administration was acting lawfully and (under the Scotland Act) to ensure that their actions were compliant with the European Convention.

22. The First Minister and I met in Aberdeen on 7th June 2018 when I asked her to look at the draft Judicial Review Petition. She did briefly but made it clear she was now disinclined to make any intervention.

23. My desire to avoid damaging and expensive litigation remained. My legal team thereafter offered arbitration as an alternative to putting the matter before the Court of Session. That proposal was designed to offer a quick and relatively inexpensive means of demonstrating the illegality of the procedure in a process which guaranteed the confidentiality of the complainers. It would also have demonstrated the illegality of the process in a forum which would be much less damaging to the Scottish Government than the subsequent public declaration of illegality. I was prepared at that time to engage fully with the procedure in the event my legal advice was incorrect. In the event, of course, it was robust. I explained the advantages of such an approach to the First Minister in a Whatsapp message of 5th July 2018.

24. At the First Minister’s initiative which I was informed about on the 13th July we met once again at her home in Glasgow at her request, the following day, 14th July 2018. There was no one else at this meeting. She specifically agreed to correct the impression that had been suggested to my counsel in discussion between our legal representatives that she was opposed to arbitration. I followed this up with a WhatsApp message on the 16th July 2018.

25. On 18th July 2018 the First Minister phoned me at 13.05 to say that arbitration had been rejected and suggested that this was on the advice of the Law Officers. She urged me to submit a substantive rebuttal of the specific complaints against me, suggested that the general complaints already answered were of little consequence and would be dismissed, and then assured me that my submission would be judged fairly. She told me I would receive a letter from the Permanent Secretary offering me further time to submit such a rebuttal which duly arrived later that day. As it turned out the rebuttal once submitted was given only cursory examination by the Investigating Officer in the course of a single day and she had already submitted her final report to the Permanent Secretary. My view is now that it was believed that my submission of a rebuttal would weaken the case for Judicial Review (my involvement in rebutting the substance of the complaints being seen to cure the procedural unfairness) and that the First Ministers phone call of 18th July 2018 and the Permanent Secretary’s letter of the same date suggesting that it was in my “interests” to submit a substantive response was designed to achieve that.

26. In terms of the meetings with me, the only breaches of the Ministerial Code are the failure to inform civil servants timeously of the nature of the meetings.

27. My view is that the First Minister should have informed the Permanent Secretary of the legal risks they were running and ensured a proper examination of the legal position and satisfied herself that her Government were acting lawfully.

28. Further once the Judicial Review had commenced, and at the very latest by October 31st 2018 the Government and the First Minister knew of legal advice from external counsel (the First Minister consulted with counsel on 13th November) that on the balance of probability they would lose the Judicial Review and be found to have acted unlawfully. Despite this the legal action was continued until early January 2019 and was only conceded after both Government external counsel threatened to resign from the case which they considered to be unstateable. This, on any reading, is contrary to section 2.30 of the Ministerial Code.

29. Most seriously, Parliament has been repeatedly misled on a number of occasions about the nature of the meeting of 2nd April 2018.

30. The First Minister told Parliament (see Official Report of 8th,10th & 17th January 2019) that she first learned of the complaints against me when I visited her home on 2nd April 2018. That is untrue and is a breach of the Ministerial Code. The evidence from Mr Aberdein that he personally discussed the existence of the complaints, and summarised the substance of the complaints, with the First Minister in a pre arranged meeting in Parliament on 29th March 2018 arranged for that specific purpose cannot be reconciled with the position of the First Minister to Parliament. The fact that Mr Aberdein learned of these complaints in early March 2018 from the Chief of Staff to the First Minister who thereafter arranged for the meeting between Mr Aberdein and the First Minister on 29th March to discuss them, is supported by his sharing that information contemporaneously with myself, Kevin Pringle and Duncan Hamilton, Advocate.

31. In her written submission to the Committee, the First Minister has subsequently admitted to that meeting on 29th March 2018, claiming to have previously ‘forgotten’ about it. That is, with respect, untenable. The pre-arranged meeting in the Scottish Parliament of 29th March 2018 was “forgotten” about because acknowledging it would have rendered ridiculous the claim made by the First Minister in Parliament that it had been believed that the meeting on 2nd April was on SNP Party business (Official Report 8th & 10th January 2019) and thus held at her private residence. In reality all participants in that meeting were fully aware of what the meeting was about and why it had been arranged. The meeting took place with a shared understanding of the issues for discussion – the complaints made and the Scottish Government procedure which had been launched. The First Minister’s claim that it was ever thought to be about anything other than the complaints made against me is wholly false.

The failure to account for the meeting on 29th March 2018 when making a statement to Parliament, and thereafter failing to correct that false representation is a further breach of the Ministerial Code.

Further, the repeated representation to the Parliament of the meeting on the 2nd April 2018 as being a ‘party’ meeting because it proceeded in ignorance of the complaints is false and manifestly untrue. The meeting on 2nd April 2018 was arranged as a direct consequence of the prior meeting about the complaints held in the Scottish Parliament on 29th March 2018.

32. The First Minister additionally informed Parliament (Official Report 10th January 2019) that ‘I did not know how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint, I did not know how the Scottish Government intended to deal with the complaint and I did not make any effort to find out how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint or to intervene in how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint.’

I would contrast that position with the factual position at paragraphs 18 and 25 above. The First Minister’s position on this is simply untrue. She did initially offer to intervene, in the presence of all those at the First Ministers house on the 2nd April 2018. Moreover, she did engage in following the process of the complaint and indeed reported the status of that process to me personally.

33. I also believe it should be investigated further in terms of the Ministerial Code, whether the criminal leak of part of the contents of the Permanent
Secretary’s Decision report to the Daily Record was sourced from the First Minister’s Office. We now know from a statement made by the Daily Record editor that they received a document. I enclose at Appendix B the summary of the ICO review of the complaint which explains the criminal nature of the leak and the identification of 23 possible staff sources of the leak given that the ICO Prosecutor has “sympathy with the hypothesis that the leak came from an employee of the Scottish Government”. My reasoning is as follows. The leak did not come from me, or anyone representing me. In fact I sought interdict to prevent publication and damage to my reputation. The leak is very unlikely indeed to have come from either of the two complainers. The Chief Constable, correctly, refused to accept a copy of the report when it was offered to Police Scotland on August 21st 2018 by the Crown Agent. It cannot, therefore have leaked from Police Scotland. Scottish Government officials had not leaked the fact of an investigation from January when it started. The only additional group of people to have received such a document, or summary of such a document, in the week prior to publication in the Daily Record was the First Minister’s Office as indicated in paragraph 4.8 of the ICO Prosecutor’s Report. In that office, the document would be accessed by the First Minister and her Special Advisers.

I would be happy to support this submission in oral evidence.

Rt Hon Alex Salmond
17th February 2021

As you can plainly see, the entire purpose of these redactions is to obliterate Geoff Aberdein from the picture. Very plainly nothing in these redactions tends to assist the identification of one of the lying accusers in court. The document was passed by the Parliament’s own legal service in line with Lady Dorrian’s amended court order, before yesterday the corrupt Crown Office intervened in a panic to have this evidence subverted.

Geoff Aberdein’s evidence is the most crucial collection of fact in the entire Holyrood Inquiry. Why?

In early March 2018 Nicola Sturgeon’s Chief of Staff and closest confidante, Liz Lloyd, phoned Geoff Aberdein to set up a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon and told him it was about sexual allegations against Alex Salmond. That is a full month before the date on which Nicola Sturgeon lied to Parliament she first heard of allegations. Lying to Parliament is a resignation matter.

Why did Nicola lie to Parliament? Because she wanted to hide the fact she already was involved in the initiation of allegations in November 2017, when she instructed, against Whitehall advice, that an employment process was needed for complaints against ex-ministers. There is a mound of evidence for this, not least the fact that her Principal Private Secretary had already met with a complainant twice, on 20 and 21 November 2017, the day before Sturgeon’s written instruction to Lesley Evans to initiate the process.

To hide this early involvement, Sturgeon had to invent a date when she first knew about the process. She settled on 2 April when she met Alex Salmond. That was a lie by four months at least, but it is difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt. That she lied by one month is proven beyond reasonable doubt by the evidence of Geoff Aberdein. That is why it is the most important document in the entire process.

Nicola has since admitted to the meeting with Aberdein on 29 March, claiming she merely “forgot it”, that she just “bumped into” Aberdein and it is only “three days” (sic) from the meeting on 2 April. But Aberdein’s testimony is entirely incompatible with even Sturgeon’s amended story. He testifies it was set up by her office, with the allegations agenda known and dictated by them, three weeks earlier.

Is there anything to support Geoff Aberdein’s story? Yes. Aberdein was so worried by this that before he met Sturgeon on 29 March in Parliament (the meeting she subsequently claimed to parliament to have forgotten) he arranged a conference call with Duncan Hamilton QC and then SNP head spin doctor Kevin Pringle to discuss the implications. Both are willing to testify, but of course the Committee does not want them to.

How do I know all this? Because Geoff Aberdein gave precisely this evidence, all of it, in Alex Salmond’s criminal trial. Openly, in public, with no reporting restrictions. The entire mainstream media were present, but as they had only come in the hope of seeing Alex Salmond hung, they gave Aberdein’s crucial evidence little weight. I was there, I heard it and I reported it at the time.

There is one extra thing in Aberdein’s suppressed evidence which is not in his trial evidence. He testifies that he was contacted subsequently by Liz Lloyd to amend a press statement to hide the knowledge of the allegations against Salmond in March 2018.

To be perfectly plain, for the sake of the Corrupt Crown Office, this website is offering a reward for Geoff Aberdein’s evidence because we will publish it. We will first take the advice of both our solicitor and counsel on any redactions necessary to comply with Lady Dorrian’s amended court order on identification.

As for our publication of the unredacted version of the Salmond submission above, you can still see the unredacted version as it appeared originally on the Parliament’s website, with its appendices, here. In publishing it highlighting the changes, we are following the Spectator, Daily Mail and Guido Fawkes among others, all of which did it first. I know that the Crown Office has a habit of pursuing genuine Independence supporters over matters for which unionist journalists are left alone, despite committing the identical alleged offence simultaneously, but in this case I don’t think even the ultra corrupt Lord Advocate and Crown Office would try that.

Two final points. This is a different part of Alex Salmond’s evidence to that I published yesterday. I was asked by a committee member, Andy Wightman MSP, to clarify that the part published yesterday had not been subject to refusal to publish by the Committee. I make that clarification.

Finally, I very much hope that Alex Salmond will eventually appear before the Committee despite the censorship – and then give a press conference afterwards to fill in the censored bits. There can never have been a more hypocritical episode in Scottish politics than Nicola Sturgeon’s hysterical round of TV interviews inviting Alex Salmond to “produce his evidence” and “bring it on”, when all the time she and her machine were acting furiously behind the scenes to ensure that the corrupt Crown office and her parliamentary minions censored the evidence specifically that damages her.

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Alex Salmond – After Massive Suppression Attempts, Testimony Finally Published 195

The importance of this is in direct proportion to the massive state attempts to block it.

Alex Salmond’s submission to the Holyrood Inquiry has finally, after bad faith attempts to suppress it by Linda Fabiani and the SNP MSP’s on her committee abetted by Andy Wightman, been published. I strongly urge you to read it in its entirety. You will, for certain, not see a fair or comprehensive summary of it anywhere in the mainstream media.

I make the following very brief comments:

It is perfectly clear when you read it that the submission in no way risks identifying any complainants – not even those who were perjurers plotting against Salmond. That was simply a false ruse used to try to suppress this testimony.

Nicola Sturgeon’s panicked rush round the TV studios this evening claiming that there is “no evidence” to support Alex Salmond’s testimony is an astonishing deployment of the big lie technique. Alex has confined his evidence strictly to what can be proven by documentary evidence.

The evidence of conspiracy which he notes as still being concealed by the Crown Office is precisely the same evidence the Crown Office concealed – and the judges refused to order disclosed – in my own contempt of court case. That is going to be a major focus of my anticipated appeal to the Supreme Court.

Alex’s evidence vindicates two years of my reporting on this case, in detail. I feel very proud this evening. It also proves the truth of my affidavits. The other documents to which Alex’s submission refers are most readily accessed here. I suggest however you first simply read through this submission reproduced below here as published.

Remember how hard they tried to stop its publication. Let that be a spur to you to read it.

I have highlighted a few key phrases.

Submission of Alex Salmond

Introduction

This is my fourth submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry. It should be read in addition to, and in conjunction with, the three other previous submissions. Those prior submissions relate to the application of the procedure (phase 2), the Judicial Review (phase 3) and the Ministerial Code (phase 4).

This final document accordingly includes an introduction and overview of matters linking each of the four individual submissions

It thereafter includes submissions on

1. phase 1 of the Inquiry.
2. the question of ‘conspiracy’
3. Crown Office

Documentary evidence exists to support all of the factual statements made in this submission. I have sought to provide that to the Committee where it is within my power to do so. Despite repeated requests, however, Crown Office has not provided the Committee with the critical evidence which was unable to be led in the High Court. Perhaps even more concerning is the direction from Crown Office that I face the prospect of criminal prosecution for even referring to the existence of such evidence or specifying (even in broad terms) what that evidence is. One of their letters even suggested that the Committee’s use of such documentation might also constitute a criminal offence

My hope and belief, expressed outside the High Court in Edinburgh after my acquittal, was that documents which were not put before the jury and the public would be published in the course of this Inquiry. To date, and despite the centrality of those documents to the remit of this Committee and the overwhelming public interest in their publication, Crown Office continue to veto any such publication under threat of prosecution.

Despite that deplorable prohibition, I can confirm that all of the material factual statements made in this submission are supported by documentary evidence. Where I am legally allowed to direct the Committee to such documents, I will be happy to do so.

Overview

The Committee has achieved progress in the volume of documentation supplied.
However it has been fundamentally obstructed in three key areas.

First on the legal advice which the Government received from external counsel in the Judicial Review. In normal circumstances the extraordinary discovery by this Committee that both Senior and Junior Counsel to the Government threatened resignation because the case they were being asked to argue was unstateable would
have been headline news. However, despite two parliamentary votes, the full advice from Counsel hasn’t been provided to the Committee. It is extraordinary that the Lord Advocate, who could sanction such advice being published, has refused to do so. The legal provision for him to publish in the public interest is clear. Inexplicably, the Lord Advocate has been able to simply refuse that request and to get away with doing so in the face of the will of the Committee and of Parliament. Despite that, it appears from what has emerged that by October 2018 external counsel advised the Government that, on the balance of probability, they were heading for likely defeat. And yet, despite that advice and the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds of avoidable legal fees, the Scottish Government pressed on with a case they expected to lose. This submission explains why.

Second the restriction arises as a result of the failure of the Government to provide documents from when the Judicial Review started in August 2018 until the Scottish Government finally conceded in January 2019. There were 17 meetings with external Counsel, daily meetings on progress of defending the Judicial Review (according to Paul Cackette, acting Solicitor to the Scottish Government during the case) and thrice weekly meetings according to Ms Judith Mackinnon, the Investigating Officer. However, the Committee has yet to publish (or to my knowledge see) a single relevant minute, email, text message or ‘One Note’ from that entire period relating to those meetings despite being assured that such documents would be provided. Of particular interest to the Committee would be the extent to which various parties were informed of the progress of the case and in particular whether the Lord Advocate’s expressed views on “sisting” (pausing) the Judicial Review pending the criminal case were discussed, how widely and with whom.

Thirdly, the crown response to the section 23 request has hindered rather than assisted the Committee. The information provided was neither sought nor publishable by the Committee. Those in Crown Office providing that information must have been well aware of that. However, text messages which could be properly considered and published and which have been part of the Committee’s questioning and would bear directly on the veracity of evidence given under oath to this Committee have been withheld. The blocking of the Committee in this matter and others is nothing whatsoever to do with protecting the anonymity of complainants, which I support and have upheld at every stage in this process. Rather, it is a matter of the shielding of some of the most powerful people in the country who are acutely aware of how exposed they would become.

The Parliamentary Committee has already heard evidence of activities by civil servants, special advisers, Ministers and SNP officials which taken individually could be put down to incompetence, albeit on an epic scale. However taken together, and over such a prolonged period, it becomes impossible to explain such conduct as inadvertent co-incidence. The inescapable conclusion is of a malicious and concerted attempt to damage my reputation and remove me from public life in Scotland. It is an attempt which would, in fact, have succeeded but for the protection of the court and jury system and in particular the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary.

However, underlying all of this and perhaps the most serious issue of all is the complete breakdown of the necessary barriers which should exist between Government, political party and indeed the prosecution authorities in any country which abides by the rule of law.

In each of the written submissions under Phases 1-4 of the Inquiry remit I have sought to explore those themes, and identify evidence to assist the Committee in doing its job holding the Executive to account.

The success, or failure, of this Committee in doing so will have a very significant bearing on public confidence in the ability of Parliament more generally to expose failures across Government. The ramifications of a Committee unable to complete its work due to delay, obstruction and refusal on the part of those under investigation are both profound and chilling.

Phase 1

In relation to Phase 1, I am asked for evidence regarding the development of the policy.

I would make the following general comments, on which I will be very happy to expand in oral evidence.

1) Fairness at Work

The Committee has heard evidence on the origins of the Fairness at Work Policy 2010 (‘FaW’). As First Minister I approved the policy and, in contrast to any other witnesses before this Inquiry, I was actually involved in its development. Implementation of the policy was achieved with the co-operation of the trade unions and I was pleased to be the First Minister who sanctioned its adoption.

As Appendix 1 from a Management Board meeting of 23 November 2009 makes clear, it was not evolved as a result of specific complaints about Ministers at the time but reflected long standing trade union grievances about Ministerial Offices stretching back to the days of the Scottish Office. FaW was the first workplace policy to include Ministers and I approved it on the basis that it was made compatible with the statute based Ministerial Code in which the First Minister is the final decision maker on the fate of a Minister facing a complaint. This was done by placing the Deputy First Minister in the deliberative part of the policy. The result was that only after a recommendation had been made would the First Minister finally decide. This was aimed at avoiding him or her judging twice on the same case. The policy was negotiated over a period of 18 months, was carefully constructed, balanced and lawful. It was well received by all concerned.

In the event there were no formal complaints made against any Minister under the policy and thus it was never invoked. Specifically and to my knowledge the present First Minister was never informed about any complaints against me because there were none. Similarly I was never informed about any complaints against her or any other Minister under the terms of this policy because there were none.

In the evidence of Ms Richards (25th August 2020) she revealed that there have been two complaints under FaW against current Ministers since 2017. Presumably these will have been dealt with under the FaW provisions including the involvement of John Swinney as Deputy First Minister.

This Committee is charged with finding out what went wrong. It should also look at what can be done now to put matters right.

Fairness at Work, of which the Permanent Secretary admitted in her evidence (in response to Ms Mitchell on 18th August 2020) to “not being an expert”, is in reality a carefully considered policy which is still in operation for the civil service and for serving Ministers with regard to bullying complaints. The Permanent Secretary’s extraordinary claim in the same evidence session that it does not cover harassment can only be a result of her admitted lack of familiarity with the policy. In reality it covers this explicitly in paragraph 3.2.1. As recently as December 2017 FaW was hailed by the unions in a letter to the Permanent Secretary as an achievement “of which we all should rightly be proud and something that sets up as being more assiduous than our counterparts down south” ([Redacted] FDA Convener)

FaW is legal, not illegal. It is procedurally fair, not unfair. It was carefully considered, not rushed. It achieved the central longstanding workforce ambition of having Ministers on the same footing as civil service managers. No doubt it can be updated and improved but the current position of limbo is ridiculous.

The concept of a civil service investigation into people over which they have no legitimate jurisdiction is nonsensical and the idea of passing the results to the relevant political party for action is self- evidently ludicrous. If legal action wasn’t taken against the government it would inevitably follow against any political party which attempted to proceed with any form of disciplinary action on such an unlawful basis.

Fairness At Work should be reinstated at the earliest opportunity pending the Dunlop review.

2) The Development of the 2017 Procedure

The Committee has already clearly established that there was no discussion or information presented to either Parliament or Cabinet on the 31st October 2017 of extending work place policies to former Ministers. Nor was there any suggestion that this should be done in the Head of the Civil Service’s letter of 3rd November 2017. And of course it was not carried forward in any other administration in the U.K. and was opposed by [Redacted] of the UK Cabinet Office when they were briefly consulted on the proposal later in November 2017. As she wryly asked the Scottish Government at that time, was there also to be such a retrospective policy for former civil servants? Nor was the new policy signalled in any of the internal communications with staff until February 2018.

The claim of the Government is that it came about independently from James Hynd who was tasked with drafting the policy and delivered the first draft applying ONLY to Former Ministers on November 8th 2017. However the previous day Ms McKinnon had circulated a “routemap” of a policy which also suggested applying to former Ministers. Mr Hynd reacted to that on 8th November saying that “neither of the pathways involving Ministers look right”.

It is stretching credibility to believe that this radical departure from all previous policy in the Scottish (or any other) administration was simultaneously and independently dreamed up by two separate civil servants. This is despite Mr Hynd telling the Committee on August 25th 2020 that he started with “a blank sheet of paper”. In one of the many letters to the Committee from civil servants correcting their evidence, Ms Mackinnon conceded on October 31 2020 that these things were “happening in parallel”. Indeed they were and there was a common factor. That common factor is the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans whose office was deeply involved in directing the work of both James Hynd on his policy and Ms Mackinnon on her route map.

In addition we know now that Ms Evans went to see the First Minister on November 6th about her information that Sky News were about to run a story concerning Edinburgh airport. I am now in the position to know exactly what this issue was about and the Permanent Secretary’s fears that it was about to break as a major story were groundless. However in the febrile atmosphere of November 2017 a sense of proportion and due process was in short supply.

In reality I had spent 30 years in public life in Scotland and for most of that time was certainly the most investigated person in the country by the press. It is inherently unlikely that misconduct had remained unreported and undiscovered over such a period. Mr Murrell confirmed in his evidence to this Committee that he had never heard of any such complaint against me in my entire time in politics and the First Minister confirmed this on BBC television to Andrew Marr on 7th October 2018.

Regardless, the chronology revealed by the evidence tells us that the Permanent Secretary briefed the First Minister on 6th November 2017 on the proposed story involving Edinburgh Airport. Further, the Permanent Secretary was contacted by Barbara Allison about a separate concern from a former civil servant on November 8th 2017. Having briefed the First Minister on the first of these it might be considered unlikely that she did not brief her on the second. In that context, the notion that a policy instructed immediately afterwards which specifically, and uniquely, extended to cover allegations against former ministers is co-incidental and unrelated is hardly sustainable.

If further confirmation of the basis for the policy were needed, the Committee has evidence of two directly political interventions at this stage.

First, the Chief of Staff to the First Minister drafted a specific amendment on 17 November 2017 which amended the commissioning letter instructing the policy proposing the wording “but also former Ministers, including from previous administrations regardless of Party”. This was in an email to Leslie Evans’ Private Secretary. It is impossible to accept that such a radical expansion of the jurisdiction of the Scottish Government to cover not just former ministers of the current administration but also those of previous administrations (many of whom are no longer even in elected office never mind in Government) was not specifically inserted to allow the complaint against me to be prosecuted.

The second political intervention was when the First Minister and the Permanent Secretary reached agreement, perhaps at their meeting on November 29th but certainly before December 5th 2017, that the policy should be recast in order that FM should be taken out of the policy proper and only consulted or even informed after the process was complete. This was a fundamental change in the policy.

The timing of this is significant. When the Permanent Secretary agreed with the First Minister that she should take over as key decision maker in terms of this new policy she was already aware of the developing complaints against me. Therefore she put herself at the centre of a policy in the full knowledge that I would likely be the first (and perhaps only given the subsequent declaration of illegality) subject of its implementation. Doing so from a position of already being tainted by bias is an extraordinary decision.

Despite her protestations to the contrary the Permanent Secretary was chiefly responsible for the pursuit of an unlawful policy which has cost the Scottish people millions of pounds.

In her letter of 21st June 2018 to Levy and McRae she describes the policy as “established by me”. She claimed ownership of it then, but not now. When asked at the Committee she said “there seems to have come into being a tradition of calling it my procedure. It is not; it is a Scottish Government procedure and one that has been agreed by Cabinet..” In fact, this procedure was never even seen by Cabinet or Parliament.

It was established by Ms Evans.

In her presentations before the Committee, the Permanent Secretary still seems oblivious to the scale of the disaster she has inflicted on all concerned or the enormity of the misjudgements she has made.

The view that she should have resigned on 8th January 2019, the day that Lord Pentland’s interlocutor judged the policy Ms Evans established and the actions taken as “unlawful”, “unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias” is widely shared not least by Cabinet Ministers. The damage she has done to the reputation of the civil service is very significant. In my view, any person conscious of the responsibility of holding high office would have resigned long ago. Instead Ms Evans’ contract was extended.

3) The role of the Investigating Officer

As the Committee has already discovered the “prior contact” of the Investigating Officer with the complainants was not “welfare”, as was indicated to Parliament, but was specifically contact about emerging complaints, weeks before the policy under which they were to be pursued was even approved.

The Committee has already established that complainants were informed that Ms McKinnon would be appointed the Investigating Officer in early December 2017, long before complaints were actually made. The Committee has further established that the draft policy was even shared with one complainant for her comment and that Ms Mackinnon was in contact with both complainants to discuss the basis on which future complaints might be submitted under the policy.

Documentation which finally emerged at the Commission and Diligence ordered by the Court of Session at the end of December 2018 demonstrated that the Government pleadings were false in terms of the nature of this contact. This has been admitted by the Lord Advocate in his evidence to the Inquiry on 8th September 2020. Again, such conduct appears to carry no sanction. These are serious matters, especially so for a Government making statements to a public court.

For example the “OneNote” from Judith McKinnon dated January 9th 2018, and revealed as a result of the Commission process, speaks to “changing” the position of a reluctant complainant, the sharing of complaints, and of it “being better to get the policy finalised and approved before formal complaint comes in” and of not telling the FFM until we are “ready”. It is this information that was completely at odds with the government pleadings in the Judicial Review and indeed stands in stark contrast with the oral evidence presented to the Committee.

These practices are not just wrong, they are an affront to the principles which underpin workplace and human resources policy across the country. The Committee has made reference to ACAS guidance at various stages of the Inquiry. How such conduct could even be contemplated by an individual employed at significant public expense and with a string of HR qualifications remains to be explained.

Watching the evidence before the Committee, it is apparent to me that even after having conduct declared illegal in the Court of Session, those at fault in the civil service still cannot accept the fact that they did something seriously wrong. In reality behaving unlawfully is as serious as it gets for any public servant.

The repeated claim that the terminology somehow changed for the first to the final drafts of the procedure thus causing confusion for those implementing the policy is not just irrelevant (since it is only the final version that matters) it is also untrue.

In fact one of the very few unchanged provisions in the policy as it went through numerous drafts and redrafts between November 8th to the final iteration on December 20 2017 was that the Senior Officer/ Investigating Officer should have “no prior involvement”.

Nor is it credible that the claim that the need for impartiality of an investigating officer or equivalent was misunderstood. On the contrary, both James Hynd (10th November 2017) offering 3 names at “arms length” and Judith McKinnon (7th November 2017) seeking to engage an “independent party to investigate” recognised this at an early stage.

Whether that person came from the broader civil service or outside it is secondary. Perceived freedom from bias is an easily understood concept which is well established in common law and in workplace policy. The appointment of Judith McKinnon in this light was always wrong and is incomprehensible particularly in the
face of the fact that she has confirmed before this Committee that the nature of her prior contact with the complainants was well known and indeed sanctioned among her colleagues and line managers.

When the fact of it was discovered by the Government’s external Counsel (and even after the duty of candour was explained to government lawyers by them on November 2nd and then by the court on November 6th, both 2018) the attempt was still made in pleadings to present it as “welfare” contact.

The documents which demonstrated this to be false had to be extracted from the Government by a Commission and Diligence procedure under the authority of the court as granted by Lord Pentland. The documents then produced under that procedure emerged despite the Government being willing to certify to the Court that these documents simply did not exist. That conduct is outrageous for a Government. At the Commission itself, Senior Counsel for the Government (himself blameless for the debacle) felt compelled to apologise to the court repeatedly as new batches of documents emerged.

It is highly probable that had this documentation not been concealed from the court (and from the Governments own counsel) the falsity of the Government’s pleadings would have been avoided. The fact that even after the Government case collapsed, misinformation then appeared in both a press release from the Permanent Secretary and the First Minister’s statement to Parliament of 8th January 2019 speaks to an organisation unable and unwilling to admit the truth even after a catastrophic defeat, the terms of which they had conceded to the Court of Session.

The interests of the complainants

I also want to make a submission about the claims by the Scottish Government to have promoted the interests of the women who raised complaints. That is, on the evidence before the Committee, clearly false.

The Permanent Secretary claimed to the Committee that the interests of the complainants were paramount in the Government thinking. This is very far from the case.

The complainants were brought into the process by conduct “bordering on encouragement” as it was submitted by my Senior Counsel to Lord Pentland in the Judicial Review

The complainants were assured that they would be in control of the process and that any police involvement would be their choice.

This assurance has been stipulated from the earliest origins of the policy (eg Nicola Richards’ email to Permanent Secretary of 23 November 2017) and remained in place until the Permanent Secretary countermanded it in her instruction to Ms Richards to send her decision report to the Crown Agent in August 2018, a move taken against the direct wishes of the complainants.

They were offered the option of making “anonymous complaints” for which there is no provision in the policy. However, when it came to actually protecting the anonymity of the complainants through a court order in the Judicial Review in October 2018 the Government was not even represented by Counsel in court. It was, in fact, me who instructed Counsel to seek that anonymity on the part of the women concerned.

The investigation was carried out against the advice of the police who pointed out that the Scottish Government were not competent to conduct the investigation. This has been made available to the Committee in the police evidence from the Chief Constable.

The reports to the Crown Office (instead of the police) were made against the express wishes of both complainants and in direct conflict with the terms of the policy at paragraph 19.

The leak of the story to the Daily Record on August 23 2018 was made with no consideration of the impact on the complainants, impact which the Permanent Secretary described in her evidence as causing considerable distress to all concerned. That, of course, was in itself in direct contravention of the confidentiality of the process promised to the complainants, and also to me.

However, it had been the Permanent Secretary’s own intention, despite police advice to the contrary, to issue a press statement confirming the fact of the complaints on Thursday 23 August 2018.

This Committee’s remit is to examine the actions of those in authority. Accordingly the conduct of the Permanent Secretary and the civil servants and special advisers involved is important. To claim, as the Scottish Government has done, that the wishes and welfare of those who had made complaints were central to the decision making is demonstrably untrue.

The leak to the Daily Record

In my view, the circumstances of the leak of the details of the complaints to the Daily Record on 23rd/24th August 2018 should be thoroughly examined. It is highly likely that the leak came from within the Scottish Government and, in all likelihood, from one of the Special Advisers to the First Minister. The background facts may assist

The Permanent Secretary instructed her staff to send her Decision Report to the Crown Agent on or about August 21st 2018

The Crown Agent, according to the police informed them of the Government’s intention to release a story of the fact of the complaints to the press and the Chief Constable and another senior officer advised against it and refused to accept a copy of the report. We know, therefore, that the desire of the Scottish Government to get these matters into the public domain is fully supported by evidence.

Despite this police advice, two days later the Government informed my legal team they intended to release a statement at 5pm on Thursday 23 August 2018. We advised that we would interdict the statement pending our Judicial Review petition and the statement was withdrawn. On the strength of that undertaking, we didn’t require to seek interdict.

We were then informed at around 4pm that the Daily Record newspaper had phoned the Scottish Government press office with knowledge of the story but had no confirmation. At 8pm, the Record phoned and then emailed at 8.16pm claiming confirmation had now been given and broke the story at 10pm. The second story they printed on Saturday 23rd August 2018 contained specific details from the complaints and demonstrates that they also had access to the Permanent Secretary’s decision report or an extract from it.

This leak was (according to the ICO) prima facie criminal, deeply damaging to my interests and those of the complainants and a direct contravention of the assurances of confidentiality given to all. After I formally complained to the ICO, the conclusion of the ICO reviewer assessing these facts was that she was “sympathetic to the thesis that the leak came from a Government employee”. The only reason no further action could be taken was because the specific individual could not be identified without police investigation. I intend to return to that police complaint when this Committee has concluded its review. I should say that I am confident that I know the identity of those involved in the leak.

John Somers, The Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister confirmed that her office had received a copy of the Permanent Secretary’s report in evidence on 1st December 2020. However, that evidence was then corrected to say that it had not been received. However, that is difficult to reconcile with the ICO review report (paragraph 4.8) which list the PPS, and therefore The Private Office as one of the stakeholders “who has access to the internal misconduct investigation report”.

It is unlikely that a leak to the Daily Record came from mainstream civil service. The overwhelming likelihood is that it came from a Special Adviser to the First Minister who had access to the report or an extract from it which was the basis of the Daily Record story of August 25th 2018.

The question of ‘conspiracy’

It has been a matter of considerable public interest whether there was ‘a conspiracy’. I have never adopted the term but note that the Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as ‘the activity of secretly planning with other people to do something bad or illegal.’ I leave to others the question of what is, or is not, a conspiracy but am very clear in my position that the evidence supports a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned.

That includes, for the avoidance of doubt, Peter Murrell (Chief Executive), Ian McCann (Compliance officer) and Sue Ruddick (Chief Operating Officer) of the SNP together with Liz Lloyd, the First Minister’s Chief of Staff. There are others who, for legal reasons, I am not allowed to name.

The most obvious and compelling evidence of such conduct is contained within the material crown office refuses to release. That decision is frankly disgraceful. Refusing to allow the Committee to see that material both denies me the opportunity to put the full truth before the Committee and the public, and makes it impossible for the Committee to complete its task on a full sight of the relevant material. The only beneficiaries of that decision to withhold evidence are those involved in conduct designed to damage (and indeed imprison) me.

From a very early stage in the Judicial Review the Government realised that they were at risk of losing. By October they were told by external counsel that on the balance of probability they would likely lose. This is the legal advice they have hidden from the Committee in defiance of two parliamentary votes.

As the Committee has heard in evidence there were 17 meetings of the Committee formed to monitor and plan the Scottish Government defence of the Judicial Review between August 2018 and January 2019. Paul Cackette in his evidence said that there were daily meetings while Ms Mackinnon suggested three times a week. Despite this information being offered at the evidence session of 1st December no information has been received by the Committee of any of these meetings. I believe there have to be such emails which show the Lord Advocate’s advice on the possibilities of sisting (pausing) the Judicial Review behind the criminal case. The advantage of doing so in a context where the Judicial Review was likely to be lost was clear. Any adverse comment or publicity about the illegality of the Scottish Government actions would be swept away in the publicity of my arrest and subsequent criminal proceedings.

It became common knowledge in government, special advisers and the SNP that the Judicial Review was in trouble for the Government and the hope was that police action would mean that it never came to court, that the JR would be overtaken by the criminal investigation.

In evidence Ms Allison on 15th September 2020 specifically denied that the Scottish Government had any role in contacting potential witnesses or former civil servants after the police investigation had started on August 23rd 2018. This is not true.

I enclose at appendix 2 a copy of an unsolicited email sent by Ms Allison herself to an ex Scottish Government employee on August 27th who then received a further unsolicited email from Ms Ruddick of the SNP the following day (appendix 3) The individual concerned, who provided a defence statement, had never even been a member of the SNP. I believe her contact details were given to Ms Allison by a Government Special Adviser.

Another Special Adviser was in contact with the majority of people who thereafter became complainants in the criminal trial, shortly after the story being leaked to the Daily Record on August 23rd 2018.

In his evidence session of 8 February 2021 Mr Murrell spoke of the letter sent by the FM round all SNP members on 27th August 2018. I pause briefly to note that despite the email reaching 100,000 members, not one complaint about me was received in response. However, what he did not disclose was the email round SNP staff and ex staff members sent by his Chief Operating Officer from late August 2018 (enclosed as appendix 3). This email was sent selectively. Some staff members were targeted and sent it. Others were not.

The recruitment of names to receive this email provoked opposition. Appendix 4 shows the refusal of a senior member of the SNP administrative team at Westminster to supply names to HQ. The staff member expressed the view that she was not prepared to take part in an obvious “witch-hunt” which would be incompatible with her professional responsibilities as a lawyer. At Appendix 5 I enclose the terms of an affidavit of the staff member who has agreed to have it shared with the Committee. What is clear is that even at the time of the initial trawl for potentially supportive individuals, there was profound disquiet about the ethics and legality of the approach.

In addition to advocating the “pressurising” of the police (those text messages are public and before the Committee), Mr Murrell deployed his senior staff to recruit and persuade staff and ex staff members to submit police complaints. This activity was being co-ordinated with special advisers and was occurring after the police investigation had started and after I ceased to be a member of the SNP. From the description of the material released to the Committee under section 23 it is clear that any supporting evidence establishing this point was not shared with the Committee by the crown office. Why?

It was clear that defeat in the Judicial Review would have severe consequences. Cabinet Ministers thought it should lead to the resignation of the Permanent Secretary. The Special Adviser most associated with the policy believed that her job was in jeopardy and accordingly sought to change press releases in light of that. The First Minister’s team felt threatened by the process as did the civil service. The documentary evidence shows that special advisers were using civil servants and working with SNP officials in a fishing expedition to recruit potential complainants. This activity was taking place from late August 2018 to January 2019, after the police investigation had started.

The Judicial Review cannot be viewed in isolation. The effect of it, and its likely result of a defeat for the Scottish Government led to the need to escalate these matters to the police, even if that meant doing so entirely against the wishes of the two women who had raised concerns. The Permanent Secretary’s “we’ve lost the battle but not the war” message of January 8th 2019 to Ms Allison whilst on holiday in the Maldives is not (as she tried to claim) a general appeal for equality but rather shows her knowledge that there were further proceedings to come and her confidence that the criminal procedure would render such a loss in the Court of Session irrelevant. I note in passing, that such language is, in any event, totally incompatible with the role of a professional civil servant.

The Role of the Crown Office

The Crown Office has intervened three times to deny this Committee information for which it has asked.

This has been done by reliance on legislation which was never designed to obstruct the work of a Parliamentary Committee acting in the public interest and investigating the actions of the Scottish Government. I know this to be true because I was First Minister when the legislation was passed in 2010. The true purpose of s. 162 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 was to prevent witness statements falling into the hands of the accused and being used to intimidate or exert retribution on witnesses and further because of instances of evidence ending up held or disposed of in an insecure fashion. The basis of the legislation was Lord Coulsfield’s Report (2007) and the intent was to clarify the legal requirements of disclosure and to establish practical arrangements to prevent the misuse of disclosure. Thus section 162 (and 163) had nothing whatsoever to do with preventing relevant evidence being presented to a parliamentary Committee and its misinterpretation as such by the Crown Office is a profoundly disquieting development which strikes at the heart of the parliamentary system of accountability.

On 17th September 2020 the Crown Office said that our proposal to the Committee to identify the existence of documents which had not been provided by the Government but which had been disclosed to me in the criminal case would be covered by Section 163 of the 2010 Act that “any person who knowingly uses or discloses information in contravention of section 162 commits an offence”

Just in case we did not get the message he repeated the same point on 3 November 2020. On 17th December 2020 the Crown’s representative went further to block information specifically requested by the Committee “For you or your client to accede to the request of the clerk to the Committee would require both the use and disclosure of said information. As such what is proposed would amount to a clear breach of section 162 which, by reference to section 163 would amount to a criminal offence”.

He then appears to suggest that the Committee itself would be in danger of prosecution if we had acceded to the clerk’s request.

“Further, any person who received such information from you or your client would also be in breach of section 162, and consequently section 163, if they use or disclose that information. In these circumstances I do not consider what is proposed is acceptable”

This is a letter from an unelected official citing legislation passed by this Parliament for quite different reasons and using it to deny information to a Committee of elected parliamentarians. Some of the information we intended to provide included Government documents which should have been provided to the Committee in the first place. This position is extraordinary and totally unacceptable.

Given this attitude to disclosure by the Scottish Government and Crown Office, it becomes highly surprising that when this Committee exerted section 23 powers to require documents it was given irrelevant information for which it had not asked and could never be published while relevant information remained undisclosed. It is also clear that Government SPADS were briefing the media on this information before members had even seen it. This is not the behaviour of a prosecution department independent of government influence.

The Lord Advocate said in his evidence on 17th November 2020 that he thought the Committee has seen this correspondence. As far as I am aware this is not the case Nevertheless, I am happy now to provide that correspondence if the Committee so wishes. In his latest letter of 8th February the Lord Advocate pointedly fails to answer the specific question from the Committee Convener of 3rd February seeking confirmation that all Government records had been provided.

As was glaringly clear from his evidence and his inability to address the most basic of questions, his denial of provision of the legal advice of external counsel, his costly delay in settling the case, his refusal to confirm what the Committee eventually found out that both Counsel threatened to resign from the case, the Lord Advocate is deeply compromised between his twin roles as head of prosecutions and chief government legal adviser.

However the matter goes further yet. The Permanent Secretary has confirmed in evidence to the Committee that the referral to the crown office was contrary to the express wishes of the complainants. In spite of his protestations that he recused himself from anything to do with the criminal investigation. I believe that the Committee should ask the Lord Advocate directly whether he instructed two unwilling complainants to make police statements.

Secondly the Committee has heard of the highly unusual route via the Crown Agent that the Permanent Secretary ordered her staff, against the wishes of the complainants, to present her report to the Chief Constable. Crown Agent David Harvie’s line manager at that time was Leslie Evans, the Permanent Secretary.

The Crown Office under current leadership is a department simply not fit for purpose.

Summary

The procedure was devised when the Permanent Secretary, as decision maker, had knowledge of emerging complaints against me. From the outset the Permanent Secretary was compromised and should not have taken on that role.

The procedure was unsound not just in its implementation but in its genesis. It was devised “at pace”, probably with the purpose of progressing complaints against me and certainly without proper care or regard to its legality or effective consultation with the unions.

The documents disclosed to the Committee demonstrate further serious abuses of process by both the Investigating Officer and the Permanent Secretary.

In a further breach of the duty of candour the Government owed to the Court, those documents were not made available at Judicial Review.

The Investigating Officer had not just “prior involvement”, but subsequently regular contact with the complainants of a nature and level which was self-evidently inconsistent with that of an impartial official.

The Permanent Secretary who in her own words “established” the procedure met or spoke to both complainants on multiple occasions (including in mid process) and failed to disclose this in either the civil or criminal case.

The procedure was conceptually flawed and would have collapsed on principle even if it had been properly implemented. It is a retrospective, hybrid policy, which claims jurisdiction over private citizens who might have no connection whatsoever with the Scottish Government and shows complete confusion between the legitimate roles of Government and political parties.

It is demonstrably unfair. It transgresses the most basic principles of natural justice in not even allowing the person complained about the right to prepare their own defence. In addition, the Permanent Secretary denied access to civil servants, witness statements or even my diaries until they were pursued in a subject access request.

The Government was aware at a very early stage that they were at significant risk of defeat in the Judicial Review, and by October 2018 were advised that, on the balance of probabilities, they were likely to lose. Nevertheless they kept the clock running and the public ended up paying over £600,000 as a result.

This information on likely defeat in the JR was communicated to key decision makers

– the Permanent Secretary, First Minster, the Lord Advocate, the Chief of Staff- in meetings with external Counsel through October and November 2018.

The interests of complainants were disregarded by the Government in refusing mediation initially without consultation, being given no consultation whatsoever on the possibility of arbitration, being given false assurances on the Government accepting their clear view against reporting matters to the police and then sending the report to the Crown Office against their express wishes. The Government didn’t even instruct counsel to attend court for the procedural hearing to address my application to guarantee the anonymity of complainants.

The Crown Office has blocked key information coming to this Inquiry by wilfully misinterpreting legislation designed for other purposes.

The Lord Advocate is manifestly conflicted in his roles as both Government legal adviser and prosecutor.

The advice of the Lord Advocate at one stage included, for example, the option of sisting (pausing) the Judicial Review to allow a criminal case to overtake the JR proceedings. A consequence of this happening would have been to protect the government from the catastrophic damage arising from losing the judicial review and a finding of unlawful conduct.

This prospect provided an incentive and imperative for the recruiting and encouragement of police complaints from others.

This was done by the closest advisers to the First Minister and senior SNP officials actively involving civil servants AFTER the police investigation had started.

The Permanent Secretary ordered her decision report to be sent to the Crown Agent, David Harvie, against the terms of the policy and the wishes of the complainants. At that time I understand that she was his line manager.

Against police advice the Permanent Secretary decided to press release the fact of complaints on Thursday 21st August 2018. That publication was only prevented by threat of legal action by my solicitors.

A matter of hours later, there was what the ICO assessed as a prima facie criminal leak of information including details of complaints to the Daily Record, in breach of my rights of confidentiality, and those of the complainants. Such action was also contrary to the express assurances of confidentiality offered to all parties and central to such workplace issues.

The Judicial Review was only conceded when both Counsel threatened to resign from the case

The policy and actions of the Permanent Secretary and the Government were accepted as and then judged as “unlawful”, “procedurally unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias”.

The real cost to the Scottish people runs into many millions of pounds and yet no-one in this entire process has uttered the simple words which are necessary on occasions to renew and refresh democratic institutions – “I Resign”.

The Committee now has the opportunity to address that position.

Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond
17th February 2021

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The Utterly Useless Keir Starmer 113

Ministerial resignations should be the least of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic procurement corruption scandal. Ministers, MPs and their corrupt mates who benefited from these contracts should be in the dock and looking at lengthy periods of imprisonment. This blog was ahead of mainstream media in breaking details of some of these contracts which simply beggared belief, like the £250 million contract for PPE awarded to Ayanda Capital.

The truly terrifying thing is that the corrupt award of these contracts to Tory contacts with zero experience of medical procurement, or even of basic shipping logistics, has not been found to be illegal. In March 2020 the Cabinet Office declared that the Covid emergency allowed procurement safeguards to be suspended under the Public Contract Regulations 2015 section 32 (2) (C) – “direct award due to extreme urgency”. To the Tories, that simply removed all tendering, pre-qualification and price checks and allowed them to just give out massive contracts on the old boy, you scratch my back, system, totaling tens of billions of pounds. The use of inexperienced companies – plumbing suppliers, American jewellers and private investment firms being just a few examples – to provide vital PPE must have been a factor in consequent shortages and excessive deaths, particularly of healthcare staff.

I understand emergencies. If established suppliers of medical equipment had been granted huge orders without proper scrutiny I would not have much objected. But what we have instead seen, stinks (and we should never forget that the procurement emergency arose in the first place because the Tories had stupidly run down the national emergency stockpile for a pandemic).

I do not think it impossible that courts may yet find that the ability to offer “direct award due to extreme urgency” does not exempt ministers from all duty to ensure that companies awarded contracts were suitable and capable, or exempt ministers from the need to eschew corrupt patronage. But for the moment, all the High Court has decided is that Matt Hancock broke the law in not publishing details of awarded contracts within thirty days. That is like getting Al Capone on tax accounting – far worse crimes lie beneath. But for now it is what the legal system has given us.

Yesterday we were faced wth the stunning spectacle of the so-called Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, refusing to call for Hancock’s resignation over the Covid-19 procurement debacle. That is not, Sir Keir gravely told us, what the public want to see.

Indeed, with Starmer as Labour leader, the public of England and Wales appear resolute in wanting to vote Tory, so presumably Starmer will not oppose them in that either? Starmer appears not only to have misunderstood “Opposition” in his job title, he clearly has not grasped “Leader” either.

Do you recall when the Blairites told us that once Labour eschewed all nasty thoughts of regulating extreme libertarian capitalism it would romp ahead in the opinion polls? Corbyn was duly smeared and jettisoned, and it took Starmer once elected about five minutes to show that he had simply lied in pretending to share Corbyn’s interest in social justice. The Labour Party has now been dressed in the Union Jack, has pandered to anti-immigrant racism, has embraced the hardest of Brexits, has become an unequivocal cheerleader for Israel, and declared itself primarily concerned with the interests of businessmen, yet still Labour polls worse than under Corbyn. This despite a bumbling, incompetent and corrupt Tory government whose only achievement is measured in death toll.

The Labour Party under Starmer is simply useless. I have not the slightest idea why it believes itself to exist. With the super patriotic Knight of the Realm as his second, Boris Johnson could bumble on for many years to come, while Tories just get richer and we all get poorer.

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On Not Being a Princess 80

Dominic Raab and numerous Tory MPs never showed the slightest concern when British bombs and missiles supplied to the United Arab Emirates killed thousands of Yemeni women and children. Those bombs and missiles were dropped and fired from British planes with British trained pilots, maintained by British engineers, and often acting in concert with British special forces secretly deployed in Yemen. The Tories roared all this on as excellent for British exports and the balance of payments. I am quite certain Dominic Raab could not name a single woman or child we have killed in Yemen.

But he knows the name of Princess Latifa because, well she is a Princess. The Royal Family of Dubai are close mates with our Royal Family and seen at all the best racecourses. They are good allies of the USA and Israel and can be depended on to fund the extermination of Shia minorities pretty well anywhere, which is helpful in keeping Iran weak (though Tories are less good at explaining just why Iran is viewed as our enemy, and the sponsors of 9/11, Al Qaeda, ISIS etc as our friends. We are simply meant to take that as read – indeed querying this doctrine brings massive mainstream derision).

I sincerely hope Princess Latifa is still alive and can be rescued. The difficulty is that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he of the seven wives and innumerable concubines, has so many children that he can do away with a few and hardly notice. That this monstrous creature continues to be feted by London from the Palace and No. 10 down, really does give a very good indication of just how low the UK has fallen, and why it is time for the UK to end.

There are thousands of ordinary Emirati women whose oppression has been worse and lives have tragically often been cut shorter than that of Princess Latifa. This sudden concern for human rights has not extended very far “down” into them. The millions of imported workers, many from Pakistan, who have built and sustained the elite lifestyle of the shiny and soulless monstrosity for the rich that is modern Dubai, have never received any of the concern for Princess Latifa. They have toiled in conditions of slavery, died of unsafe construction practices, and thousands of female domestic workers have been subjected to what amounts to systemic mass rape by Dubai employers.

But then, none of them are Princesses.

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Oscar’s Arrival 189

Nadira and I (supported by Cameron, Emily and Jamie) are delighted to announce the arrival this afternoon of our new son Oscar John Murray. In the best family tradition he milked his appearance, spinning it out for over 48 hours and making it as dramatic as possible. But happily both Oscar and Nadira are now doing very well. I shall see what Nadira thinks on posting a picture, tomorrow after she has rested. I am a very proud father and shall now have a quiet Lagavulin.

It has become a cliche to thank NHS staff endlessly, but we owe the most genuine and heartfelt thanks to the staff at the maternity unit of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, who were simply wonderful, and extraordinarily kind and dedicated.

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The Legal Attempt to End the Fabiani Farce 287

Lady Dorrian in the High Court this morning described a position taken by the Scottish Parliament’s legal advisers, on the publication and inclusion of Geoff Aberdein’s and Alex Salmond’s evidence, as “an absurd interpretation of the court order”. She also stated that “The answer is for the committee to take a robust attitude to the question of publication and redaction. But this is not the place for that. It is not my job to tell them that.”

To recap briefly. The Fabiani Inquiry has all but collapsed as it has refused to publish or consider evidence from Geoff Aberdein and Alex Salmond. These are the most important pieces of evidence in the entire inquiry. The Committee has refused to accept them because the evidence names a person who made accusations against Alex Salmond, on which he was found not guilty.

Here is the important point. The evidence of Salmond and Aberdein being refused by the Committee has no relation at all to the accusations that person made against Alex Salmond. She is mentioned in a different role. As I have repeatedly tried to explain, the accusers come from a very small coterie close to Nicola Sturgeon. Those closest to Sturgeon were at the heart of the orchestration of the plot. The Committee which has been pretending to investigate, has been doing so on the basis that the protection of identities of complainers precludes it from hearing any evidence that refers to these people – even if it refers to other actions not connected to the accusation they made in court.

Geoff Aberdein’s evidence proves conclusively that Nicola Sturgeon lied to Parliament over when she first knew of the allegations about Alex Salmond, not just by the difference between her meeting with Aberdein on 29 March and her meeting with Salmond on 2 April, but by weeks, because it was Sturgeon’s office which had set up the meeting over three weeks earlier and the subject had been specified then. Aberdein’s evidence is not the whole story – actually Sturgeon initiated the whole effort to set Salmond up months earlier – but Aberdein’s evidence is the smoking gun that would force Sturgeon’s resignation for lying to Parliament.

So the SNP and Green majority Fabiani Committee has ruled that Aberdein’s evidence must be excluded, and it is being excluded at all costs. Their figleaf is legal advice that the Court Order precluding identifying individuals applies to identifying them in any circumstances, not just as accusers in the Salmond case – this is the interpretation that Lady Dorrian said in court was “absurd” (though it was put to her as a hypothetical interpretation, not with specific reference to the Aberdein evidence, though in the context of being able to publish that evidence.)

The Fabiani Committee is hiding behind its legal advice. The source of this advice is mysterious. There is a Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament, but my information is that this specific “absurd” advice actually comes at source from a large US commercial law firm. As legal advice so often is, especially advice from firms wanting their contract renewed next time, it is very friendly to what the client wants to hear.

Geoff Aberdein’s evidence is therefore excluded because somebody was involved in the discussion and organisation of the meetings with Nicola Sturgeon, who also later added her own accusations against Alex Salmond – something of which she made no mention at the time, as Geoff Aberdein testified at the Alex Salmond criminal trial. I always found it passing strange that someone would go through literally scores of meetings about the Salmond accusations before finally adding the claim that they had been sexually abused too, which claim the jury found against as with all the other accusations. What that manoeuvre did however obtain was the court order protection of her identity, and the Scottish government argument that it means all the actions of this person in her entire role in the plot may not be discussed.

Alex Salmond’s statement to the Hamilton Inquiry is excluded by the Fabiani Inquiry on precisely the same grounds. But this statement has been published, with just one paragraph redacted, by the Spectator magazine. This has led to the absurd situation where the Fabiani Inquiry is refusing to consider Salmond’s statement to the Hamilton Inquiry, causing him to withdraw from the Fabiani Inquiry, even though the Spectator has published the statement. The Committee is absurdly arguing that it would be illegal to publish it or consider this statement, even though the Spectator has published it without being prosecuted.

That is how we ended up in court today, with the Spectator asking Lady Dorrian to amend her court order to make clear that the publication and consideration of the Aberdein and Salmond evidence would not be in breach. Lady Dorrian has been highly resistant, taking the view that it is for the Committee to interpret the order, that is pretty plain, in a sensible way – while making perfectly clear that she finds the Committee’s strange interpretation somewhat baffling.

Just before lunch Lady Dorrian had suggested an amendment to the order to state that complainers must not be identified “as complainers in those proceedings”. She suggested that this would clear up any “misconception” that they might not be named in other contexts. As I write, the court has just concluded with all parties agreed on this.

Lady Dorrian’s amendment certainly should sweep out the legs from under the Committee’s ludicrous excuse for not publishing the Aberdein and Salmond evidence, and thus pave the way for Salmond to appear before the committee. But my intelligence from a committee member is that, whatever today’s ruling, the SNP members will continue to refuse to publish, and they are confident that their lawyers will be able to argue the Spectator case has increased the risk of jigsaw identification.

So the mad charade of an “Inquiry” continues. It is, I think, the most shameless cover-up that could possibly be imagined. Wings Over Scotland have listed some 60 separate instances of the Scottish Government directly obstructing the work of the Inquiry. What has changed in the last fortnight is the SNP members of the Inquiry are no longer feigning that they too are looking for the truth.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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A Little Light Into The Murky World of the Guardian 141

Nathan Robinson lost his employment as a Guardian columnist on US politics for these tweets:

They were, according to the editor of Guardian US John Mulholland, “clearly antisemitic”. Criticising US military aid to Israel, according to Mulholland, was tantamount to arguing that Israel controls the United States.

This kind of circular reasoning, by which all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic so any criticism of military support to Israel is anti-semitic, is evidently invalid. But this tells you a great deal about how the Guardian now operates, in addition to it being the main media conduit for the UK security services. But actually, the part of Mr Robinson’s narrative I found most enlightening about his employment by the Guardian was:

I only had a column spiked for content reasons once, as far as I can remember, which occurred when I criticized Joe Biden over Hunter Biden’s corrupt business ties.

That tells you everything about the massive hypocrisy of the so-called “liberal” media, which actually is anything but liberal. The fact that the Biden administration has decided to pursue the prosecution of Julian Assange confirms that the people are getting the same slops, in a different bucket.

The lack of media interest in the fact that Hunter Biden was receiving $720,000 a year, plus a one off $850,000, from a Ukrainian company he never visited nor did any identifiable work for, was not just laziness. They were actually spiking the stories. The BBC reported Trump’s efforts to get information on it from the government of Ukraine as an abuse of position by Trump (arguably correct), but managed to report the story without ever revealing the facts about Hunter Biden. It was not just the mainstream media – when I tried to blog on the subject, both Twitter and Facebook subjected my posts to whole new levels of suppression.

Now the Bidens are in power, the Establishment can return to methods of corruption which are well-honed, and which are kept hidden by a web of comfortable elite relationships, after the much ruder interlude from Trump. We should be grateful for Mr Robinson for a tiny glimpse into the propaganda machine that keeps the people ignorant and manufactures their consent.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Trying To Be a Good Citizen 69

In the light of the decision of the Fabiani Inquiry to exclude the statement of Alex Salmond as well as the evidence of Geoff Aberdein, leading to the effective collapse of the committee, I am trying to assist them.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Scotland’s External and European Ministry 164

Scotland must be a fully functioning independent nation in two to three years. We need to start now to understand and plan for the physical infrastructure of governance a modern state needs. Just one of the vast gaps at present is the ability for an independent state to interact with other states; that is, after all, what defines the very being of a state. Scotland will need its own foreign ministry. In short time.

That foreign ministry will need to be physically somewhere in the capital. It needs to be a prestige location that can host visiting foreign ministers and delegations and top level international meetings. The answer is staring us in the face in the old Edinburgh Royal High School, a truly magnificent though sadly neglected building.

Edinburgh Council has just taken the lease back from the prospective developers of yet another luxury hotel in the centre of Edisneyburgh, a name I use for the hollowed out tourist attraction which the centre of Edinburgh is fast becoming (Jenners is now to be yet another luxury hotel). There is a consultation in play on the future of the Royal High School. What worries me is that I have not seen a single element of that consultation that factors in the coming urgent question of the needs of Edinburgh as the capital of an independent state, nor have I ever seen any indication that Edinburgh Council or the Scottish Government have ever given the matter serious thought.

I have even seen it suggested that Independent Scotland will not need a foreign ministry, nor a defence ministry, because in these areas it can continue to cooperate with the British state. I should hope that I could forever destroy the argument for an Independent Scotland aligning with UK foreign policy in just nine words. I shall try:

Iraq. Libya. Afghanistan. Palestine. Yemen. Chagos. Catalonia. Trident. Rendition.

We simply cannot align ourselves with the butcher’s apron abroad. Quite simply, that would be to sacrifice a key attribute of a nation state. It would not be Independence. The immorality of UK foreign policy is a key motive for many Scots to want independence in the first place, myself included.

The UK Treasury admits that it receives (pre-covid) approximately £30 billion per year more in revenue from Scotland than is given back to the Scottish Government in block grant. In fact, numerous accounting tricks make that £30 billion an underestimate, but let us go with it for now. That money is spent on our behalf by Westminster, on reserved matters like Defence (including Trident), the Foreign Office, the Treasury, Immigration and Nationality, certain benefits and social services, and projects of UK strategic value, like (ahem) London’s crossrail, HS2 and the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster.

After Independence, none of that £30 billion (in reality it will prove to be well more) will go down to London. All of it will be spent through Scotland, and the large majority of it will finally be spent in Scotland. That will of itself be a major economic boost, but for the purposes of this article I am concerned with the administration of that expenditure, all of which administration will on Independence be moved up from London to Scotland.

That means Scotland will be paying for a lot more civil servants in Scotland, rather than paying for civil servants in London. Scotland will need a Central Bank, a Finance Ministry, a Ministry of External Affairs, a Ministry of Internal Affairs (including immigration and nationality), a much expanded benefits ministry, an overseas aid ministry, a Ministry of Defence, and its own, but hopefully very small, security services. There will be others.

Recruitment should not be a big problem as many Scottish civil servants will be very happy to repatriate from the UK civil service. I do however caution against an automatic right for senior civil servants to transfer as many will have been steeped in neoliberal doctrine. Almost certainly, as with Ireland, London will have to grant a residual right to Scots to continue in London service, as much would simply collapse without them.

But we have to think where we can physically put all these civil servants. The truth is – and I know it is unpopular when I say this – the current Scottish Government is really only a glorified regional council, set up to placate a nation, and is extremely far from the scale of operation needed to run an actual independent state.

Just as there are those who think we should just continue to follow the UK Foreign Office, there are those who seem to think that bunging a few extra desks into St Andrews House will solve the problem. There has not been enough planning for the sheer scale of what is needed to administer a real nation state. Most European countries of Scotland’s size will have 20 to 25 separate ministries.

Sweden has 48,000 “core” civil servants in central government. Denmark has 68,000 civil servants working in “central administration”. By contrast, just 6,500 “core” civil servants work for the Scottish “government” at present. It is hard to find exactly equivalent figures because, while all these numbers exclude agencies, civil service jobs have been farmed out to agencies in differing degrees in different nations. Agency and other non-core civil servants working for the Scottish Government total around 11,000, but do also have their equivalent extras in Sweden and Denmark. What is plain is that after Independence the Scottish Government central operation, once it really is an actual Government and not a Mickey Mouse one, will have to be on an entirely different scale.

Here is a little illustration. The Scottish Government’s civil service only has one Permanent Secretary, and perfectly bluntly she would never have made it to five grades lower than that in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Treasury. After independence Scotland will need at least 20 proper permanent secretaries of high quality.

There are however 24,500 UK civil servants based in Scotland who work for the UK government. Many of these will simply be able to be transferred in – the very large majority of them (17,200) being from the Inland Revenue, and Revenue and Customs. But do not think this solves Scotland’s problems. There is a large difference between processing tax returns and running a state’s macro-economic policy, and the very large majority of all the UK civil servants employed in Scotland are non-policy staff.

The policy apparatus of central ministries aside, there is a useful legacy of physical government infrastructure currently housing these UK civil servants, much of it helpfully outside Edinburgh. Immigration and Nationality will have a good base in Glasgow for example and can expand into spare space in the overseas development administration in East Kilbride, which is larger than Scotland will need. But for reasons of democratic accountability the policy headquarters of these ministries, with their ministers – a whole new layer of Administration in Scotland – will have to be near parliament and the seat of government.

Speaking of parliament, I am convinced that Scotland will need after Independence far more by way of checks and balances on its executive, not least of which should be a bicameral parliament. That second chamber too will need to be accommodated somewhere, with its staff.

The new UK government buildings near Waverley station will provide a little of the answer to all of this, but will by no means be enough. Is there a masterplan for what ministry will go where, into what buildings – or even what the ministries will be? I hope you understand now why it is essential to commandeer the old Royal High School, and start to earmark other buildings in the capital.

To return to the question of external affairs, I hope in general we will avoid UK nomenclature for ministries. Ministry of External Affairs has a less pejorative tone than “Foreign Office”. I would tend to make it “Ministry of External and European Affairs”, to make plain Scotland views Europe differently. I also hope we will follow Ireland in eschewing the Imperial relic of the Commonwealth, and unlike the British Tories we will have a separate ministry for development aid.

As a state it is essential to interact with foreign states, and to do that, we must have Embassies abroad. Scotland will need Embassies in all European states, in major countries outside Europe including in the developing world, and in all fellow major oil-producing states. Ireland has 57 Embassies abroad, Denmark 71, Portugal 75 and Sweden 80. I suspect Scotland needs about 75.

In addition there are consulates, which will provide assistance to Scottish businesses and individuals abroad, and often issue visas, but do not handle political relations. If you need assistance in Los Angeles an Embassy in Washington is little use, for example. Ireland has 109 consulates and Portugal 250.

This is not at all as expensive as it seems. The UK has a major owned property estate abroad, much of it belonging to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and some of it literally palatial. An Independent Scotland will be entitled to 10% of that estate. Some of that will be able to be used directly to provide the offices and accommodation we will need, while some might be sold to provide funds for suitable premises.

To return to Edinburgh, I would expect at least 80 Embassies to set up in the Scottish capital, and possibly a good few more. Apart from the Europeans and major players, it is a fact of life that countries always like to open Embassies in really nice places for diplomats to live. There are over 1,000 foreign diplomats accredited to Sweden, of whom 667 are actually resident in Stockholm, the rest visiting. There will be a similar number of non-diplomatic Embassy staff. Edinburgh will need offices for at least 80 Embassies, some of them fairly large. While it is not up to the Scottish government to provide the premises, the demand will be significant.

Some 800 foreign diplomats with their families will substantially impact the higher end Edinburgh property market. That is aside from the much larger problem of housing perhaps 10,000 new Scottish Government civil servants in the capital.

These are excellent problems to have, and solving them will provide a major macro-economic boost to Scotland. But if the Scottish Government is serious about moving to genuine Independence within a short timescale, much more work needs to be underway on preparing Edinburgh to be a real capital once again.

If you want to campaign to bring about that Independent Scotland without delay, consider joining Now Scotland.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Now Scotland Launched 130

Last night Now Scotland, the new mass membership campaigning organisation intended to embrace the entire Yes Movement, was launched and immediately gained its first 1,000 paid up individuals. This is the website to join up. I am going to repeat here my post on its origin and purpose, then answer a few questions that arose on social media during last night’s launch:

There is a real need for a campaigning organisation for Scottish Independence which people can join and whose sole focus is attaining Independence early, as a matter of urgency. Now Scotland, of which I am an elected committee member, is being launched to fill that gap. It is not a political party, will not stand candidates and all who support Scottish Independence as an overriding political priority are welcome. It is aimed to be the mass membership organisation to which everybody in the wider Yes Movement can belong.

It is intended that it will improve on 2014’s Yes Scotland by going into the campaign with a membership, funds and a democratic structure.

Now Scotland grew out of a series of assemblies last year organised by AUOB, and the aim is to take the kind of energy and unity generated by AUOB and extend it from marching and into other areas of campaigning. But like AUOB, it is the agency and energy of the people which will drive the activity. Now Scotland is not, and will not become, top down.

All of us who believe in the Independence of Scotland need to look beyond what divides us – and it would be dishonest to fail to note divisions have been deepening. We need to concentrate on what unites us, move forward to Independence on an irresistible popular wave, and then set about building that better country of our own.

To answer the questions that have arisen, Now Scotland is not linked to any political party, or website, and will not support any political party. It is a single issue campaign for Independence. Members of several parties are on the committee, and remember the Yes Movement is much wider than any party or parties – for example, the obvious Yes parties aside, polls consistently show that between 30 and 40% of Labour voters in Scotland support Independence. All are welcome, of all parties and none.

We do not take positions on issues other than Independence. The entire aim is for everyone to unite together just for the purpose of campaigning for Independence. It is very much an organisation set up to generate real campaigning activities in which you can participate. It does not matter what your view is on any individual, that is irrelevant to the wider cause of Scotland. We embrace socialists and capitalists. We have pro-EU and anti-EU members. The common denominator is that Scotland must be free to make its own decisions, and not have them imposed on us from Westminster.

There are different parties and organisations available for people to also join to pursue particular issues and it is good that people do so. We do not ask anyone to change their other political activity, if any. All we ask is that differences are left at the door of Now Scotland and that Independence supporters unite to campaign together. It is to be very much a membership-led organisation, and my view, or any individual’s view, is worth no more than that of any other worker for Independence.

The Independence Movement needs this. Let us now build the momentum that will take us to national freedom.

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Piers Corbyn and Free Speech 1165

The arrest of Piers Corbyn is yet another sign of the intolerance of dissent and devaluing of free speech in the modern UK. Neither being tasteless nor being wrong is a police matter. Furthermore the attempt to distort this into a question of anti-semitism is ludicrous. The clear import of the leaflet involved is that Auschwitz was an instrument of mass murder, and so is the covid vaccine. There is no way of reading this that makes out Corbyn to be denying Auschwitz or promoting it as a good thing. That the Auschwitz comparison is tasteless as well as simply wrong is a view I would share; but neither is a crime, and I perfectly accept other people may view it as neither tasteless nor wrong.

The intrusion of the state into the legitimate expression of dissenting views is becoming commonplace. The hatred directed at Piers’ brother explains something of the glee that swept both social and mainstream media at Piers’ arrest, as does another chance to contrive Corbyn and anti-semitism into the same sentence. However the incident betrays the very real shift in society towards intolerance of non-mainstream views. It is only the vigilance of citizens which will ever limit the power of the state, and it is therefore no surprise that in the age of cancel culture the state stamps down on dissenting opinion.

I leave aside the question of Piers Corbyn’s connection to the leaflet and cartoon or not as irrelevant to my argument here, though of course it is relevant to his legal position; there is no reason for the leaflet to be illegal anyway.

I do not think that anybody will ever put the argument for free speech better than the great John Stuart Mill:

First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions, that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.

[Despite a lifetime of studying Mill, it was only in researching Sikunder Burnes that I discovered that when John Stuart’s father James left Montrose for London he anglicised the family name from Milne to Mill. John Stuart and Burnes became friends in the East India Company, as had been their fathers in Montrose.]

As to this particular opinion of Piers Corbyn, I have no qualification that makes my view any more authoritative than yours. But it seems to me probable that the massive advances in knowledge of how vaccines work within the body at the level both of incredibly small structures and of atoms, better enable theoretical constructs to underpin the discoveries of the vaccine testing process, and thus vaccine safety can indeed be established sooner than in earlier years, when the testing of empirical effects of a vaccine proved efficacy and safety or otherwise, without knowledge of precise mechanisms being entirely essential to the process. I shall myself take the vaccine when offered and urge everybody else to do so, despite myself tending to the view that the risk of death from covid-19, other than to clearly defined vulnerable groups, is extremely small. The risk to those vulnerable groups is acute, so for their sake I hope everybody vaccinates.

I might expand into my general view of vaccines. Being of an age where I can recall people only slightly older than myself living lives in forms twisted by polio, I have always regarded “anti-vaxxers” as deeply misguided. Any vaccine of course carries an inherent risk, as does any instance of putting anything at all in the human body. But for all established vaccines, those risks are very small. In fact, I view those who do not take vaccinations as extremely selfish, because while refusing the vaccination because of a very small risk to themselves, they still benefit from the herd immunity created by everybody else who has taken that tiny risk. I therefore view anti-vaccination as an immoral position; with the caveat that not everything that in my view, or even the state’s view, is immoral should be illegal. We come back again to the right to be different, to the fact that neither the state nor I are infallible judges of personal morality, and that the arm of the state is already too far extended.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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In Conversation with Mark McNaught 35

Last night I recorded for Independence Live these reflections on the Sturgeon Affair, on what has been happening to me, and on the way forward now for the Scottish Independence movement. It brings out much that I have been thinking that is difficult to sit down and write, and though rather gentle and ruminative I believe it is pretty watchable. It certainly helped to clear my own mind.

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Now Scotland 153

There is a real need for a campaigning organisation for Scottish Independence which people can join and whose sole focus is attaining Independence early, as a matter of urgency. Now Scotland, of which I am an elected committee member, is being launched to fill that gap. It is not a political party, will not stand candidates and all who support Scottish Independence as an overriding political priority are welcome. It is aimed to be the mass membership organisation to which everybody in the wider Yes Movement can belong.

It is intended that it will improve on 2014’s Yes Scotland by going into the campaign with a membership, funds and a democratic structure.

Now Scotland grew out of a series of assemblies last year organised by AUOB, and the aim is to take the kind of energy and unity generated by AUOB and extend it from marching and into other areas of campaigning. But like AUOB, it is the agency and energy of the people which will drive the activity. Now Scotland is not, and will not become, top down.

All of us who believe in the Independence of Scotland need to look beyond what divides us – and it would be dishonest to fail to note divisions have been deepening. We need to concentrate on what unites us, move forward to Independence on an irresistible popular wave, and then set about building that better country of our own.

The formal launch is on Friday and then I shall post again with a link to the website and joining information.

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UK Government Humiliated over Chagos Islands Again 167

The International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, a UN body based in Hamburg, last week delivered a stern and unequivocal rebuke to the UK in ruling the UK has no legal interest in the maritime area of the Chagos Islands. You will recall that the UK in the 1970’s ethnically cleansed the entire population from Chagos at gunpoint to make way for the US nuclear base on the Chagos Island of Diego Garcia.

In its judgement, The Special Chamber of the Tribunal last week ruled (para 247) by 8 votes to 1 that the Maldives must agree a boundary with Mauritius, as

it is inconceivable that the United Kingdom, whose administration over the Chagos
Archipelago constitutes a wrongful act of a continuing character and thus must be
brought to an end as rapidly as possible, and yet who has failed to do so, can have
any legal interests in permanently disposing of maritime zones around the Chagos
Archipelago by delimitation.

The Tribunal was of course here following the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice; the illegality of British occupation of the Chagos Islands is now indisputable in international law. What this tribunal adds is the dismissal of the notion that the UK has any legal rights to impose administrative or regulatory measures on the grounds that sovereignty is disputed. The Tribunal has said the Chagos Islands are part of Mauritius and there can be no dispute.

I am pleased partly because of my long term advocacy for the Chagos Islanders, but also because enabling the coming into force of the Tribunal was one of the proudest moments of my life. It is a very long story, and some day I will tell it, but the short version is that the entry into force of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea had been delayed for decades because of a dispute over the deep seabed mining regime. This specified a licensing system for mining in the deep seabed beyond all national limits, with the proceeds from licenses being distributed to developing nations. The United States had refused to ratify and the entire Convention, including the Tribunal, had been stymied as Western European powers followed the US lead over deep seabed mining.

When I became Head of Maritime Section at the FCO and Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Preparatory Commission (Prepcom) for the Convention – which was tasked with sorting out the mess – I can genuinely say that by persuading the UK government to soften its stance, (a Herculean task within Whitehall) and by establishing a strong personal rapport with the leaders of the developing world delegations, and especially with Dolliver Nelson and UN Under Secretary General Satya Nandan, I broke the impasse. My writing talent in clever drafting that eventually fed into the Protocol on Deep Seabed Mining made a real difference, but it really was the fact that I mixed freely with the developing world delegations, and sat on the beach with them drinking rum punch or eating ackee and fish washed down with Red Stripe in local restaurants, that broke the barriers.

I don’t know how to make you believe this, but this really was pretty revolutionary. The Prepcom met in Jamaica for a month every year and again in New York every August, and the “First World” delegates just did not socialise with the “G77 Delegates” except at stilted formal occasions or with enormous condescension. Making real friends across the barrier was not normal. I strongly recommend to you the current BBC true story drama “The Serpent”. Apart from the major subject, its portrayal of the milieu, lifestyle and attitudes of Western diplomats abroad is absolutely spot-on. I made the political breakthrough just by being straight and friendly with people. Indeed the key compromises were agreed with Satya and Dolliver while we splashed our legs in a pool. By coincidence, the UK had the revolving chair of the Western European and Others (WEOG) group at just the crucial time, which was a great help in getting the compromises through.

I should add that the FCO Legal Adviser, David Anderson, was my boss most of the time at these meetings; he was arguably the world’s leading authority on the law of the sea and the primary credit for the Convention coming onto force goes to him. He was to become one of the first judges at the Tribunal. A true Yorkshireman, I remember many hours walking around Brussels and New York with him while he peered at restaurant menus finding where he could get his chosen meal cheapest. I should also mention the tolerant and visionary Dr John Hughes, my line manager, who trusted me and gave me huge latitude. It is further fair to note that others took on the work to completion after me as I was posted to Poland by the time the Convention came into force. But somewhere I have kept the lovely note from John Hughes telling me the Convention had come into force, and that while my name would not be on it, the achievement was enormous.

I am very conscious that the strain of being on trial, and particularly awaiting the verdict, has made me self-obsessed. I have received really awful online abuse since I published my affidavits, and it has led me to want to think about the real achievements of my life, and even about the time when I was highly valued within the political establishment rather than somebody entirely outside of respectable society. Not that I would change a thing about my whistleblowing and I am sure this maudlin period will pass. Please forgive and indulge me for a little while.

Being chosen as the seat of the Tribunal was very important both to Hamburg and Germany, and I remember an official visit there to look at the site and discuss the accommodation for judges, the diplomatic status of staff and numerous other points. The hospitality was amazingly good, and I got taken out on the Gorch Fock for a day, which I shall never forget.

So I am delighted now to see the Tribunal be so robust over the Chagos Islands. It really does matter that the UK is in defiance of these international courts. The UK has wide interests, and may from time to time need to seek the authority of the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to assert them. That the UK has ignored major and overwhelming majority rulings from these courts, will undoubtedly be likely to rule the courts’ perception of the UK in other cases. Which will, for example, one day include the maritime boundary dispute with an independent Scotland.

The major question on Scottish Independence in international law is whether Wales, England and Northern Ireland (WENI) and Scotland will both be successor states, inheriting all the legal benefits and obligations of the UK, or whether only WENI is the successor state to the UK and Scotland is a new state. This is a crucial matter. There are examples both ways. For example, only Russia is the successor state of the Soviet Union, whereas Czechia and Slovakia are both successor sates of Czechoslovakia.

If WENI wants to keep its position on the UN Security Council it will need to be the sole successor state. But if it is, it will need to inherit all of the UK’s national debt and Scotland none (as Russia did for the Soviet Union). There will be strong international interest in WENI not being the sole successor state, as a lever to get this second rate power off its anomalous position on the UN Security Council. There are also consequences for nuclear weapon power status. Then there is the question of the colonies – to whom will they belong after separation? A disproportionate number of Scots shed their blood in obtaining those colonies or died of malaria administering them. (It is not lost on me they shed a lot more of the blood of those the colonies were stolen from). Scotland should demand the Chagos Islands as its share of colonial possessions – and then immediately decolonise. A plan which properly explained will certainly help attain UN recognition. The US base would then become a matter of negotiation between Mauritius and the USA, but from the starting point of the US having no right to be there.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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My Sworn Evidence on the Sturgeon Affair 471

UPDATED In addition to the substantial and very careful redactions made before publication, I have now made six more specific redactions at the request of the Crown Office, which is very agitated. I do not think this prevents the publication of these affidavits from still being useful.

I swore on oath two affidavits for my trial for contempt of court, and adopted them as my evidence today. I didn’t get to actually give the evidence orally as almost the entire trial was done on paper; although my QC specifically made a point of saying I was happy to take the stand for cross-examination by the Crown or questions by the judges, this was not taken up. When you go through the process you realise that this giving of evidence on oath is quite a solemn thing, so I am simply going to give you the text of my evidence for now without any comment, but redacted to prevent jigsaw identification of court protected identities.

Affidavit 1

AFFIDAVIT
of
CRAIG MURRAY, redaction Edinburgh, EH10 redaction

At Edinburgh on the TWENTY FIFTH day of AUGUST 2020, in the presence of David James Finlay Halliday, solicitor and notary public, Halliday Campbell WS, solicitors, redaction, Edinburgh, EH16 redaction, COMPEARED CRAIG MURRAY, redaction, Edinburgh, EH10 redaction who being solemnly sworn hereby DEPONES as follows:-

1. My name is Craig Murray, I reside at redaction, Edinburgh, EH10 redaction. I am 61 years old, a retired diplomat, now a historian and journalist.

2. I was Rector of the University of Dundee (2007-2010) and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Lancaster School of Law (2005-9). I am the author of books including Sikunder Burnes, Master of the Great Game (2017), The Catholic Orangemen of Togo (2010) and Murder in Samarkand (2007). The website academia.edu lists over 130 academic peer reviewed articles referencing my work.

3. I was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan 2002-4. Other roles included Deputy High Commissioner to Ghana (1999 – 2002), Deputy Head (Equatorial), Africa Department FCO (1997-9), First Secretary, British Embassy, Warsaw (1993 – 1937), Head of Maritime Section, FCO (1991-3) and Head of Cyprus Section, FCO (1989 -91).

4. Special responsibilities included Head of FCO Section, Embargo Surveillance Centre (1990-1), Alternate Head of UK Delegation to UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1991-3) and Head of UK Delegation to the Sierra Leone Peace Talks (1998-2000).

5. I have been awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity (USA) 2005 and the Primo Alto Qualita Della Citta di Bologna (Italy) 2006 and am an Officier of the Order of Mono (Togo). I have turned down three honours from the British state, OBE, LVO and CVO on grounds of Scottish nationalism, the last two being in the personal gift of Her Majesty the Queen.

6. As a journalist in new media, my output has been focused on my own website, which is nowadays my primary source of income. My articles have however been published in newspapers including the Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, and very many others both nationally and internationally.

7. I have been shown paragraph 11 of the Lord Advocate’s written submissions, which suggest that I published material not in the public domain because the stated purpose of my blog is to use insider knowledge of government to interpret contemporary events.  What I said is not a reference to acquiring material from inside the Scottish Government and publishing it.  It is a reference to using my experience at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to provide authoritative commentary on, and interpretation of, contemporary events, whether in Scotland, the United Kingdom or the wider world.

8. In August of 2018 I read the salacious account published by the Daily Record of an alleged sexual assault by Alex Salmond on a civil servant in Bute House. Aspects of the story appeared to me highly unlikely, in particular the willingness of the civil servant to simply obey his instruction of going to the bedroom and lying on the bed. On August 26 2018, I therefore published an article on my blog expressing this opinion.
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/08/a-short-article-not-mentioning-alex-salmond/

9. I 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, calling and meeting a wide range of contacts in Edinburgh and Glasgow. To my surprise, I discovered with a high degree of certainty that the leaker was Liz Lloyd, Chief of Staff to Nicola Sturgeon. I also discovered that she had a personal history with the journalist concerned and did not link it in my mind to anything wider than that.

10. In January 2019, I published an article following Mr Salmond’s resounding victory in his judicial review case against the Scottish government. My article focused on the abuses of civil service procedure in the pursuit of Alex Salmond by Leslie Evans and Judith Mackinnon, and called for them both to be sacked.
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2019/01/the-salmond-stitch-up-the-incredible-facts-and-why-mackinnon-and-evans-must-be-sacked/
11. The article concluded 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.

12. As a result of this article, Alex Salmond, with whom I had only very slight prior acquaintance, invited me to meet him in 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. He said as well as Mackinnon and Evans, Liz Lloyd was responsible for the actual orchestration.

13. Mr Salmond further said that the Scottish Government had made every effort to withhold vital evidence from Lord Pentland, who had ordered a process of commission and evidence on the available documentation. 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.

14. 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.

15. He said those interviewed by the police had included all the personal protection officers he had as First Minister. They had all said they had seen him do nothing wrong, and they were watching him very closely, as was their job. At least one of these policemen, now retired, had been given a rundown of the evidence by the policeman sent to interview him. The retired officer challenged the interviewer as to how he could be involved in such a corrupt stitch up. He stated that the fact it was a stitch-up was evidenced by the fact all the accusations emanated from the same small coterie, there was not a single accusation from an outside or independent source.

16. That observation stayed with me as I followed and investigated the case over the next year and it remains a key fact. I was strongly inclined to believe Alex Salmond. I am of much the same generation of the Scottish political class and it is a small country. We tend to know each other or of each other. I had never in forty years heard a hint of gossip surrounding Alex Salmond and sexual behaviour, with the single exception of a rumoured romantic attachment redacted attachment with redacted. But that had not involved any rumour of unwanted advances by Mr Salmond, quite the opposite ; it was rather widely believed in nationalist circles that she had set her cap at him. The common joke was that redacted was a booby prize.

17. It had been impossible to follow the judicial review case without concluding that a very unfair process had been undertaken against Alex Salmond, and that it was impossible this could have happened without the knowledge and approval of Nicola Sturgeon. That was a shocking realisation to an Independence supporter like myself. But what Alex Salmond was now telling me went further, which was that Nicola Sturgeon was involved in the orchestration of fake complaints against him. This was fairly astonishing on first hearing.

18. I asked what the motive 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. He had made plain to her that he was not happy with her lack of progress towards an Independence referendum following the Brexit vote.

19. Alex Salmond was plainly very unhappy. He said that he believed that Nicola was banking on his loyalty to the SNP and to the Independence movement, thinking that he would not split the party by revealing what or who was behind the allegations against him. At this crucial time, a Salmond/Sturgeon split could derail the chance for Independence and have a truly historic effect. I asked him directly whether this meant he did not want me to publish this information at the moment. He confirmed I should not publish. This conversation was in confidence but, as my blog was highly influential within the Independence movement, he thought it vital that I know the truth as matters develop.

20. I told him that Sturgeon’s hostility towards him seemed to be longstanding. I recounted a story I had been told by Robin McAlpine, of an occasion shortly after his resignation when Alex Salmond had arrived at the Scottish Parliament for a function and the First Minister’s Office had refused to sign him in. Alex replied that this was true ; it was particularly embarrassing as the occasion had been to hand over a large cheque for funds raised for charity following a campaign he had initiated as First Minister. They had been forced to do the photoshoot in the rain outside instead.

21. I advised Alex Salmond that he should continue to fight any allegations vigorously and should not worry in the least about any consequential damage to the SNP or the Yes movement, which were both very robust. If the SNP leadership were behind the attacks on him, it was much better that people know.

22. I also told him I knew exactly how he felt, having been myself subject to false accusation when as British Ambassador I blew the whistle on UK Government collusion with torture in the War on Terror. To be subject to a fit-up, particularly by those you knew and considered friends, was extremely disorienting. I was probably one of the few people in the UK who knew precisely how he felt.

23. The meeting concluded with Alex making the observation that he blamed himself for having established far too centralised a system of power in Scottish Government and the SNP, and not taking account of how far that was open to abuse by a person of ill-will.

24. In June 2019 (I do know the precise date, time and venue but to give it might aid identification of my source with deleterious consequences for them) I met with a person well known in the Independence movement who informed me that they had been present at a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon and key members of her inner circle, including ministers, which had gamed the possible outcome of the Salmond affair. My source was trusted as a Sturgeon loyalist,

25. The view of the meeting was that if Alex Salmond could be convicted on just a single count, he would be destroyed politically forever, which was explicitly the objective. He would be on the register of sex offenders and branded a rapist in the public mind, even if the actual offence convicted was knee touching. I was also told that the Law Officers were confident of a conviction for something, which is why the multiplicity of charges. They apparently advised that, faced with a whole raft of charges, juries tended to compromise in the jury room to reach agreement and convict on a lower charge.

26. What struck me, both at the time and still, was that it was impossible to understand the account as given without it involving of necessity corrupt collusion between Nicola Sturgeon’s ministers and aides and the Crown Office over the handling of the Salmond case and the charges being brought.

27. I directly asked my source why they had been regarded as so trustworthy as to be included in such a meeting. They replied that they were generally highly supportive of « Nicola » and her leadership and had been on the fringes of her inner circle for a while. But they were not happy with the « fitting-up » of Alex Salmond, which they described as « unnecessary ».

28. I was aware that in telling me this my source was playing a double game. I was a British diplomat for over twenty years and a member of the Senior Management Structure of the FCO for over six. Obtaining confidential information from inside government circles, and assessing the credibility of the source and the information, is a core skill set for a diplomat, and I was a highly successful diplomat, becoming the UK’s youngest Ambassador.

29. I considered, using the FCO learnt criteria, the access and motivation of my source and my background knowledge of them, all of which I researched further. My conclusion was that this was a highly credible source with good access. This also squared with my impression ; they had seemed straightforward and no inconsistencies had appeared under question. I had known them for some years. I believed their account, and I still do.

30. At a later date, but substantially in advance of his trial, I informed Alex Salmond in broad terms of this conversation.

31. Equally crucially, this proved not just entirely consistent with all the further information I received, but a good explanation of it. In March 2020 I had explained and briefly shown to me by a source with good access the content of evidence related to the Salmond trial, much of which was to be excluded from the trial itself by the judge as collateral.

32. This material included the message from Peter Murrell, Chief Executive Officer of the SNP, to Sue Ruddick, Chief Operating Officer, to the effect that it was now the right time to put pressure on Police Scotland to move forward against Alex Salmond. It included the message from Ms Ruddick (I do not recall the recipient) to the effect that the problem was with Police Scotland refusing to detail precisely what evidence they required. If they would specify, then she could get that evidence for them. It included the message from Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, after the Scottish Government had abandoned its judicial review case, to the effect that they had lost a battle but won the war.

33. It included the message from redacted to another complainer to the effect that she had a plan that would enable them to have a strongly detrimental effect on Alex Salmond but have anonymity. It included the message from redacted to the effect that she did not want to attend any further meetings regarding a possible complaint if redacted were going to be present as redacted made her feel pressured rather than supported. It included the message from Ian McCann to the effect that he would sit on redacted’s complaint until it became necessary to deploy it. It included a number of messages from redacted which gave the impression she was playing a central role in orchestrating and organising complainers, but I do not recall any specific details of those particular individual messages.

34. Even more crucially, this account was consistent with what actually happened at the trial. In common with many observers, I was unimpressed by the performance of Alex Prentice for the prosecution and the truly pathetic and hopeless nature of a number of allegations. The inclusion of daft allegations like the « hair pinging » incident or the easily disproved hand on the knee in the car, are universally agreed to have weakened rather than strengthened the prosecution’s case when there were much more serious incidents admitted to have some basis in truth. Nor did these minor incidents contribute to « Moorov », being of a much lesser order than the main charges. The only way I could make sense of the Crown’s approach was in the light of what had been explained to me months earlier, the idea that the jury might settle on a lesser charge as a form of compromise. So here again, as in other ways, subsequent events are entirely consistent with what I was told in June 2019, and I am confirmed in my belief of corrupt collusion between the Crown Office and Nicola Sturgeon’s office.

35. I should state that I did not take notes at any stage in this investigation, in any meetings, and I am speaking entirely from memory here. That is why I am not giving verbatim messages but my memory of them. I have no doubt my memory is correct in essence. All of these messages are in the Crown’s possession and I trust will be produced to support this statement.

36. Again, my not taking notes reflects FCO training not to write down sensitive information outside of a fully secure environment but rather to remember. In a case involving sexual abuse, I was particularly concerned not to take notes that, if lost or overseen, might identify individuals.

37. In August of 2019, I learnt that my friend the veteran investigative journalist Laurie Flynn had been digging into the events which led to the Court of Session judicial review, and had an article written. I offered to host it on my blog. It was extremely interesting and highlighted the role of redacted, a name that was coming up again and again.

38. I therefore published Laurie’s article on 23 August 2019, and added further comments particularly on the role of redacted, whom I was beginning to consider a rather sinister figure. At this time I had no idea redacted. Indeed, it is very strange indeed, and quite out of order, that redacted was such an active member of the Scottish Government judicial review committee which had decided to contest the civil case, at great expense, and was to decide to concede it, at great expense.

39. In November 2019, I was told by a senior contact within the SNP whom I have known for many years (not the same source from June) that a deal had been struck between Peter Murrell, redacted and redacted whereby redacted would make an allegation of attempted rape against Alex Salmond, and Murrell would redacted return to front line politics redacted. The cold-bloodedness of this infuriated me. By around this time I had learnt the identities of, I believe, all of the complainers, not from a single source but by asking around my contacts. It was not difficult.

40. I realised that something extraordinary and morally disgusting was happening. If the public knew the identities of those being put up to make allegations, and just how close to Nicola Sturgeon they were, they would immediately understand what was happening. But the convention protecting the identities of those making allegations of sexual assault, made such allegations the perfect vehicle for a positive campaign to frame on false charges, while the perpetrators of this conspiracy to pervert the course of justice had the protection of the courts against exposure.

41. That accusers included :

redacted Nicola Sturgeon. First Minister of Scotland Leader of the SNP ;
redacted Ian Blackford, UK Parliamentary Leader for the SNP ;
redacted Angus Robertson, Former UK Parliamentary Leader of the SNP ;
redacted

It would cause a massive political storm were it known to the public, and raise major and in fact fully justified suspicions about motive. The combination of the anonymity of these accusers, and the exclusion from the trial on the grounds of « collateral evidence » – and continued intention of the Crown Office to suppress – of the messages implicating Peter Murrell and Sue Ruddick in the conspiracy, has resulted in the denial to the Scottish public of information which there is the strongest possible public interest in knowing, in order for them to judge the actions of those in power over them.

42. The weight of all this knowledge, and of not being allowed to tell it, was a heavy burden upon me. In general, I strongly support the principle of anonymity for people alleging they are victims of sexual assault. But this was an absolutely unique case. Where the « victims » are actually those wielding very considerable power in the state, and conspiring to frame an innocent man, is the principle of protection for sexual abuse victims of greater public interest than the public interest in being able to form an informed opinion on the massive abuse of state power which was in train ?

43. It was at this stage that I formed the opinion that there were questions here that urgently needed to be addressed, but it was not for me to decide. I therefore formed the view that, after the trial of Alex Salmond was concluded, this question would have to be put before a court, and, when the time came, I acted upon that conviction.

44. There was a period of several months when I was fully aware of the names of the accusers, and also fully aware that there was no general law or court order in place preventing me simply from publishing. That, however, would not have been responsible journalism and I determined to wait until I could put the matter before the court. The fact I did not publish the names when I could, over months, makes ludicrous the accusation of the Lord Advocate that I intentionally leaked out little bits of information as jigsaw identification.

45. I should explain that I was not enjoying this investigation at all. In fact, I hated it and was becoming quite seriously depressed by the shock of what I was uncovering. I had moved back to Scotland in 2014 specifically in order to campaign for Scottish Independence. I have been a member of the Scottish National Party since 2011. It was horribly disillusioning to discover the corruption at the heart of the Scottish Government.

46. I was also in a deep dilemma as to what to do about it ; the same dilemma Alex Salmond was, and is, in. 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.

47. I should add that in May 2019 I met Alex Salmond in London to record a 50 minute interview for his TV company about my life and career, and that I met him again in approximately November 2019 in London for dinner with my good friend, the journalist Peter Oborne. On neither occasion was there substantive discussion of the charges against him.

48. On 21 November 2019, the Crown released substantial details of the charges against Alex Salmond. On 22 November, I looked through the newspapers and every Scottish newspaper had massive front page coverage of the accusations against him, in detail. The front page headline of the Herald read « 10 women ; 14 sexual offences ; Alex Salmond accused ». The details of all charges were printed on the front page, which had no other content. There were two other full pages on it inside.

49. The front page of the Scottish Daily Mail had the headline « Salmond in the dock » and the sub-heading « Former SNP Chief appears at High Court to deny 14 sex offences, including attempted rape, while First Minister ». There was no other story on the front page. There were eight full pages of further coverage inside.

The Daily Record front page had « Salmond on Trial the Charges : 1 attempted rape, 1 intent to rape, 2 indecent assaults, 10 sexual assaults, In the Dock ; 10 women accuse former First Minister of attacks. » There were two further full pages inside.

The Scottish Sun had « Salmond Rape Bid at Bute House  Ex-First Minister sex rap ; 10 women, 14 charges ; « pinned a victim down » and no other story on the front page.

The Daily Express had « Salmond Made Naked Rape Bid – Full details of 14 sex charges revealed ; Claims involve 10 women over 6 years ; I am innocent says ex-First Minister » and no other story on the front page, with four more pages inside.

The Scotsman had « Salmond, the charges ; Former First Minister accused of lying naked on top of woman and trying to rape her in Bute House » and no other story on the front page.

50. Broadcast media took the same tone. I was deeply concerned by the entire tenor of the press coverage, which appeared to be highly hostile to Salmond and present matters in a way that would be bound to influence potential jurors against him. I was also surprised by the sheer detail in the charges which the Crown Office had presented to the media.

51. This worried me because it creates a huge imbalance in media coverage and thus in public opinion. 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.

52. In mid January 2020 I took part in an AUOB march through Glasgow which took place in a major storm. It was followed by a press conference at which I spoke and then by a joint strategy meeting with Plaid Cymru, all in soaked clothes. I have heart and lung conditions of longstanding and the over-exertion and hypothermia resulted in an ambulance being called later that evening. I refused hospitalisation because I was too busy.

53. However, the scare led me to write my « Yes Minister Fan Fiction » article of 18 January 2020 because, as the article plainly states, there were things I would not wish to die without having told.

54. It was, however ,a challenge to work out how to tell them without being in contempt of court given the charges against Alex Salmond. I therefore very carefully used a number of strategies not to be in contempt of court. Not to evade contempt of court charges ; actually not to be in contempt of court.

55. Perhaps the most vital strategy was what I would call post-dated cheque information. By which I meant, to leave information that people would not understand the ramifications of now, but would after the trial or once further evidence emerged. This applies most clearly to the edacted deal of redacted.

56. In January 2020, it was not widely known at all that redacted. Therefore, when I wrote : « I was thinking more of his wife, Permanent Secretary. redacted » my readership had no idea what I was talking about.

57. As with other information recounted above, it is remarkable how precisely events as they have unfolded have proven my sources were right. It is now notorious in Scottish political circles that the National Executive of the SNP last week adopted measures which effectively redacted, and did so in order to redacted. Many articles have appeared in the media to that effect. I regret that, redacted identity still being protected, I am not able to republish my article to show that I knew in advance and show what lies behind it. Nobody reads old articles on the blog ; very few people read articles below the first two on the homepage, and it is rare for articles to be read at all once they fall off the homepage (about two weeks). This is particularly true as Google de-ranks alternative or independent news sites.

58. At the time I wrote this article there was no order in force against publication of names. I nevertheless decided not to do that. I did not name redacted, instead using the alias « marmalade ». This was a private joke to myself referencing redacted. I was not in fact particularly thinking of redacted, or I would have called him « Keiller ».

59. I also did not give the names of either Sturgeon, Evans redacted Ms Sturgeon’s private secretary was, of course, male.

60. I further wrote the article as a satirical piece to disguise the nuggets of truth, in the manner of a Yes Minister script. As Jack Point put it :
« Oh winnow of my folly and you’ll find
A grain or two of truth among the chaff »
Satire has been for centuries a licensed vehicle for literary, social and political commentators, from Martial through Chaucer, Pope and Swift to Peter Cook. I find it hard to believe the Lord Advocate is seeking to prosecute satire – or I would have found it hard to believe, had I not been on this extraordinary journey of revelation of the corruption of the Scottish state.

61. I was particularly keen to satirise the Moorov doctrine. A lot of mince is still just mince – it does not turn into sirloin steak just because you have a lot of it. But, in doing so, I was also referencing the account I had been given in June 2019 of the tactics being employed by the prosecution, and seeking to make it plain to the Sturgeon circle that I knew precisely how their scheme was supposed to operate. That would have been entirely obscure to the general reader.

62. I was engaged in booking acts for the Doune the Rabbit Hole music festival, of which I am a director. I came up with the pseudonym « Orpheus » for Alex Salmond because I had just finished booking the Morriston Orpheus Male Voice Choir. I came up with the pseudonym Barclay simply because I was making bank payments.

63. The notion that this cryptic, satirical article, described as fiction, on a personal blog, would influence a jury is fanciful. When compared to the absolute torrent of hostile mainstream media material fed by the Crown Office, as detailed above, and vicious social media comment, aimed at Alex Salmond, the fact that the Crown Office are prosecuting only an extremely rare news source sympathetic to Salmond is, in my view, deeply sinister in the light of everything I have stated so far about the Crown Office – and more is to come.

64. On 21 January 2019, I received an email from the Crown Office requesting me to take down my Yes Minister Fan Fiction article as they considered it to be in contempt of court. I did not consider it to be in contempt of court- I had written it carefully not to be – so I did not take it down.

65. I was concerned about the constitutional implications of the Crown’s letter, and I still am. The Crown gave no indication of why they believed the article to be in contempt of court. When , many weeks later, I received the Lord Advocate’s Petition and Complaint, it appeared to indicate that they considered it was in contempt for jigsaw identification – but that made no sense, as when the Crown wrote to me on 21 January 2019 there was no order in place to protect the identities. The Petition gives no indication that the Crown was alleging that article might prejudice the jury. That argument only arrives months later again, in the Lord Advocate’s written submission.

66. I considered the matter very carefully. The rule of law is not arbitrary. If the Crown, without the intervention of a judge, has the power to censor publication, we are putting liberty in Scotland back several hundred years. The Crown Office cannot just order censorship on entirely spurious grounds thought up several months later.

67. I made a very conscious decision to content myself with the idea that, if they really thought I was in contempt of court, they would bring it to court and a judge could decide whether I was right or they were right. 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.

68. I visited the High Court before the trial to find out how to attend and report. I attempted to register as a journalist, but was given the absolute runaround between the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service and Judicial Communications. I suspect this is simply because their systems are geared to the outdated days of traditional media. I was unable to obtain accreditation, and thus could not be present for the prosecution evidence.

69. I therefore wrote up my commentary on Day 1 of the court case in an article entitled « The Alex Salmond Trial : Your Man Excluded from the Gallery » with some wider commentary about the context of the trial and the laws of evidence in Scotland, but with reporting of events in the trial itself entirely based upon what was published by other journalists inside the court. I was particularly following James Doleman, Philip Sim and Radio Forth and also the Grouse Beater blog which itself was purely drawing on published sources. I stated this explicitly in the article « If you look through the twitter lines, you will see that journalists between them have missed at least three quarters of what is said in court. Because I am not there I am dependent on their selection of material. » I published nothing of the evidence – literally nothing – that had not been published by other journalists.

70. I had clearly at the forefront of my mind the desire to avoid identification of redacted, even though there was at that time no order in place to protect her identity. I am satisfied that I succeeded in this.

71. By my next report on 12 March, I was a little more organised and had sources inside the court giving me additional information. I thus knew fairly well in real time of the order protecting identities, and was still more careful. It was necessary, for the public to have an understanding of the basics of the case, to explain that several of the accusers held senior positions in SNP structures, but I was very careful to ensure I gave no details of actual positions or who worked in Edinburgh, who worked in London etc. This continued throughout the trial.

72. On 18 and 19 March, when I finally gained access to the court, I continued this policy of taking great care. In writing up that evening, I google searched on two particular pieces of evidence to check I was not giving away identities. For example, I searched many combinations of terms for Salmond, Alexander Anderson, helicopter, Stirling Castle and Gleneagles to ensure that my article could not lead to identification of redacted. I was satisfied it could not, and published my account with good conscience.

73. On the other hand, I found that google searches around the meeting of Geoff Aberdein with Nicola Sturgeon on 29 March very readily brought up the fact that redacted. I therefore amended my draft to delete reference to her presence at that meeting, even though that meeting is, from a political point of view, perhaps the most significant fact to have emerged from the trial, as it shows Nicola Sturgeon to have misled Parliament about when she first knew of allegations.

74. By contrast, the entire mainstream media published details of that meeting including redacted . Stuart Campbell has been pursuing this fact in correspondence with the Crown office. Kirsty Wark repeated this very simple jigsaw identification of redacted in the recent BBC documentary The Trial of Alex Salmond.

75. There is a very good list of articles which included this jigsaw information which I rigorously excluded to be found in the letter from the Crown Office to the Reverend Stuart Campbell of 19 August which you can see here :
https://wingsoverscotland.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/copfs19aug2020-1.jpg

76. I was much more careful to avoid jigsaw identification here than the mainstream media. After I was astonished to be charged with contempt by the Crown Office, I sought objective proof of this by commissioning an opinion poll from Panelbase.

77. This poll, conducted according to industry leading survey techniques, cannot establish whether anybody is correct in their presumed identification of witnesses. But it shows that, of those who believe they have identified witnesses, 66% believe they learnt the identities from TV or newspapers. One person named my blog as a source – in among many more names of mainstream media journalists. The individual who was most named as giving away identities, most named by a margin, was journalist Dani Garavelli. It is of course possible that the individual who named my blog was referring to the re-publication for comment of one of Garavelli’s articles on my blog.

78. I am not a lawyer. But, to a layman, it is remarkable to me that the Crown Office is prosecuting me citing my commentary on Garavelli’s article as contempt of court, whereas Garavelli’s article itself has not led to Garavelli being prosecuted, even though opinion poll evidence shows she was named far more than I as a source of identification. Given that Garavelli’s work is vehemently anti-Salmond while the Crown Office is prosecuting the most prominent pro-Salmond journalist, I would say this is, in the context of all else I have testified, sinister.

79. In publishing all of my accounts of the trial, I was extremely mindful of both the law of contempt of court and of my desire not to identify witnesses. The constraints were not just at the back of my mind, but right at the front of my mind, to the extent that there is highly considered discussion of these issues included in my articles throughout my reporting of the case.

80. But I was also strongly aware of a public duty to inform the public of the defence evidence. As already noted, the Crown had given the media, and the media had extravagantly published, salacious detail of the prosecution’s charges from long before the trial. When the prosecution evidence was led, there was again for the first few days an absolute frenzy of front page, news bulletin leading reporting, again focused exclusively on the most salacious and sensational extracts from what the accusers said in court.

81. Then, when the defence witnesses stood up one after another, without the benefit of anonymity, and gave their evidence under oath, there was virtually nothing. I witnessed the ranks of media in front of the public gallery literally shut their notebooks. Virtually no media reporting appeared of the fact that redacted could not have had her alleged morning exchange with Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh because the latter’s father had died that morning. Nor of the two separate eye witnesses, feet away, who testified that redacted was not groped at the Stirling Castle photocall. No account was given of Janet Watt, line manager, denying she had been told of incidents as claimed. Nor of Alex Bell, who detests Alex Salmond, nevertheless testifying that he did not see the claimed scene by the Jack Vettriano painting. I could go on and on with all the defence evidence which the media did not mention.

82. The general media situation is perfectly exampled in the subsequent BBC documentary, « The Trial of Alex Salmond », broadcast by the BBC on 17 and 18 October and fronted by Kirsty Wark. While purporting to be a day to day account of the trial and adopting a « Day 1 », « Day 2 » etc format, incredibly the documentary simply skipped from Day 7 to Day 10 and missed out the defence witnesses. That is just what the overwhelming majority of the media did – quite deliberately, of course. There can be no serious argument against the proposition that the Scottish mainstream media is overwhelmingly hostile to Alex Salmond.

83. It is a simple statement of fact that the only reason any measurable section of the Scottish population has the slightest idea of what the defence evidence was, is that it was published on my blog. Otherwise they would only have the false mainstream media presentation of highly selective quotes from Gordon Jackson to the effect that Salmond could have been a better man, but inappropriate does not mean criminal, and the deliberately created false impression that the jury was faced with only « he said, she said » decisions. The third party eye witnesses who challenged key aspects of accusers’ evidence went mostly unreported, except by me.

84. In a case with such massive political ramifications, in giving a fair account of the defence evidence I fulfilled a democratic duty I felt a strong obligation to fulfil. I am very proud of my role. And I did it while all the time keeping a very careful eye indeed on the line of jigsaw identification and contempt of court. That I was up to the line I readily admit ; a fast bowler does not deliver from behind the stumps lest he overshoot the crease and bowl a no ball. But I was very careful indeed not to cross the line.

85. It was put to me during the trial (I believe by the court reporter James Doleman, who I know from our both covering the Julian Assange hearing) that the law of contempt of court dictates in sexual abuse cases that the prosecution case can be widely reported but the defence case cannot be reported. The reason is jigsaw identification. He told me as a warning to be very careful.

86. His reasoning went like this. The Crown at the time of charge releases to the media details of all the charges. So they have released, for example, that a hypothetical woman X was assaulted in Bute House on 1 January. So when woman X gives evidence, you can publish it in detail because the Crown had already released it. However, if, in recounting the defence evidence, it were a relevant fact that she had a blue car, you could not mention it, because of jigsaw identification. The fact that her being in Bute House on 1 January would quite literally be a million times more identifying than possession of a blue car was irrelevant. So you could report the accusation but not the defence.

87. I considered this very carefully with regard to my reporting of the case, and it relates directly to the charges against me. It is highly identifying to say that a woman was with Alex Salmond in an official capacity on a visit to China, close enough to him to travel in his car and be with him in the lift. That is all extremely identifying ; everybody reported it because it was part of the prosecution case. Yet there is only one person that can be. But for me to report as part of the defence that she had curly hair – as do over 15% of the population – is jigsaw identification. I considered the argument the Lord Advocate now puts forward, before I published the piece, and considered it patently absurd.

88. I also considered that, if that were truly a statement of Scots Law, then the effect is obviously perverse. That only the prosecution case may be published and not the defence, would mean that even an innocent man found innocent, would forever be damaged in the eyes of the public who would know the detailed accusations against him but not why he was found innocent. That cannot be the intention of the law.

89. Nor can it be the intention of the law, as in the Alex Salmond verdict, that the accusers should even after the not guilty and not proven verdicts, continue a massive media campaign from behind the veil of anonymity against the acquitted man. This appears to me a massive abuse of the court order granting anonymity and I cannot believe that this was the intention of Lady Dorrian when she granted the order. I shall return to this subject shortly.

90. On the morning of 20 March, I was as usual waiting with my ticket to enter the public gallery, when Alex Prentice emerged from a door to the left of a court room entrance, paused and appeared to stare at me before continuing on into the courtroom. The supposed start time for the court came and went with the queue still outside, and then I was approached by two police officers, in front of everyone, and marched from the court. This was very humiliating, particularly as some pleasure was evident among the queue of mainstream media journalists who had come to demonise Alex Salmond.

91. The police were very pleasant but, in reply to my direct question, stated that they had no idea why I was being removed. The court staff at the front door stated the same. I therefore went home.

92. I now know that the court had heard a motion for my exclusion from the prosecution on the grounds of alleged contempt of court. I believe strongly that it was contrary to natural justice that the judge and prosecution should have been discussing me while I stood directly outside the court door, and I was not given any hearing or even accorded the common decency and respect of being informed what was happening. This is in stark contrast to events on the morning of the 10th March when an accredited member of the media, said to have tweeted out an identity – much more than I had done – was permitted to be present while the matter was discussed in closed court and was asked if he had anything to say.

93. My only complaint of the court refers to my own treatment, and, while I believe my treatment was wrong, I accept that the judge had infinitely weightier matters to deal with and was perhaps irritated by this minor distraction. As I stated directly in my article, my impression of both judge and jury in the two days I was permitted in to the Salmond trial is that they were doing their jobs in a highly impressive manner. On 18 March I published :

94. « The Court itself was impressive ; Lady Dorrian presided with exemplary fairness, dealing quickly and sensibly with points that arose on admissibility of evidence. The jury of 15 citizens looked engaged and earnest throughout. The impression of my first day is that it is a process that deserves respect and trust, something I never felt at an Assange hearing ».

95. On 19 March I published :
« There I will bow to the judge – who I continue to find very fair ».

96. After exclusion from the court on 20 March, I wrote an article complaining about the arbitrary manner of my treatment. I also phoned the court for more information, and was eventually called back by the clerk of the court, who could not tell me exactly why I had been excluded, but did tell me that the exclusion was for the duration of the trial, not just for the day. Neither he nor the other court staff of whom I had inquired as to what was happening told me that an order had been made banning the publication of the fact I had been excluded from the court. That seems a quite extraordinarily arbitrary proceeding – not only to ban a journalist from a public trial without allowing him any representations, but to also make it illegal to state he was banned. It sounds like something from a dictatorship, not from Scotland.

97. I have a strong basis in knowledge of human rights from my diplomatic career and have a sound knowledge of the Council of Europe (to whose Parliamentary Assembly I have indeed given evidence on human rights, as I have to the Westminster Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights and to the European Parliament Committee on Human Rights). I had no doubt that the entire circumstance surrounding my arbitrary banning from court without representation and the banning of any mention of that fact raises serious concerns.

98. I note the Crown Office claim to have written to me at this stage. I received nothing from them, either by email or post. Their letter of 21 January I had received both by email and by post, and had to sign for the postal letter. I do not know what happened about their subsequent purported communication, if anything.

99. Following the verdict, Alex Salmond stood on the steps of the High Court, referred to the evidence he had not been permitted to lead, and stated that a day of reckoning would come when the full truth would be set out, but explained that this would have to be deferred until after the Covid crisis has passed.

100. This came as a massive disappointment to me. Having known all about the conspiracy that lay behind his trial, I had hugely been looking forward to the day when it would be possible to publish the truth about the conspiracy behind these charges. I had assumed that Alex Salmond would himself immediately point the finger at Nicola Sturgeon, Peter Murrell, Sue Ruddick and the other conspirators who could be named because they did not have the court granted anonymity of redacted and others. But I deferred to Alex Salmond’s wishes in not publishing the full truth. As I published in my article of 30 March 2020, « I have, absolutely against my own instincts, deferred to Alex Salmond’s noble but in my view over-generous wish to wait until the Covid-19 virus has passed before giving all the names of those involved and presenting the supporting documents ».

101. The documents to which I referred were those mentioned above ; they proved the culpability of people including Murrell, Ruddick and McCann, whose anonymity is not protected. I was not aware when I wrote that the effort to suppress these documents – which frankly will be key documents in the course of Scottish history – was going to extend beyond the trial, that they would be kept even from the Holyrood inquiry, and that the Crown would seek to deny their use for my own trial.

102. I had been struck by the facts surrounding the exclusion of juror RR. He had been loud in asserting that he believed Salmond to be innocent. I found the circumstances surrounding juror RR’s reporting to the police very suspicious, just as I find the circumstances surrounding the taping of Gordon Jackson on the train very suspicious. If a juror said too much in conversation, a minority of people might know enough to tell him he really should not be talking that way. To walk away and clipe him up to the police seems to me an extreme and entirely unnatural reaction. It seems to me a great deal more likely that juror RR was set up ; particularly as the lady who engaged him in the conversation worked for a Scottish Government agency.

103. I actually drafted all that, but then did not publish it as it would have been in contempt of court. I decided instead to give no details at all. I am genuinely puzzled as to what the Lord Advocate thinks is actionable on that.

104. Unfortunately, Alex Salmond’s declaration of a « covid truce » on proceedings was not matched by the conspirators. They immediately began a concerted campaign to undermine the verdict in public opinion and to attack the reputation of the court and the jury. The campaign was fronted by Rape Crisis Scotland, an almost entirely Scottish Government funded organisation whose funding is under the control of officials whose management line redacted whose story of a knee grab on the very short ride from Pizza Express Holyrood to Waverley Station had been comprehensively debunked at trial.

105. The nine complainers in the case signed a joint letter maintaining their accusations against Alex Salmond, which was carried at saturation levels by the entire Scottish media, and was curious given that the complainers were purported by the Crown to be unconnected to one another. In a whole series of interviews across all Scottish media, Rape Crisis Scotland argued, in effect, that the verdict had been perverse, an example of the justice system failing abused women, and even was used by Rape Crisis Scotland to argue directly for the abolition of jury trials in sexual assault cases.

106. The campaign culminated at that time in an article written by Dani Garavelli for Tortoise Media and repeated in Scotland on Sunday, the Sunday edition of the Scotsman, which it is impossible to read other than as a sustained attack upon the court and the verdict. It was a particularly tendentious piece of work because it again repeated all the major accusations, with sympathetic personal interviews with five of the complainers, while omitting to mention a single one of the defence witnesses or any of the defence evidence that had shown them to be wrong and, in several cases, actually lying.

107. What is more, the Garavelli article again made very plain the identity of redacted by jigsaw identification and potentially of others, including redacted who redacted. It is of definite significance that, in the opinion poll I commissioned to get objective evidence of jigsaw identification, Dani Garavelli was by a significant margin the most named source by the public for complainer identification. The decision by the Lord Advocate to prosecute me, a very rare Salmond supporter with an audience, and not prosecute Garavelli, the media cheerleader for the anti-Salmond cause, appears not just selective prosecution, it is political persecution.

108. The great irony of this is that I am the one upholding the dignity of the court and explaining to the public why a diligent jury reached the sound verdict it did, while Garavelli is attacking the verdict of the court and doing so by omitting the crucial defence evidence that the jury heard. She also characterises individual jury members in her article. Yet it is I, the supporter of the court, who is allegedly in contempt, while the attackers of the court are not. The truth is, of course, that the failed prosecutors are favouring those who support the prosecution ; that these failed prosecutors get to decide who is tried for contempt is an abuse of process.

109. I decided that the best way to deal with the Garavelli article and with the entire avalanche of anti-court propaganda was to write my article « I have a plan so we can remain anonymous but have maximum effect » in which I reproduced Garavelli’s article in its entirety, with paragraphs of my commentary under her paragraphs where appropriate. The Crown production of this article in the bundle given to me has not printed out the contrasting colours, so the court will find it extremely difficult to follow what is me and what is Garavelli. This however is Garavelli :

« When the time came, the foreman stood up and said Not Guilty to 12 of the 13 charges. The verdict of the charge involving woman F – sexual assault with intent to rape – was found Not Proven, which is also an acquittal. None of the verdicts were unanimous. The foreman seemed content with decisions he was conveying, but others were not. One young-ish juror with glasses sat with his head bowed »

Followed by me commenting on Garavelli

« Garavelli has no idea how that youngish juror voted. Here again is a blatant attempt to convey that this was a perverse verdict… Garavelli is incidentally in very grave contempt of court in clearly identifying an individual juror and how she thinks he voted. Garavelli will of course be protected by the Establishment from any consequences of this ».

110. I was absolutely correct on all counts. It is a further example of the extreme consciousness of the law of contempt of court with which I wrote throughout. I had a great deal more respect for the rules of contempt than the Lord Advocate, who plainly only applies them to opponents of his prosecution of Alex Salmond.

111. As the accusers continued their public campaign against the verdict of the court, and continued their conspiracy after the verdict to destroy Alex Salmond politically from behind the screen of court enforced anonymity, I decided the time had now come to put before a court the question of whether that anonymity should be upheld even in these extreme and unique circumstances. The public interest in knowing that it was those in positions of great power in the Scottish Government who had colluded against Alex Salmond might well outweigh the general public interest in anonymity for complainers of sexual abuse.

112. On 31 March 2020, I therefore contacted my solicitor to find a QC to draw up a petition to court for the court to decide. We received a draft application from Craig Sandison QC on 15 April 2020, funded at my own expense. I was considering how to proceed, particularly in the light of Covid lockdown, when I was astonished to find myself charged with contempt of court a week or so later.

113. On 23 April 2020, two policemen came to my door and left on the doorstep a letter which, when I opened it a day later (early Covid precaution!), was from the Crown Office telling me I was charged with contempt of court.

114. Remarkably, within minutes of the police arriving, I received an email from Kieran Andrews of the Times newspaper, stating that

« The Crown Office has confirmed that it has started contempt of court proceedings against you in relation to the Alex Salmond trial. Would you like to comment? « 

We are not children. This is plainly a polite lie. Mr Andrews had not telephoned the Crown office that day and asked « I say, did you happen to charge Craig Murray with anything today ? ». What had happened was that the Crown Office, in keeping with its highly politicised and corrupt behaviour through all of the events which I have here recounted, had phoned a reliably anti-Salmond journalist and tipped him off about the charges against me. I believe that the Crown Office is deeply corrupt.

115. In reading the Lord Advocate’s petition and learning of the charge of jigsaw identification, it seemed to me that his charge was entirely subjective. The Lord Advocate appeared to appreciate the need for some kind of proof, as he prayed in aid a number of tweets as evidence that people had identified. But his understanding of Twitter appeared extremely naive. With a single exception, not one of these tweets showed they had correctly identified anyone (and that single one did not prove I was the reason). On the contrary, many of them were from bad faith actors or Twitter « trolls » with fake identities – « Tamara Patel » is a good example of a long term troll on my account with multiple other identities, including « Harry Johnson » and « James », whose claim to identify from my posts the Lord Advocate foolishly takes at face value. Others show in their Twitter handles that they are dedicated political opponents, i.e. some show union flags and one profile describes a « unionist » and « Rangers supporter ».

116. Nevertheless, in quoting these evidentially valueless tweets the Lord Advocate did seem to be acknowledging the desirability of some objective measure of likelihood to identify, so I set myself to think about whether I could help supply the Lord Advocate’s deficit of reason.

117. I came up the idea that whether or not I had been likely to identify would be objectively demonstrable by obtaining a sufficiently large sample of the population, and that the way to do this was through a professional survey company. I therefore commissioned an opinion poll from Panelbase, the results of which I append and which I believe will assist the court.

118. The survey could not check whether people really know the identities of failed complainers, but it does show that a remarkable 8% of the population believe that they do – that equates to about 350,000 adults in Scotland who think they know one or more identities. The number will have risen since, particularly after the Kirsty Wark BBC documentary which pretty plainly identified redacted.

119. Asked how they know identities, 66% said they knew from newspaper, TV or radio reporting. Given a free field to identify individual sources, seventeen different news sources were named, several multiple times, with a single mention of my website. Eight different journalists were named, some multiple times, and not including me. The most mentioned source as Scotland on Sunday/The Scotsman, where Dani Garavelli’s article appeared, and the most mentioned journalist was Dani Garavelli, who is the prosecution’s biggest cheerleader, and is not being charged.

All of which is the truth as the deponent shall answer to God.

Signed

Affidavit 2

SUPPLEMENTARY AFFIDAVIT
of
CRAIG MURRAY, redacted, Edinburgh, EH10 redacted

At Edinburgh on the TWENTY FIFTH day of JANUARY 2021, in the presence of David James Finlay Halliday, solicitor and notary public, Halliday Campbell WS, solicitors, redacted, Edinburgh, EH16 redacted, COMPEARED CRAIG MURRAY, redacted, Edinburgh, EH10 redacted who being solemnly sworn hereby DEPONES as follows:-

1. My name is Craig Murray, I reside at redacted, Edinburgh, EH10 redacted. I give this affidavit in supplement to the one I have previously given in connection with the contempt of court proceedings brought against me. My intention in doing so is to provide more information for the Court on the context in which I published my articles and tweets, and my reasons for doing so.

2. I was Rector of the University of Dundee (2007-2010) and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Lancaster School of Law (2005-9). I am the author of books including Sikunder Burnes, Master of the Great Game (2017), The Catholic Orangemen of Togo (2010) and Murder in Samarkand (2007). The website academia.edu lists over 140 academic peer reviewed articles referencing my work.

3. I was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan 2002-4. Other roles included Deputy High Commissioner to Ghana (1999 – 2002), Deputy Head (Equatorial), Africa Department FCO (1997-9), First Secretary, British Embassy, Warsaw (1993 – 1997), Head of Maritime Section, FCO (1991-3) and Head of Cyprus Section, FCO (1989 -91).

4. Special responsibilities included Head of FCO Section, Embargo Surveillance Centre (1990-1), Alternate Head of UK Delegation to UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1991-3) and Head of UK Delegation to the Sierra Leone Peace Talks (1998-2000).

5. I have been awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity (USA) 2005 and the Primo Alto Qualita Della Citta di Bologna (Italy) 2006 and am an Officier of the Order of Mono (Togo). I have turned down three honours from the British state, OBE, LVO and CVO on grounds of Scottish nationalism, the last two being in the personal gift of Her Majesty the Queen.

6. As a journalist in new media, my output has been focused on my own website, which is nowadays my primary source of income. My articles have however been published in newspapers including The Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, and very many others both nationally and internationally.

7. 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. I formed the view that these were genuine accounts, as they came from complementary sources who had access to the material under discussion.
I believed this to constitute prima facie evidence of, at the very least, politically motivated efforts to recruit and encourage complainers, and of illegitimate attempts to persuade “witnesses” to give evidence that, taken together, could amount to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. As this involved some of the most politically powerful individuals and forces in Scotland, I believed there to be the strongest possible public interest in these facts and in publication of them.

8. Before I published many of the articles and tweets that are the subject of these proceedings, I saw the information listed in this paragraph. I was not given copies of any of these documents and have never possessed any, other than Ann Harvey’s email, which was given to my solicitors at Ms Harvey’s request on 19 January 2021 to assist in my defence and is now produced as production 41 and which I can confirm was the version I saw. I wish to make plain the documents were each shown to me briefly on a screen and my recollection of them is from memory. Doubtless there will be minor errors in my recollection but I have no doubt of the purport, gist and individuals involved. The information was:

(a) A series of written communications involving Peter Murrell, Chief Executive Officer of the SNP, and Sue Ruddick, Chief Operating Officer of the SNP. They discussed inter alia a pub lunch or similar occasion between Ian McCann, a SNP staff member working for them, and redacted, one of the complainers in the HM Advocate v Salmond trial. At the lunch, Mr Murrell and Ms Ruddick expected redacted to firm up her commitment to giving evidence against Alex Salmond, and to discuss progress on bringing in others to make complaints. They expressed dissatisfaction at Mr McCann for his performance in achieving these objectives and expressed doubt as to his commitment to the cause.

(b) A communication from Ms Ruddick to Mr Murrell in which she explained to Mr Murrell that progress on the case was being delayed by Police Scotland and/or the COPFS saying there was insufficient evidence, and in which communication she expressed the sentiment that, if the police/Crown would specify the precise evidence needed, she would get it for them.

(c) Text messages from Mr Murrell to Ms Ruddick stating that it was a good time to pressure the police, and that the more fronts Alex Salmond had to fight on the better.

(d) Communications from Ms Ruddick about her visits to a number of locations, including the Glenrothes area, and including in conjunction or discussion with redacted. These communications detail their unsuccessful attempts to find witnesses who would corroborate allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Alex Salmond. They include a report of a meeting with young people who were small children at the time of the incident they were seeking to allege, who did not provide the corroboration sought.

(e) A message from redacted stating that she would not attend a meeting if redacted were also present as she felt pressured to make a complaint rather than supported.

(f) Messages in the WhatsApp group of SNP Special Advisers, particularly one saying that they would “destroy” Alex Salmond and one referring to Scotland’s ‘Harvey Weinstein moment’, employing the #MeToo hashtag.

9. That information formed some of the basis for the articles and tweets I published before and during the trial. I supplemented that information from my own attendance at the trial as a journalist and from other media reports of the trial. In my articles, I sought to provided reporting of, and commentary on, the HM Advocate v Salmond trial, and also to provide wider commentary on the trial and the political context in which it took place.

10. It was in the course of that wider commentary on the trial that I stated my reasonable belief, based on the information I had seen, that the criminal charges against Alex Salmond were the result of orchestrated work by senior members of the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party.

11. Before publishing my articles and tweets on the wider context of the trial, I saw the information set out at paragraph 8(a)-(f) above. As I have stated at paragraph 3 above, I considered that this information was genuine. I also considered that it showed that: (i) that senior members of the Scottish Government/SNP had sought improperly to involve themselves in the inquiry into Alex Salmond; (ii) they had discussed the possibility of pressuring the police; and (iii) certain of the complainers had felt pressured by the involvement of senior members of the Scottish Government or SNP.

12. I considered that, as a journalist, I acted responsibly and in the public interest in publishing my articles and tweets, and that I did so because of the information I had seen. It was, and remains, a matter of considerable public interest and importance that high-ranking members of the SNP would improperly involve themselves in an investigation into a political rival, and express sentiments such as a desire to obtain whatever evidence the police needed and a desire to pressure the police.

13. I emphasise that my reason for publishing the articles and tweets was what I understood from the information I saw before I published. My intention was not to publish the names of the complainers, but rather the names other members of the Scottish Government/SNP who had engaged in the actions set out above.
All of which is truth as the deponent shall answer to God.

Signed:

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A Time of Trial 150

Just about ready for my trial for contempt of court tomorrow; signing off a final affidavit in a minute. It is really difficult to get my head round the fact that I could very soon be jailed for up to two years for writing about the conspiracy to fit up Alex Salmond and reporting honestly and carefully on his trial, and face an “unlimited” fine.

One feature of the pre-trial hearings and rulings has been the Crown refusing to disclose documentary evidence, and refusing to allow my witnesses. It seems they are trying to get me convicted with no courtroom drama and as little said as possible. I have at this moment very little idea even of what evidence I shall be permitted to give myself from the (virtual) dock. I have, however, sworn on oath two affidavits, and the text of these will be published tomorrow on this blog, (redacted for jigsaw identification) once I adopt my evidence in court.

You can listen live to the court case from 10.30am tomorrow. Access details are here. I shall be very grateful indeed for everyone who does listen in. I am afraid it is a telephone link not an internet link; it is charged as a normal call to London (not a premium number), which may be free depending on your own phone contract. I cannot understand at all why the court uses this phone technology rather than the web, particularly as there is live video feed available to journalists.

Finally, I am afraid I again need money for my defence fund. I want to make very plain that I do not want anybody to give money who cannot afford it. I also do not want anybody to divert money to me that they would have donated to Julian Assange’s defence fund. Julian is facing far longer imprisonment than me, and frankly is a much more important figure with a great deal more to contribute on the major issues facing society. With those caveats, if anybody can donate to help me I will be very grateful.

The Defence Fund has to date raised £112,000. We have paid the legal team £61,500 to date and have a new fee note detailing over £75,000 (feenote). I have to calculate the exact sum but I believe about £25,000 of this is already paid. In addition, we have paid out £5,000 for a separate counsel’s opinion on the public interest in the anonymity of certain of the discredited accusers of Salmond set against the public interest in their pivotal positions in public life, we have paid £3,500 for the opinion poll evidence and we are paying £6,500 for specialist counsel to advice on social media law. Plus we will have the fees for the trial itself.

So I expect final costs will total over £160,000 and possibly substantially so. This is a huge amount to try to raise from my readers. It is a major indictment of our legal system that it is so ruinously expensive – Alex Salmond is an innocent man left with costs of many hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Crown has dragged out the case over a series of preliminary hearings – classic state lawfare tactics. And my lawyers have kindly capped or reduced their fees. If I did not genuinely believe that important issues of freedom of speech are at stake, I would not ask you to contribute. I would also point out that in these circumstances everything helps – the large bulk of the fund has been raised from many thousands of small contributions.




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Some Burns Night Warmth 65

This is my salvaged Belgian Efel Harmony 1 woodburner, sitting on a bit of recycled slate, in a hearth made of bricks and planed recycled railway sleepers, heating my home with wood taken from skips. With a glass of Lagavulin it’s not a bad way to spend Burns night, if not my usual way. Perhaps someone might send the photo to the Daily Record so they can be outraged.

Slainte Mhath

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An Incredible Omission 143

Astonishingly, the unprecedented Order from the Scottish Parliament to the Crown Office to hand over documents does not include the text messages between Peter Murrell and Sue Ruddick, which Murrell lied to parliament did not exist. In fact Peter Murrell does not feature in the request at all.

Those who hail the Committee’s Order to the Crown Office as a great breakthrough are not reading carefully enough. It is designed to fail. The orchestration of the plot is revealed very substantially in texts between Ruddick and Murrell. The Committee is only asking for texts between Ruddick and various categories of Scottish Government employee. Murrell and the other concerned SNP employee Ian McCann are not Scottish Government employees, but SNP employees. The Committee has deliberately excluded them.

This means, for example, the Committee will not see the exchanges between Murrell and Ruddick over the occasion when McCann was sent to firm up Woman H and make sure she would go through with it – woman being the accuser of the most serious accusation, and the woman who was not even at the small dinner where she claimed the incident occurred, as shown by eye-witnesses and the kitchen records.

The Committee also specifically excludes the Crown Office from providing any messages which identify an accuser. That makes the Order totally useless, as the only people, to my recollection, who fall into the Scottish government employee category requested, and who were in incriminating correspondence with Ruddick, are indeed false accusers. So the Committee won’t get those texts either. Ruddick’s “evidence generating” expeditions were in collaboration with somebody who, at a very late stage, became an accuser specifically so their tracks would be hidden by a court anonymity order.

It is important to remember that right from the outset of the plot, the accusers were knowingly planning to exploit the court granted anonymity routinely accorded to alleged victims of sexual assault, in order to facilitate their plan. As evidenced by the text from the Woman who Wasn’t There to another accuser-to-be that read:

I have a plan and means we can be anonymous but see strong repercussions

That message was read out to the jury in the Salmond trial.

The evidence of Geoff Aberdein is the most important single piece of evidence in the current Sturgeon Inquiry at Holyrood. Geoff Aberdein’s evidence is the most important single document in Scottish political history since 2014. It proves that Nicola Sturgeon lied to parliament about when she first was involved in the allegations about Salmond. It is not just that she held a meeting with him on the subject four days before she claimed she first knew – and has subsequently lied to parliament that this meeting was a chance encounter. It is that a full month before Sturgeon claimed she knew, Aberdein was contacted by a very senior member of Sturgeon’s staff and asked to have a meeting with Sturgeon on this subject. Subsequently, as four independent witnesses have testified to Sky News , that senior member of Sturgeon’s staff asked Aberdein to falsify a statement to remove their prior knowledge of the allegations against Salmond. Yet all of this, the most important evidence of the entire inquiry, has been excluded from publication and from consideration by the committee because it involves inextricably one of the anonymous accusers.

It is of course the case that Sturgeon knew of allegations long before even showed by Aberdein’s evidence, when she initiated the process to investigate ex-ministers. But it is not necessary to prove that in order to show that Nicola lied to Parliament – Aberdein’s evidence is sufficient for that.

We do have, of course, the bones of Geoff Aberdein’s evidence because he testified under oath in open court at the Alex Salmond trial as to these events, and I was there and heard him – although the attempt to get him to lie about what happened was not in the Salmond evidence as not relevant, and had not been public before being revealed by Sky.

The Inquiry Committee has now gotten itself into the ridiculous position of refusing to take into account sworn evidence that was given openly and on oath in the High Court of Edinburgh, because their legal advisers tell them it is inadmissible.

There is a hideous circularity to all of this. The Inquiry has been told it must reject Geoff Aberdein’s evidence on legal grounds, by the Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament. The Inquiry has been similarly told by the Solicitor to Parliament it must not question, on anything in Aberdein’s testimony, the official from Nicola Sturgeon’s office who organised the meeting with Aberdein and asked him to lie about it. The Committee has been told by the Solicitor to Parliament that it must not ask for any of the documents the Crown Office is hiding which name accusers. And I have not yet stood this up, but I have no doubt whatsoever that it is the office of the Solicitor to Parliament which is responsible for Peter Murrell being excluded from the Order for documents.

The Lord Advocate is a member of Sturgeon’s cabinet, is the prosecutor who prosecuted Salmond (and Mark Hirst and me), is in charge of the Crown Office which is hiding the evidence, and we have the Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament telling the Parliamentary Inquiry it cannot ask for key evidence or reveal key truth.

I must say, I have always been distressed by the calibre of Members of the Scottish Parliament, but their meek acceptance of the bent official advice that they must conduct the inquiry with their eyes closed, ears stopped, hands bound behind their back and one foot firmly secured into their mouth, is frankly pathetic beyond all expectation.

Please do read this excellent article by Iain MacWhirter.

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Navalny Should Be Released 309

Alexei Navalny is not the pleasant liberal our mainstream media paint him to be. Before extensive grooming by the West, he was a racist populist. However, he now makes a more convincing liberal standard bearer than similar proteges like Juan Guaido and to some extent has probably changed with wider experience. He most certainly is not especially popular in Russia, outside some wealthier and younger demographics, but they are voters too, and human progress would not have been great without the much despised middle classes.

I am not in the least convinced by the ludicrous narrative that Vladimir Putin and the FSB were not competent enough to successfully assassinate Alexei Navalny in Russia, including as he lay unconscious in a Russian state hospital. I regard it as a nonsense. But neither do I necessarily suspect that the whole incident was engineered by the West or Navalny (exploited is different to engineered). Incidentally, I am perfectly prepared to accept that the security service outlet Bellingcat was right about the Russian security services following Navalny. I have no doubt whatsoever that they do follow him, and have done so for many years. So what? Western security services followed me intensely when I first became a whistleblower, and on and off ever since, most notably when I have contact with Julian or Wikileaks. The British government announced in Julian’s recent bail hearing it spent £16 million of public money on surveillance of the Ecuadorean Embassy – that’s £16 million on looking at a non-moving target! Security services follow people. There are thousands of the blighters, both in the West and in Russia, and follow people is what many of them do for a living. It is in no sense evidence of assassination. Every time my heart problem puts me in hospital, I don’t imagine it was the MI5 surveillance folks (who must, incidentally, be very bored. When I was younger they did get to look at some great parties).

Anybody who genuinely believes that Putin did not personally authorise the arrest and detention of Navalny on return does not understand Russia. Putin’s purpose is simply to show that he can – that the West cannot protect its protege, which is a good lesson for the next one, and cannot harm Russian interests abroad. In power calculations, Putin is almost always correct. I am fairly sure he is also correct in calculating that swatting Navalny will play well to his popular base, who like the macho thing.

I do not address the technicalities of whether Navalny’s suspended embezzlement sentence was legitimate, and whether he breached suspension conditions, because again if you think that has anything at all to do with what is happening, you are hopelessly naive. Navalny might very well be guilty of embezzlement, but on nothing in the same universe of scale as Putin himself and his inner circle. It is about selectivity of prosecution rather than innocence or guilt. If you have political control of the prosecutor, you hold the cards. Oh sorry, I was drifting back to Scotland.

So Putin can see Navalny jailed till 2025 on the embezzlement charge with no serious consequences and a minor stabilisation of his personal authority. But at what cost? My major criticism of Putin is that he has failed to move Russia, an absolutely vital pillar of European cultural heritage, back towards the European centre after decades of isolation. That involves development away from purely autocratic government; but there remains absolutely no sign that Putin even intends to position Russia for that move once he finally relinquishes power – which he ought to have done many years ago. Allowing Navalny to continue his campaigning will not hurt Putin and will not hurt Russia. It is a fascinating and universal fact that the longer people hold power, the more paranoid they become.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Let Nobody Ever State Again There Is No Evidence of the Conspiracy Against Alex Salmond 110

I am strongly advised to shut up and say nothing just before my trial. I will however point out three things:

1) These documents are all in the possession of the Lord Advocate. They are held in the Crown Office. That is why we are asking the Crown to disclose them. The Lord Advocate at no stage, in opposing their release, denied their existence. This is the Lord Advocate’s reply to the application. 20210114 Answers to Disclosure Request (3)
2) These are some of the same documents the Lord Advocate has refused to give the Holyrood Inquiry and which Alex Salmond has said prevent him appearing before the Inquiry until the Lord Advocate agrees he can reference them in his evidence.
3) The High Court has agreed with the Lord Advocate that these messages are irrelevant to my trial and do not go to my Article 10 rights of free speech. The High Court notably refrained from endorsing the Lord Advocate’s argument that they are “private messages” and that Murrell and Ruddick are protected from their disclosure under Article 8.
This is extremely important as it means the High Court has not endorsed the Lord Advocate’s arguments for keeping these messages from the Holyrood Inquiry. The grounds on which the High Court did find against me – relevance and Article 10 – relate to my trial but do not relate to the Holyrood Inquiry.

The High Court ruling notably does not endorse the argument here on Murrell and Ruddick’s privacy. The Lord Advocate’s refusal to provide these documents to the Holyrood Inquiry on the grounds of the privacy and data protection rights of Murrell and Ruddick is therefore unlikely to survive a court application by the Fabiani Committee. That would require a great deal more courage than the Committee have shown to date.

I am as advised not going to comment on the merits of the High Court ruling, or on what the messages show.

But, as a matter of simple fact, these messages have now been barred from:
1) The Salmond Trial
2) The Holyrood Inquiry
3) The Murray Trial

Move along please. Absolutely nothing to see here. Nothing at all. Everything in Scotland is perfectly normal and above board. Ignore Craig Murray, he is a conspiracy theorist.
And if you don’t ignore all this, if you publish anything, we may send you to prison.

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