Silly old goat released from jail. Now he should tell feuding nationalists what ‘freedom’ really means, and then disappear without trace

by Colin Campbell

CRAIG Murray (63) has been released from jail. The nation rejoices. He was freed halfway through an eight month sentence. Now let’s hope the silly old goat has learned his lesson from his prison ordeal.

Who is Craig Murray?

I didn’t know that myself until a few months ago when he gained some prominence as a result of the Alex Salmond trial.

A fervent nationalist, he has an online website. He has been the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan and describes himself as a human rights activist, a historian and a few pompous other things besides.

What he is not is a trained journalist.

And during the trial he apparently thought it appropriate to make a running commentary on the proceedings, rather than stick religiously to reporting what was said in court and absolutely nothing else.

As anyone who has ever worked on a paper should know from birth.

The former ambassador’s ineptitude was compounded by his refusal to remove the offending articles when asked to do so by the law authorities.

Ineptitude compounded by arrogance? A surefire recipe for total disaster.

And so it proved.

Craig Murray after beng released from prison yesterday.

An unfortunate colleague of mine made a serious error in reporting a High Court trial at Inverness in the 1990s.

On a sombre and tense morning, the editor of the paper travelled north after being summoned to appear in court before the High Court judge. He emerged after receiving a strict talking to and a warning. Heads in the Inverness office were kept very low on that particular day.

Judges have never been partial to jailing journalists. No matter the severity of their demeanour, they can recognise when an honest mistake has been made and is a matter of great regret.

But although the former ambassador appealed and appealed, and turned to presenting himself as an almost broken man whose ill health could not stand up to a term in prison, the judge in the case, Lady Dorrian, considered his offence was of sufficient gravity to send him there anyway.

Murray deliberately risked what is known as “jigsaw identification” of the women who made accusations against Salmond, she said. “It appears from the posts and articles that he was in fact relishing the task he set himself, which was essentially to allow the identities of complainers to be discerned – which he thought was in the public interest – in a way which did not attract sanction.”

Whether or not he was harshly treated is a matter of opinion.

Sporting a new beard, he looked in good enough health when he was released from prison yesterday.

He said it had been a horrible experience. And then criticised Nicola Sturgeon for not advancing the cause of independence one iota since he was jailed in August.

Oh really? Didn’t she make the bombshell announcement on Monday that the campaign would start “in earnest” in  a few months time? It was only about her 12th such announcement in a row.

Was that not good enough for the jailbird ex-ambassador and his nationalist supporters who greeted him, and who share his intense dislike of Sturgeon and believe she has failed dismally to adequately serve the cause?

He is now viewed as something of a martyr for independence.

Many nationalists appalled by Murray’s incarceration blamed Sturgeon as much as anyone. So that’s yet another cross Queen Nicola has to bear.

Now he’s shed his prison gear it’s unclear what Murray will do next. But with grievance piled upon grievance, it’s most likely he’ll find a way to add to the rancour overflowing among nationalists.

Is there no end to it?

Alex Salmond and his followers believe Sturgeon was behind an attempt to have him jailed, for a lot longer than four months.

Her declaration that campaigning for independence will begin “in earnest” in the spring has received a lukewarm response, or an icy December blast. As one pithy and frustrated critic demanded: “What the hell has she been doing for the past seven years?”

It seems he spoke for many. The “independence NOW!” brigade are locked in conflict with those who believe in a more “gradualist” approach. Members of Salmond’s Alba Party think many in the ranks of the SNP are a feeble, pitiful bunch.

The start of the SNP conference last weekend generated a headline: “Conference launch marred by row over transgender rights.”

I didn’t bother reading the story. Men dressed as women using female changing rooms, the scourge of transphobia, transgender bigots must be purged, warped, twisted, loathed, prejudiced, we know the script from the SNP transphobia/transgender party already.

And on and on it goes.

If the ex -ambassador turned jailbird has learned anything he’ll pack it all in, particularly if he really is in poor health. After his prison ordeal, what toll will it take on him if he re-engages with this nest of vipers and the poisonous infighting, spitting and splitting in all directions?

It really does say something when, the day before Sturgeon’s very latest “springtime” announcement, it was Ian Blackford who struck a single note of sanity when he declared a referendum would only take place in 2023 if circumstances were “ideal”.

That at least makes some sense.

The former ambassador would be as good sewing prison mailbags as he’d be trying to make sense of any of the rest of it.

Nationalists want “freedom” from the hated English. After being locked up for four months, Craig Murray should tell them the real meaning of the word, and then quietly disappear without trace.

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