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À partir d’avant-hierCraig Murray

Mote in Your Own Eye

Par craig

This blog remains, as far as I am aware, blocked in Russia. (Am receiving messages it is not currently blocked, at least on several major ISPs, which is good news). It is, to the best of my knowledge, the only western political blog of wide readership which advocates stripping Russia of all the colonial possessions it obtained contemporaneously with, indeed in competition with, the growth of the British Empire. That a blog which champions Independence for, inter alia, Dagestan, Chechnya and Tatarstan, and which says Crimea should be given back to the Tatars, is condemned by the political Establishment as pro-Kremlin is, on the face of it, paradoxical.

The reason for it is, of course, that this blog also views Russia’s opposition to neo-con Western militarily enforced hegemony throughout the Middle East and developing world, as an essential though inadequate counter-balance. It also combats the rampant Russophobia of our media and political class, and the widespread, deliberate whipping up of hatred against a great culture and people, central to our European heritage. That involves exposing propaganda lies like Salisbury and Douma. The Establishment really do hate that. As neither Salisbury nor Douma, nor much else in the Western narrative, stands up to even a little intellectual scrutiny, the media and Establishment seek to demonise this blog as in some sense a Russian agency. The amusing thing is, of course, that neither this blog nor its author has ever received a penny from any Russian source, while the Establishment rolls around in oligarch cash.

There was an amusing new twist this week where the Times newspaper claimed that Russian trolls were behind the “attacks” on Nicola Sturgeon, otherwise known as telling the truth about Nicola Sturgeon’s actions. Why the Times, and most of the unionist media Establishment especially the BBC, has been so very keen to defend Nicola Sturgeon and under-report the evidence against her (and continue to make wild accusations against Alex Salmond) would be an interesting digression. Suffice it to say, that after five years with a pro-Independence majority at Holyrood, after Brexit, and with a clear mandate for a referendum on Independence, Nicola has not called one.

One of the Integrity Initiative’s on-call Russophobes, David Leask, wrote in the Times:

Mainstream Scottish nationalists have long suspected pro-Kremlin social media of targeting the first minister, particularly since her criticism of the Salisbury attacks in 2018.
However, analysts have rarely been able to draw a significant direct line between so-called troll factories and tweets aimed at Sturgeon and her party.
New data published by Twitter on hundreds of Kremlin or Iranian accounts removed for attempting to “manipulate the platform” show some activity with a Scottish flavour.
About two dozen accounts linked to the authoritarian governments tweeted or retweeted pro-independence or other Scottish messaging and have been banned.
Two accounts Twitter linked to the Iranians, each with many thousands of followers, have repeatedly retweeted Craig Murray, a blogger and former ambassador to Uzbekistan, who is one of Sturgeon’s most ferocious critics. There is no suggestion Murray, who has a substantial online presence, was aware of or sought such support.

So there we have it. It is the Russians targeting Nicola, because my 90,000 twitter followers included 2 “linked to” Iran, who retweeted some of my tweets.

Which twitter accounts were these? Which tweets did they retweet? We don’t know. One of Sturgeon’s acolytes tweeted the “evidence” for this, which was a link to a twitter statement on its website on the suspension of Russian-linked accounts. That gave a link to what it claimed as “evidence”, but that was simply a cache of 1.5 Gb worth of tweets, very many thousands of them, with no explanation as to why they were said to be Russian linked. How the “Iranian-linked” tweets involving me were pulled out of this enormous cache – and why – is a very interesting question. [I can’t actually rediscover the tweet or the report page on twitter with its unevidenced assertions. If anybody can, please post it in comments below]

The Times report is an entirely evidence-free zone, but its principal complaint appears to be that “Kremlin-linked” accounts have been tweeting material under the hashtag #dissolvetheunion. It then gives this quote:

Joanna Szostek, who teaches political communication at the University of Glasgow, described it as the latest move in a game of “whack-a-mole . . . It’s interesting that a few of these accounts are also pushing #dissolvetheunion tweets. Anything that weakens a major Nato member would presumably look good from Russia’s point of view.”

But the longest bit of the article, its substance, is the quote from the SNP’s own uber-Russophobe Stewart MacDonald who gives a disquisition on how terrible it is that the evil Russians should – advocate for Scottish Independence. MacDonald, who carries a British Army issued visitor ID in his wallet and has snaps of himself in combat fatigues observing British Army exercises, both of which he has been known to show hopefully to impressionable young people, is far better known for his enthusiasm for NATO, Israel and the corrupt government of Ukraine than he is for Scottish Independence. I suspect deep down he fantasises about going to war against the Russians with the British Army. Why he is in the SNP, nobody knows. Why anybody thinks that Russia advocating for Scotland’s Independence would make Russia Scotland’s enemy, is quite beyond me.

There is an extremely bad history of misidentification of Russian trolls by the right wing loons paid to undertake such work, particularly Leask’s old comrade-in-arms Ben Nimmo, who famously outed Ian the Russian Bot. This ought to be the most famous video of all time and be played weekly in schools to vaccinate children against government propaganda.

Unfortunately, very many governments do actively sponsor social media and mainstream media disinformation. The Integrity Initiative was one major such secret black propaganda operation, linked to the Salisbury event among other things, and it is hilarious in a dark sort of way that journalists like Leask, who took the Integrity Initiative’s shilling, get upset at alleged Russian initatives which are essentially the same thing.

Almost entirely unreported in the British media was last week’s revelation by The Grayzone of a new FCO covert propaganda operation involving (and funding) Bellingcat, the BBC and Reuters Thomson.

The UK FCO projects were carried out covertly, and in partnership with purportedly independent, high-profile online media outfits including Bellingcat, Meduza, and the Pussy Riot-founded Mediazona. Bellingcat’s participation apparently included a UK FCO intervention in North Macedonia’s 2019 elections on behalf of the pro-NATO candidate.

The intelligence contractors that oversaw that operation, the Zinc Network, boasted of establishing “a network of YouTubers in Russia and Central Asia” while “supporting participants [to] make and receive international payments without being registered as external sources of funding.” The firm also touted its ability to “activate a range of content” to support anti-government protests inside Russia.

The new documents provide critical background on the role of NATO member states like the UK in influencing the color revolution-style protests waged in Belarus in 2020, and raise unsettling questions about the intrigue and unrest surrounding jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Twitter not only suppressed dissemination of this information, it put a warning on those tweets it did allow into selected timelines, that information came from hacked material. It has never done that to the pro-Western outpourings of Bellingcat. But my profound congratulations to our friends at Anonymous for bringing more of this murk to light.

You might like to compare this document from an FCO-funded contractor, with Stewart MacDonald’s horror that Russia should allegedly sponsor a few tweets favouring Scottish Independence:

Or this from another FCO-funded contractor:

The FCO role in Belsat, the entirely NATO member funded “Belarussian” TV channel based in Poland, is also of great current interest,

Do read through the Grayzone article, which is excellent. Remember this: when it comes to every form of devious behaviour, it is the British state which wrote the book.

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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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The post Mote in Your Own Eye appeared first on Craig Murray.

£25,000 Reward Withdrawn

Par craig

UPDATE
On Friday we withdrew the award offer, which had not been taken up. To be honest I was 99.9999% sure it would not be, and we don’t have £25,000. It was a rhetorical device trying to drive home to people the crucial importance of Geoff Aberdein’s evidence, which proves that Sturgeon knew of the allegations not days but at least three weeks before she knew, and that she knowingly lied to parliament.

Sturgeon compounded that lie by a further lie to parliament. When knowledge of Geoff Aberdein’s meeting with her on 29 March 2018 in Holyrood became public, Sturgeon tried to cover up by a now really elaborate lie about how that meeting was spontaneous after he had just called into parliament to meet somebody else. In fact Aberdein’s testimony – with witnesses cited – shows the meeting with Sturgeon was pre-arranged weeks before, specifically to discuss the allegations against Salmond.

So what lie will Nicola now use at the committee on Wednesday? The only lie I can see available to her is that her Chief of Staff knew of the allegations for weeks without telling her, and even set up meetings for Sturgeon to discuss the allegations, without telling Sturgeon about the allegations. That would be a lie, and it seems to me so wildly improbable that I don’t see how even such despicable creatures as Alasdair Allan and Maureen Watt could possibly claim to believe it.

The Sunday Times now has the Aberdein evidence and has fairly grasped its significance. This is a classic example of mainstream media catching up with a major story which I broke, in detail, a year ago.

I should say that I am really depressed by the astonishing output of Sturgeon loyalists on twitter stating “there is no evidence” as a mantra, when plainly there is a mountain of evidence, and overwhelming evidence that still more has been deceitfully hidden by the Scottish government with the collusion of the Crown Office, and of SNP committee members.

UPDATE ENDS

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

Par craig

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 post Alex Salmond – After Massive Suppression Attempts, Testimony Finally Published appeared first on Craig Murray.

The Utterly Useless Keir Starmer

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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

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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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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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Oscar’s Arrival

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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.

The post Oscar’s Arrival appeared first on Craig Murray.

The Legal Attempt to End the Fabiani Farce

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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

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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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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

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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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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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Scotland’s External and European Ministry

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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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The post Scotland’s External and European Ministry appeared first on Craig Murray.

Now Scotland Launched

Par craig

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.

—————————————————–

 
 
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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The post Now Scotland Launched appeared first on Craig Murray.

Piers Corbyn and Free Speech

Par craig

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.

—————————————————–

 
 
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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Paypal address for one-off donations: craigmurray1710@btinternet.com

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

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MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post Piers Corbyn and Free Speech appeared first on Craig Murray.

In Conversation with Mark McNaught

Par craig

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.

The post In Conversation with Mark McNaught appeared first on Craig Murray.

Now Scotland

Par craig

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.

The post Now Scotland appeared first on Craig Murray.

UK Government Humiliated over Chagos Islands Again

Par craig

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.

—————————————————–

 
 
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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

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Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post UK Government Humiliated over Chagos Islands Again appeared first on Craig Murray.

My Sworn Evidence on the Sturgeon Affair

Par craig

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

Par craig

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

Par craig

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

Par craig

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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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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The post An Incredible Omission appeared first on Craig Murray.

Navalny Should Be Released

Par craig

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.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The post Navalny Should Be Released appeared first on Craig Murray.

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

Par craig

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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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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: craigmurray1710@btinternet.com

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post Let Nobody Ever State Again There Is No Evidence of the Conspiracy Against Alex Salmond appeared first on Craig Murray.

My Trial, and Freedom of Speech

Par craig

UPDATE Some journalists, NGOs and observers registering for my trial using details below are being asked for the case number. This is HCA/2020-06/XM.

My trial for Contempt of Court in my reporting of the Alex Salmond trial is on 27 and 28 January at the Court of Appeals in Edinburgh. Contempt of Court charges can be brought by a judge or by the Crown. These are being brought by the Crown – an important point. It is a strange charge. The potential penalties are very serious – up to two years in prison and an “unlimited” fine. Yet it is not a criminal offence nor a criminal trial, and despite the life-changing penalties there is no jury; but the judges do have to rule on the facts to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt.

I am being charged with contempt of court on three separate counts:

a) Publication of material likely to influence the jury

b) Jigsaw Identification of Protected Identities

c) Reporting the Exclusion of a Juror

These are some of the key issues involved:

a) Publication of Material Likely to Influence the Jury

  1. My defence team believe this is the first modern prosecution in Scotland (or England) for a publication allegedly influencing a jury in favour of the defendant. All previous prosecutions for at least 150 years appear to be for prejudice against a defendant. It has always been assumed the Crown and the judge are big enough to counter any prejudice against the Crown (If anyone wishes to research the unprecedented prosecution point further that would be welcome; it is of course difficult to prove a negative)
  2. The Lord Advocate cannot order censorship. The Crown has not had the power of censorship in Scotland for 300 years. I am not obliged to obey an instruction from the Crown Office to remove an article. If the Lord Advocate genuinely believed an article could influence a trial, he had a public duty to go to a judge before the trial, in a timely manner, and ask the judge to order the removal of the article. I would have contested, but obeyed if I lost – only a judge can order the removal of an article.
  3. It is ludicrous to claim my little blog influenced the jury, compared to the massive outpouring of mainstream media articles amplifying salacious allegations against Salmond released by the Crown Office.
  4. Political satire is protected speech
  5. My articles were well founded journalism indicating the Salmond prosecution was a conspiracy involving senior members of the Scottish Government and SNP, with the active corrupt collusion of the prosecutorial  authorities. This is true and evidenced in documents held by the Crown but kept from the Salmond trial, kept from the Holyrood Inquiry and so far kept from my trial. Publication of this true information was of crucial public interest and protected by my Article 10 rights to freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights.

b) Jigsaw Identification

  1. I did not jigsaw identify anyone.
  2. The Lord Advocate argues that I am responsible for tweets in reply to my own tweets. We argue this is not true – I am not the publisher of twitter – and would set a very dangerous precedent.
  3. The Crown is specifically arguing that the bar for jigsaw identification is that any one single individual with specialist knowledge would be likely to identify a witness from my writing; this could be, for example, an individual who worked in the same office, or the doorman at Bute House who knew who was there on which day. My defence is that jigsaw identification means likely to identify to the public. If the Crown’s definition were accepted, there would be a massive chilling effect on journalism.
  4. The mainstream media demonstrably gave more jigsaw identification information than I did, notably, but not only, Dani Garavelli and Kirsty Wark. I have been singled out for prosecution on political grounds.
  5. The court order protecting identities did not come into being before 10 March 2020. Most of the Crown’s alleged examples are before this date. We absolutely deny my articles enable jigsaw identification, but even if they did they were not illegal at the time of publication.
  6. Up until 10 March 2020, had I wished to publish identities I could have done so quite legally in the articles before that date which the Lord Advocate cites. Unlike England, there is no law in Scotland barring publication of witness identity absent a specific court order. The fact I did not do so in the year between my learning identities and the ban coming into force, in several articles on the case where I could legally have published the identities, make nonsense the Lord Advocate’s contention that I deliberately gave clues.
  7. After Alex Salmond’s acquittal the false accusers continued to take advantage of the court anonymity order to decry and undermine the jury’s verdict and malign Alex Salmond. Given the high positions of influence the women hold, I decided to challenge in court whether there was not a public interest in stopping this behaviour, in this unique case greater than the important general public interest in protecting identities. I did not take it upon myself to determine this, but commissioned and paid for a senior advocate to prepare a case for the judge to decide.  I received the draft application from my senior counsel but the application was postponed by Covid. I would not have taken this expensive and responsible legal route if I was leaking the identities illegally as alleged.

c) Juror Exclusion

  1. All I published was that a juror had been excluded but I was not allowed to say why. We argue this does not breach the court order preventing disclosure of the proceedings where the exclusion was discussed and ordered. The simple fact of the exclusion was not secret.  (Though it is a very interesting story indeed which I shall tell you once I can).

AN APPEAL FOR HELP

I hope that brief account gives some idea of the legal arguments involved. But everybody whose head is not buttoned up the back knows this is not really what the case is about. This is about the ability of those in power in Scotland to use the law to persecute their political opponents. They tried it on Alex Salmond, they tried it on Mark Hirst – both blowing up in their faces – and now they are trying it on me.

If there were a jury, I would not lose one moment’s sleep. But there is not. I am buoyed by the fact that what the Alex Salmond and Mark Hirst trials show is that while both Police Scotland and the Crown Office may stink of rotten corruption at the top, Scotland’s judiciary is still independent. It is worth noting that the simply astonishing admission of the Lord Advocate and Crown Office to malicious prosecution recently in the Rangers case is going to cost the taxpayer almost £50 million, once all costs are in and awards paid out. The police and legal costs for the Alex Salmond case total some £10 million wasted.

I call on journalists worldwide who support freedom of speech to pay attention and to cover this trial. The case is HMA vs Craig John Murray in the Court of Appeals, 27 January. The emails for registration are communications@scotcourts.gov.uk, onlinehearingaccess@scotcourts.gov.uk and judicialcomms@scotcourts.gov.uk – please copy to all three. I also ask you to press specifically for video access, not the dreadful quality sound only phone-in.

I also call on NGO’s, political associations, community bodies and elected representatives worldwide to apply to register for observer status using the same email details.

Once registered, journalists and observers should ask the court for copies of the court documents. I am severely constrained in giving out documents at present.

Members of the public will be able to register to listen live. I am afraid this will very probably be the same poor quality sound only link down the telephone. It also involves giving the court some registration details, and may incur call charges to a London number. Registration details will be posted here by the court shortly – where you will also find details for Martin Keatings’ vital case on Scotland’s right to hold an independence referendum without Boris Johnson’s permission.

I appeal for as many people as can do so to register and listen in. Your support is vital to me both morally and practically. I can see no reason why registered members of the public should not inquire to the court as to the availability of the documents. Justice is supposed to be seen to be done.

Long term readers of my blog know that for well over a decade we have campaigned against injustice, ill-treatment, imprisonment and detention of many, both the famous and the obscure. I therefore feel little shame in asking everyone now to try and join in the same cause on my own behalf.

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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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: craigmurray1710@btinternet.com

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Bitcoin: bc1q3sdm60rshynxtvfnkhhqjn83vk3e3nyw78cjx9
Etherium/ERC-20: 0x764a6054783e86C321Cb8208442477d24834861a

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post My Trial, and Freedom of Speech appeared first on Craig Murray.

Only A Corrupt Lord Advocate Stands Between Peter Murrell and Prison

Par craig

Following Robin McAlpine’s excellent article, some responded by asking where is the hard evidence of a conspiracy against Alex Salmond? Well, here is some of it, not public before.

My trial for contempt of court is now fixed for 27 January. This is an extract from my lawyers’ latest submission requesting disclosure of documents which the Crown Office is hiding, both from my trial and from the Holyrood Inquiry:

QUOTE

4. The information in question is:
(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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, one of the complainers in the HM Advocate
v Salmond trial. At the lunch, Mr Murrell and Ms Ruddick expected xxxxxxxxx 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’s 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
xxxxxxxxxxxxx. 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 xxxxxxxxxxxx stating that she would not attend a meeting if
xxxxxxxxxxx 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.

5. The respondent saw this information before he published the articles and tweets that
are the subject of these proceedings. The respondent considers that the information
in question would materially weaken the Lord Advocate‘s case and materially
strengthen his case because: (i) it materially strengthens the respondent’s case on
Article 10; and (ii) it materially weakens the Lord Advocate’s case, and materially
strengthens the respondent’s case, on the alleged breach of section 11 of the
Contempt of Court Act 1981

END QUOTE

You can see the full application from my lawyers pub2101131230 DISCLOSURE APPLICATION (1) 

To which the Lord Advocate yesterday replied:

QUOTE

4. In respect of the first question, it is understood that the material referred
to in paragraphs 4a – 4f of the disclosure application are private
communications. As such they can have no bearing on the question of
the degree of likelihood of the disclosure of the complainers’ identities
by the publishing of the articles detailed in the Petition and Complaint
and Submissions for the Petitioner.

5. In respect of the second question, the Respondent asserts in his answers
and submissions that a finding of contempt would be contrary to his
Article 10 rights. The material is not relevant to the court’s consideration
of the Respondent’s Article 10 rights. Further, the disclosure of the
material may constitute a breach of the Article 8 rights of the parties to
those private communications.
Advocate

END QUOTE

You can see the Lord Advocate’s reply in full here 20210114 Answers to Disclosure Request (3). Note the Lord Advocate acknowledges the existence of these messages (which the Crown Office holds) but argues they are private, and irrelevant.

On the face of it, these messages are evidence of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. They refer to pressuring the police, to pressuring a witness, to highly improper encouragement of “evidence”. To reveal them would breach Peter Murrell and Sue Ruddick’s right to private communication? If, dear reader, you ever feel the urge to conspire to commit a crime, be sure to do it by text message, then the Lord Advocate will ensure that it is all kept nice and secret.

It is important to state that the woman in para (a) to whom Ian McCann was sent to screw her courage to the sticking point, was Woman H. She was vital as her allegation was the most serious of all. She was the most active perjurer in the Salmond trial, the woman who was not even present on the occasion she claimed to have been the victim of attempted rape. This is my report of the defence evidence about Ms H at the time, not reported in any detail anywhere else but on this blog:

The first witness today was Ms Samantha Barber, a company director. She had known Alex Salmond since 1994 when she was working for the SNP as a research assistant for the Euro elections. She had thereafter been employed by the European Parliament, and in 2007 become the Chief Executive of Scottish Business in the Community, a post she still held in 2014. She is now a director of several companies.

In the seven years Alex Salmond was First Minister she had several times been a guest at Bute House for dinner. She had a positive and respectful relationship with Alex Salmond but they were not personal friends outside of business.

She had been a personal friend of Ms H, the accuser who alleged attempted rape, for some years by 2014. They remain friends. She had been invited to the evening reception of Ms H’s wedding. She testified she is also a friend of Ms H’s current husband.

Ms H had telephoned her to invite her to the dinner at Bute house with the (not to be named) actor on 13 June 2014. Ms H in inviting her had stated she (Ms H) was not able to be there. In fact Ms H had indeed not been at the dinner. Ms Barber had arrived that evening at around 7pm. She had been shown up to the drawing room. The actor was already there and they had chatted together, just the two of them, until about 7.15pm when Alex Salmond had joined them. The three of them had dinner together. It was friendly and conivivial. At first the actor’s career had been discussed and then Scottish independence. Nobody else was there. Asked if any private secretaries had been in and out during dinner, Ms Barber replied not to her recollection. Nobody interrupted them

One bottle of wine was served during dinner. She had left after dinner around 9 and the actor had stayed on as Alex Salmond offered to show him around the Cabinet Room.

Defence Counsel Shelagh McCall QC asked her if Ms H had been there? No. Did you see her at any point during the evening? No.

[Ms H had claimed she was at this dinner and the attempted rape occurred afterwards. Alex Salmond had testified Ms H was not there at all. A video police interview with the actor had tended to support the idea Ms H, or another similar woman, was there and they were four at dinner.]

Prosecution counsel Alex Prentice then cross-examined Ms Barber. He asked whether she had received a message from the police on 29 January. She replied yes she had, and called them back on 3 February. Prentice asked whether they had then told her they wanted a statement, and whether she had replied she needed to take advice first. Ms Barber agreed.

Prentice asked why she would need legal advice to give a statement to police. Ms Barber replied she had never been involved in any judicial matter and wanted to understand the process she was getting into before she did anything. She had not said she wanted legal advice first, just advice.

Prentice asked again “why would you need legal advice before talking to the police”? Ms Barber again replied she wanted to understand the process she was getting into.

Prentice asked again, twice more, “why would you need legal advice before talking to the police?”. He got the same answer each time. You will recognise from yesterday’s report of his cross-examination of Alex Salmond, that it is a rhetorical trick of Prentice, to constantly repeat the same question in order to throw an unreasoned suspicion on the veracity of the answer. On this occasion he was stopped by the judge, who had enough.

Lady Dorrian pointedly asked him “Is a citizen not entitled to take advice, Mr Prentice?”, in a Maggie Smith tone of contempt.

Prentice then asked whether Ms Barber had already been at another Bute House dinner in May. Ms Barber replied not that she could recall. Prentice then asserted that the dinner on 13 June was with the actor, Ms H, and Alex Salmond. Ms Barber replied no, she genuinely had no recollection at all of Ms H being there.

The defence counsel Shelagh McCall QC then resumed questions. She asked if the police had put to Ms Barber that Ms H was there. Ms Barber replied that they had, and she had told them exactly what she had told the defence and now told the court, that Ms H had not been there.

The next witness was Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, who swore on the Koran. She had joined the SNP in 2000 and been appointed national Women and Equalities Convenor in 2011. From 2015 to 2017 she was MP for the Ochil Hills.

Shelagh McCall QC asked if she knew Ms H. She replied for some years, and more frequently from 2012. Ms H had been involved in the Yes campaign. They had a good relationship, and in 2014 Ms H had asked her advice on standing for the SNP national executive committee.

McCall asked her if she remembered the date of the 13 June 2014 dinner. Tasmina responded yes, that was the day her father had died. She had received a message he was taken very ill that morning and had set off for London. At Carlisle they learnt he had died. (At this point the witness broke into tears.)

Before leaving Scotland with her husband she had messaged the First Minister’s office to say she would not be able to attend the Scottish women’s international football match the next day. (The point of this evidence is it contradicts Ms H’s evidence of her interaction with Ms Ahmed-Sheikh over the football.)

 

Given the nonsense that was Woman H’s allegation, given the context of a new policy for complaints against ex-ministers which has been shown beyond doubt to be designed from the origin to trap one single man, given the frantic attempts to boost, invent or shore up complaints, given that the complainers were all from a tight coterie at the heart of Scottish government, given that the complaints fell apart when exposed to examination in court, I have no doubt that what we have here amounts to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

In addition to which, Peter Murrell very plainly committed perjury when appearing on oath before the parliamentary inquiry into this matter, when he denied the existence of the hoard of text messages detailed above which are the subject of my latest disclosure application. Here is the evidence of his committing, firstly desperate obfuscation, then perjury.

But this is a straight lie. There is a lot more material. There is precisely the material detailed above that I have requested disclosure of for my court case and which the Crown Office refused to release as they are “private messages”. As you can see, it is precisely what Ms Baillie was asking for. The Crown Office has withheld this material from the Holyrood Inquiry. The Crown Office have also written to Alex Salmond – three times – to tell him that he will be prosecuted if he releases this material to the committee or provides any detail of its content.

There can be no doubt whatever that the Lord Advocate is now corruptly protecting Peter Murrell from a charge of perjury by keeping this material secret. I am aware that the Crown Office has received a letter from lawyers pointing out this perjury, and in response the Crown Office have tendentiously focused purely on one single question.

The Crown Office has rejoined that all of the undisclosed text messages in the series to which Jackie Baillie was referring are purely between Sue Ruddick and Peter Murrell. No other party official was involved, so Peter Murrell was not lying in this answer, which was specifically to a question of whether there were messages to any other party official.

But taking the totality of the exchanges, it is crystal clear that Baillie was not referring solely to texts to officials other than to Sue Ruddick. This is plain throughout but crystal clear here:

That is plainly a straight lie by Murrell. There is a great deal more material, as detailed in my application above and admitted by the Crown Office in their reply that these are “private messages”. It is plainly perjury by Murrell to say there is nothing else.

The Crown Office is lying to protect Murrell from perjury charges, and it has lied to protect Murrell before. The  only two texts from the voluminous Murrell/Ruddick exchanges that have been leaked and have been published, to which Jackie Baillie refers, read as follows. They are from Murrell, instructing his junior Ruddick:

“TBH the more fronts he is having to firefront on the better for all complainers. So CPS action would be a good thing.”

“Totally agree folk should be asking the police questions. Report now with the PF on charges which leaves the police twiddling their thumbs. So good time to be pressuring them. Would be good to know Met looking at events in London.”

Yet in correspondence with Kenny Macaskill MP, Lindsey Miller of the Crown Office – who were sitting on these messages – denied the existence of these specific messages before they were leaked. This is an extract from a letter to Macaskill from Ms Miller, deputy Crown Agent – who remember was in possession of the texts listed immediately above.

 

I defy anybody to state that they honestly believe that Murrell’s message to Ruddick instructing her: “Totally agree folk should be asking the police questions. Report now with the PF on charges which leaves the police twiddling their thumbs. So good time to be pressuring them.” can be characterised as “no evidence” that Murrell put pressure on the police, directly or indirectly. Miller was lying. You might say it is not conclusive evidence – though it is pretty damning. But you cannot say it is no evidence. It is strong, prima facie evidence.

Macaskill having next quoted the precise texts she was hiding to her, this was then Ms Miller’s response:

Yet again, the amount of sophistry involved in protecting Peter Murrell, and the care for his private messages, is in sharp contrast to the gung-ho attitude of the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office to the prosecution of anyone who exposes the conspiracy against Alex Salmond, of which the Crown Office is a part.

My friend and colleague Mark Hirst has been triumphantly acquitted last week on the ridiculous charge of threatening behaviour to which he had been subjected for saying that those who conspired against Alex Salmond would “reap the whirlwind”. The Court found, entirely sensibly, that this was plainly in a political context and there was no case to answer. The Crown Office had instituted an obviously ridiculous charge – found “no case to answer” – out of pure political malice.

Readers of this blog will recall they helped substantially, with £10,000 from my own defence fund having been transferred to Mark.

But Mark’s life has been turned upside down. He lost his employment as a journalist as a result of the charge. His life has been wrecked and he is now having to earn a living working very hard, for a lot less money, in a completely different field from that he is qualified in. I trust he will not mind my saying the whole experience hit him very hard. Remember his home was raided by five officers from the Police Scotland “Alex Salmond team” and all his electronic equipment confiscated, while his name was dragged through the mud on both social and mainstream media.

The same “Alex Salmond team” still exist, are working on my prosecution, and are currently still engaged in a painstaking investigation as to who leaked two of the Murrell messages to Kenny Macaskill. Both the Crown Office and Police Scotland effectively now operate as the private enforcement arm of the Murrells, protecting them from consequences of their wrongdoing and persecuting their perceived political enemies .

That is what Scotland has become.

It is also worth noting that the perceived political enemies are not unionists – in my own case, dozens of MSM journalists who much more plainly committed jigsaw identification than I are not being prosecuted – but Independence “fundamentalists”.

There is much more evidence that the Crown Office is hiding, apart from the Murrell/Ruddick messages and the SNP Special Advisers whatsapp group. The Crown has also refused to release for my trial, or to the Holyrood Inquiry, the following documents:

  • The text exchange between two complainants containing the phrase “I have a plan and means we can be anonymous but have strong repercussions…” referred to in the trial proper proceedings.
  • An e mail from SNP official and defence witness Ann Harvie alleging a “witch hunt” and the emails from Sue Ruddick to which she was replying. This was referred to in the trial proper but this evidence was not admitted before the jury after objection from the Advocate Depute.
  •  Scottish Government documents produced as part of the Judicial Review hearings which support Mr Ronnie Clancy QC assertion of conduct on the part of Scottish Government officials “bordering on encouragement”. This was referred to in open court in the Court of Session proceedings of January 8th 2019. This should include the relevant “One Notes” of the Scottish Government Investigating Officer.
  • Documents relevant to the circumstances in which details of a Scottish Government complaint was leaked to the Daily Record newspaper in August 2018.  The matter of the circumstances in which this information appeared in the public domain was referred to in the evidence of Chief Inspector Lesley Boal in the criminal trial.
  • Documents relevant to the circumstances in which the Scottish Government sources briefed the Sunday Post newspaper in August 2018 that matters were referred to the police on the advice of the Lord Advocate and whether there is documentation demonstrating that such advice was also revealed to complainants by Scottish Government officials or others as a means of persuasion

All of which is still only the tip of the iceberg. The extent to which the Crown Office colludes to keep the Holyrood Inquiry in the dark is truly a disgrace to Scotland.

My own trial starts on 27 January, which is now confirmed. It s going to be “virtual” – nobody will be in a courthouse, not even the judges nor me. I shall be sending out information on how you may follow it live shortly. I plead with you to do so – a political persecution is bad enough, I certainly do not want it to operate in the dark. Put 27 and 28 January in your diary!

—————————————————–

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The post Only A Corrupt Lord Advocate Stands Between Peter Murrell and Prison appeared first on Craig Murray.

My Friend Emma Nelson

Par craig

A joke someone made yesterday reminded me of a friend I had in the FCO, Emma Nelson, who died terribly young about 20 years ago. I wanted to say a few things about her that occurred to me in the context of the Alex Salmond case. In doing so I am conscious that Emma’s family might see this, and I want to be plain that no disrespect is intended at all. Quite the opposite.

Emma worked under me as a clerk, when I was Head of Maritime Section at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She was about fifteen years younger than me and a long way junior in the service. There were several people between me and her in the hierarchy, but I saw a great deal of her every day because, the way the FCO then worked, everything was on paper and she produced all the papers and both filled and emptied my trays, and magically found all kinds of old documents from my vague descriptions of them.

Emma was Scottish, very good looking, found many of the absurd pretensions of the FCO funny, and mocked my forgetfulness and untidiness relentlessly. We got on well. In the run up to the first Gulf war, we were both seconded to the Embargo Surveillance Centre, where I headed the FCO section of a joint department (MOD, FCO, GCHQ, DIS, MI6, DTp, Royal Navy), set up in a NBC bunker in Marsham Street that had originally been Bomber Command in the Second World War and was known as “the Citadel”. It had been re-equipped as a logistics HQ for NATO in WW3. Lots of the old WW2 maps etc were still on the walls in odd places. The Citadel is a warren; there were tunnels connecting underground to Whitehall departments. It was a 24/7 operation. I led on intelligence analysis and action with foreign governments. We slept there. At one stage I did not leave the bunker at all, not for a moment, for 4 weeks. It all went on for several months.

Working in that pressured environment, you get closer to people and social barriers drop. We did very, very occasionally get a break, and one evening I went on a pub crawl with several staff which ended with Emma and I, arms round each other’s waist, high kicking our way around Central London while belting out hits from Cabaret. Not at all sober, we got back to the bunker and slept in the same little cell on separate camp beds.

It was not a romantic relationship. We never kissed. It was certainly not sexual. On a further occasion, when we were out for lunch with another young woman who worked with us, she asked Emma direct if we were linked. “Naw”, replied Emma, “Craig’s a’ mooth and nae troosers”. Working in the FCO, where everyone gets reposted every two or three years, you get inured to fleeting friendships and after one of us was posted out we were very seldom in touch. It came as a shock to me when, a very few years later, I got a letter from Emma who was, from memory, posted in South America, saying she was seriously ill. Very shortly thereafter, I received notification she had died.

There has been a major outbreak on social media of people claiming that Alex Salmond’s relationship with female staff was very bad even if not criminal. But the large majority of what was described was far less physical than Emma and I high kicking together to Cabaret (remember, there were allegations of pinging someones hair, putting hands on shoulders over clothes, touching a knee over trousers and putting an arm round someone who was crying).

What worries me is this. By the standards of politically correct behaviour which social media on the Salmond case appears to state ought to be the norm, my relationship with Emma Nelson was wholly inappropriate if not criminal. I was much older than her and very senior. I had a power relationship to her. We therefore ought by these standards never to have had our arms around each other high-kicking, and certainly should not have been getting drunk together. Inappropriate. Inappropriate. Inappropriate.

But does that not merely enforce snobbishness? Is that not simply reinforcing class and social barriers? If I could not interact in that way with Emma because I was senior to her, is that really the world we want? And is it not enforcing a bitter joylessness on life? What kind of world is it going to be if fun interaction is only permitted with people of your same social level – which is what “power relationship” effectively means?

Nobody will ever convince me there was anything wrong in my relationship with Emma. But I can see precisely how the extraordinary prevalence of misandry now would seek to misconstrue and portray it.

—————————————————–

 
 
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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Both Tortuous and Torturous

Par craig

Magistrate Vanessa Bararitser walked into Westminster Magistrates Court No.1 at 10.12am this morning with the sunniest smile and most carefree disposition I have ever seen her adopt. Her shoulders appeared visibly lifted. She positively beamed at Clair Dobbin, counsel for the US government, as she invited her to put the case for the prosecution as to why Julian Assange should not be released on bail.

Mrs Dobbin has one of those gloomy, presbyterian personalities that only fully comes to life when it has the chance to condemn somebody. There is nothing like a flat Belfast accent for a really rousing condemnation, and this was a collector’s item.

Julian Assange, she stated in tones that made plain she considered that name in itself to be suspicious and unsavoury, had shown he would go to great lengths to avoid extradition to the United States. The judgement against his extradition turned only on one single point – that of his mental health – and that single point might easily be overturned by the High Court.

Assange had helped Edward Snowden to flee justice; he had boasted about it. As detailed in the US Government’s second superceding indictment, he had organised flights for Snowden and arranged a distraction operation to throw the CIA off the scent. When the US authorities had trapped Snowden in Russia by canceling his passport, Assange had tried to arrange not just private jets but even Presidential jets to help Snowden escape further. Such was Assange’s reach and ability.

Furthermore, the President of Mexico had made a public offer of asylum, giving Assange a firm motive to escape. Many countries would wish to support him and he might again enter a foreign Embassy. He had hidden for seven years in the Ecuadorean Embassy to avoid extradition to the USA. He had broken his bail commitments in 2012: “any idea that moral or principled reasons would bear on Mr Assange’s conscience turned out to be ill-founded indeed”.

The British government had been obliged to spend £16 million on the surveillance of Mr Assange while he was in the Ecuadorean Embassy. Those who had stood surety for him had failed in their duty to ensure that he presented himself in court in 2012. Tracy Worcester, who was among those offering surety now and had offered accommodation for the Assange family, had failed in her duty in 2012.

Furthermore Julian Assange had obtained diplomatic status from Ecuador, a further example of his seeking means to avoid extradition.

Dobbin then stated the US Government was appealing against the judgement not to extradite, and said it would do so on the grounds that Baraitser had made an error in law in incorrectly applying the relevant test on conditions that would bar extradition. In effect, Baraitser had set a new test of whether measures would be in place to make suicide impossible, whereas the correct test was whether measures would be in place to mitigate against the risk of suicide, and on that proper test the evidence was that the US system was sufficiently robust.

The test required a rigorous assessment of the facilities for treatment and prison conditions in the USA. This assessment had not taken place.

Dobbin went on to say that Baraitser had misinterpreted the law as to whether the cause of the immediate suicidal impulse was current circumstance or an underlying medical condition. She then argued that Assange’s young family ought not to be a factor, because they had been born while Assange was in the Embassy, and therefore in full knowledge that his future was entirely uncertain. Taken together, Dobbin concluded, these arguments posed an insurmountable obstacle to the granting of bail.

Edward Fitzgerald then replied that Baraitser’s judgement against extradition changes everything. Since October 2019, when the prison sentence for bail-jumping concluded, Assange had been held in Belmarsh prison solely on the basis of this extradition request. Now the request had been refused, he must be entitled to his liberty pending any appeal, as specified in the discharge order of Monday’s judgement. The status quo now was that the extradition request has been refused. Therefore the grounds for detention were gone, and further detention would be oppressive.

The court had accepted that incarceration was deleterious to Assange’s mental health, and he needed the support of his family. Conditions in the prison were made much worse by further lockdown due to Covid-19. Assange had not received a family prison visit since March 2020.

There followed a strange interlude where Fitzgerald stated that there was a major Covid epidemic in Belmarsh and 59 prisoners had tested positive in December. Dobbin rose to deny this and said there had been only 3 positive tests for Covid in Belmarsh, brandishing an email sent by the prison authorities at 10.49pm the previous night. There was heated discussion as to the veracity of this figure.

Fitzgerald next stated that the supervising prosecutor in the USA in this case had put on record his doubts that the incoming Biden administration would wish to continue this prosecution. He also pointed out that the Mexican offer of asylum was specifically for after the conclusion of legal proceedings and after discussion with the UK at foreign minister level. It was not an invitation to abscond.

Assange had no reason to abscond. There was little or no precedent for the High Court overturning any ruling against extradition on Section 91 health grounds. The defence strongly refuted the US government’s claim that the relevant tests had not been properly considered and applied by the court. Numerous expert witnesses had been heard. The Lauri Love case was the most relevant precedent. Stringent monitoring and bail conditions could be applied, but with the presumption now against extradition, Julian Assange should be returned to life with his family pending any US appeal, to give him a chance to recover his health.

Baraitser then immediately gave her decision. She stated that Assange had been a fugitive from British justice since 29 June 2012 when he failed to report to court as ordered. His entire motive for his residence in the Ecuadorean Embassy had been avoidance of a US extradition request. Assange therefore still had a motive to abscond. He had the backing of a powerful international network of supporters who could facilitate his escape.

The US government had the right to appeal and the High Court had the right to determine the matters at issue. It was therefore essential to ensure that Assange appeared before the High Court.

Assange had been deeply involved in the organisation of Edward Snowden’s escape which further underlined his contempt for the law. His health problems could be managed well in Belmarsh. Baraitser specifically accepted the figure of 3 COVID cases in Belmarsh given officially by the prison authorities. In conclusion, bail was refused.

COMMENT

All of Julian’s team were optimistic before this hearing and it seems perverse that, a judgement against extradition having been made, Julian should continue to be held in high security prison pending the US government appeal. He has already been in jail for over 14 months just in the extradition matter, after the expiry of his unprecedentedly harsh sentence for bail-jumping.

In effect, having already served that sentence, Julian is now being punished again for the same offence, spending years in extreme prison conditions purely because he once jumped bail, for which he already served the full sentence.

The logic of holding Julian now is simply not there, given the current legal position is that he is not being extradited. Furthermore this continuing raising and lowering of his spirits, and never-ending incarceration with no fixed limit, is destroying his fragile health. Baraitser has played cat and mouse this week. Julian is living his life in conditions both torturous and tortuous.

It is ironic to hear Baraitser declare in condemnatory tones, without equivocation, that Julian only entered the Embassy to escape extradition to the USA. This is of course perfectly true. But I remember the many years when the Establishment line, from the government and repeated in several hundred Guardian columns, was that this truth was a fiction. They claimed there was never any intention to extradite to the USA, and actually he was avoiding extradition to Sweden, on allegations that never had any basis and which disappeared like mist when the time actually came. I suppose we should be grateful for at least this much truth in proceedings.

Today’s judgement makes plain that whatever is happening with Monday’s judgement, it is not genuinely motivated by concern for Julian’s health. Yanis Varoufakis yesterday stated that the ultimate aim is still to kill Julian through the penal system. Nothing that happened today would contradict him.

The extraordinary figure of only 3 Covid infections in Belmarsh is very hard to believe and contradicts all previous information. Plainly Covid is less of a risk than anywhere else in London, and perhaps we should all break in to improve our isolation and safety. The only explanation that occurs to me is that the vast majority of prisoners are denied access to testing and are therefore not confirmed cases. or that the prson has chosen to give testing results for a single day and chosen to misrepresent the meaning of the statistic. In fact the point is not central to the bail application, but as a possible example of yet further malfeasance by the Belmarsh medical team, it is particularly intriguing.

The decision not to grant bail can be appealed to the High Court. I expect that will happen (there has been no chance yet to consult Julian’s wishes), and happen in about a fortnight.

—————————————————–

 
 
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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The Assange Verdict: What Happens Now

Par craig

I fully expect that Julian will be released on bail this week, pending a possible US appeal against the blocking of his extradition.

There was discussion of when and how to make the bail application on Monday, after magistrate Vanessa Baraitser announced her decision not to grant extradition as it would be oppressive on health and welfare grounds. Lead Defence QC Edward Fitzgerald was prepared to make an immediate application for release on bail, but was strongly steered by Baraitser towards waiting a couple of days until he could have the full bail application ready in good order with all the supporting documentation.

I had the strong impression that Baraitser was minded to grant bail and wanted the decision to be fireproof. I have spoken to two others who were in court who formed the same impression. Indeed, in the past, she has more than once indicated that she will reject a bail application before one has been made. I can think of no reason why she would steer Fitzgerald so strongly to delay the application if there were not a very strong chance she would grant it. She gave him the advice and then adjourned the court for 45 minutes so Fitzgerald and Gareth Peirce could discuss it with Julian, and on return they took her advice. If she were simply going to refuse the bail application, there was no reason for her not to get it over with quickly there and then.

Fitzgerald briefly made the point that Assange now had very little incentive to abscond, as there had never been a successful appeal against a refusal to extradite on medical grounds. Indeed it is very difficult to see how an appeal can be successful. The magistrate is the sole determinant of fact in the case. She has heard the evidence, and her view of the facts of Assange’s medical condition and the facts of conditions in American supermax prisons cannot be overturned. Nor can any new evidence be introduced. The appeal has rather to find that, given the facts, Baraitser made an error in law, and it is difficult to see the argument.

I am not sure that at this stage the High Court would accept a new guarantee from the USA that Assange would not be kept in isolation or in a Supermax prison; that would be contrary to the affidavit from Assistant Secretary of State Kromberg and thus would probably be ruled to amount to new evidence. Not to mention that Baraitser heard other evidence that such assurances had been received in the case of Abu Hamza, but had been broken. Hamza is not only kept in total isolation, but as a man with no hands he is deprived of prosthetics that would enable him to brush his teeth, and he has no means of cutting his nails nor assistance to do so, and cannot effectively wipe himself in the toilet.

Not only is it hard to see the point of law on which the USA could launch an appeal, it is far from plain that they have a motive to do so. Baraitser agreed with all the substantive points of argument put forward by the US government. She stated that there was no bar on extradition from the UK for political offences; she agreed that publication of national security material did constitute an offence in the USA under the Espionage Act and would do so in the UK under the Official Secrets Act, with no public interest defence in either jurisdiction; she agreed that encouraging a source to leak classified information is a crime; she agreed Wikileaks’ publications had put lives at risk.

On all of these points she dismissed virtually without comment all the defence arguments and evidence. As a US Justice Department spokesman said yesterday:
“While we are extremely disappointed in the court’s ultimate decision, we are gratified that the United States prevailed on every point of law raised. In particular, the court rejected all of Mr Assange’s arguments regarding political motivation, political offence, fair trial, and freedom of speech. We will continue to seek Mr Assange’s extradition to the United States.” That is a fair categorisation of what happened.

Appealing a verdict that is such a good result for the United States does not necessarily make sense for the Justice Department. Edward Fitzgerald explained to me yesterday that, if the USA appeals the decision on the health and prison condition grounds, it becomes open to the defence to counter-appeal on all the other grounds, which would be very desirable indeed given the stark implications of Baraitser’s ruling for media freedom. I have always believed that Baraitser would rule as she did on the substantial points, but I have always also believed that those extreme security state arguments would never survive the scrutiny of better judges in a higher court. Unlike the health ruling, the dispute over Baraitser’s judgement on all the other points does come down to classic errors in law which can successfully be argued on appeal.

If the USA does appeal the judgement, it is far more likely that not only will the health grounds be upheld, but also that Baraitser’s positions on extradition for political offences and freedom of the media will be overturned, than it is likely that the US will achieve extradition. They have fourteen days in which to lodge the appeal – now thirteen.

An appeal result is in short likely to be humiliating for the USA. It would be much wiser for the US to let sleeping dogs lie. But pride and the wound to the US sense of omnipotence and exceptionalism may drive them to an appeal which, for the reasons given above, I would actually welcome provided Julian is out on bail. Which I expect he shall be shortly.

More analysis of Baraitser’s judgement will follow.

—————————————————–

 
 
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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The post The Assange Verdict: What Happens Now appeared first on Craig Murray.

Julian Assange: Imminent Freedom

Par craig

It has been a long and tiring day, with the startlingly unexpected decision to block Julian’s extradition. The judgement is in fact very concerning, in that it accepted all of the prosecution’s case on the right of the US Government to prosecute publishers worldwide of US official secrets under the Espionage Act. The judge also stated specifically that the UK Extradition Act of 2003 deliberately permits extradition for political offences. These points need to be addressed. But for now we are all delighted at the ultimate decision that extradition should be blocked.

The decision was based equally on two points; the appalling conditions in US supermax prisons, and the effect of those conditions on Julian specifically given his history of depression. The media has concentrated on the mental health aspect, and given insufficient attention to the explicit condemnation of the inhumanity of the US prison system.

I was the only person physically present in the public gallery inside the court, having been nominated by John Shiption to represent the family, aside from two court officials. I am quite sure that I again noted magistrate Baraitser have a catch in her throat when discussing the inhumane conditions in US supermax prisons, the lack of human contact, and specifically the fact that inmates are kept in total isolation in a small cage, and are permitted one hour exercise a day in total isolation in another small cage. I noted her show emotion the same way when discussing the al-Masri torture evidence during the trial, and she seemed similarly affected here.

Julian looked well and alert; he showed no emotion at the judgement, but entered into earnest discussion with his lawyers. The US government indicated they will probably appeal the verdict, and a bail hearing has been deferred until Wednesday to decide whether he will be released from Belmarsh pending the appeal – which court sources tell me is likely to be held in April in the High Court. I should be very surprised if Julian is not released on Wednesday pending the appeal. I shall now be staying here for that bail hearing.

I apologise for not giving a full analysis of the judgement yet, it has all been rather hectic, but wonderful. Here is a brief video giving more detail. I can produce a more considered piece tomorrow.

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The International Criminal Court: Now Simply Indefensible

Par craig

Support for the rule of international law, and for the institutions which uphold it, is one of the principles of this blog. I have therefore always been extremely keen to defend and support the International Criminal Court, despite widespread criticism that it is simply a tool for use against leaders in the developing world and other opponents of the neo-con world order. I maintained that the standard of justice and investigation in the cases it did consider was generally good, and the need was to widen its ambit.

Unfortunately, the decision of the ICC to close down its investigation into War Crimes committed by the British in Iraq is the last straw for me in continuing to harbour any hope that the ICC will ever be anything more than an instrument of victors’ justice. I have read the entire 184 page report which closes down the investigation, and it is truly shocking. It is shocking in the outlining of British war crimes, but what really shocked me is the truly appalling picture that clearly emerges of the attitudes of the International Criminal Court.

I am afraid this article is rather heavy going, and requires you to read some rather lengthy sections of the report to show what I mean. Nothing is so damning of the ICC as the words of their own report, so I do not apologise for this approach. I would say that what I found really did shock me and has completely changed my mind about the value of the International Criminal Court as an institution. As I flatter myself I have a reasonably good grasp of such matters, I am proceeding on the assumption that what was startling to me will probably be startling to you, and you will find this worth reading.

The launching of the Iraq War was itself the most serious single war crime of this century to date, and the ICC had previously ducked it by arguing that the Statute of Rome which founded the Court did not at the time of the war include illegal war of aggression among its list of war crimes. I argued then and I argue now that this did not remove that crime from its jurisdiction. The crime of illegal war of aggression was already firmly a part of customary international law and the very foundation of Nuremberg, so the ICC did not need specific mention in the Treaty of Rome to be able to prosecute it.

The current ICC report on British war crimes in Iraq however simply blandly reiterates the line (para 35):

Finally, although a number of communication senders have also made allegations relating to decision of the UK authorities to launch the armed conflict, the Office takes no position on legality of war given the non-applicability of the crime of aggression at the material time.

It was perhaps always Utopian to imagine that Blair, Straw, Campbell, Scarlett, Dearlove etc would pay for their crimes. But it did seem very probable that the ICC would prosecute at least some of those directly responsible for committing war crimes on the ground. Alas, the ICC has now produced 184 pages of mealy-mouthed sophistry and responsibility-dodging to justify why there will be no further investigation, let alone prosecutions. I have read the full report and frankly it makes me feel sick. But I shall still try to elucidate it for you.

This ICC report does give an account of the origin of the Iraq War, and it is astonishing. At para 36 it states the UK/US case for the invasion as historical truth, as though that were the simple and uncontested fact of the matter.

36. After the January 1991 Gulf War, the Security Council adopted a resolution setting out ceasefire terms, including ending production of weapons of mass destruction and permitting inspection teams on the territory of Iraq. In September 2002, the US and UK argued that Iraq was in material breach of the relevant resolutions and was seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction. UN weapons inspectors stated they had not found any “smoking gun” in their search for weapons of mass destruction, but noted that this was “no guarantee that prohibited stocks or activities could not exist at other sites, whether above ground, underground or in mobile units”. The US gathered a coalition of 48 countries, including the UK, for the stated purpose of searching and destroying alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

That is it. That is the ICC’s entire account of the origin of the Iraq War. The notion that Security Council Resolution 699 of 1991 authorised the 2002 invasion – a position never endorsed by the Security Council – appears to be taken as read despite being the most hotly disputed question in international law of all time. The selectivity of the cherry-picked quote from the weapons inspectors is an audacious bit of sophistry given it is taken from a report in which the weapons inspectors detailed they found no evidence of WMD, that cooperation from the Iraqi authorities was improving, and asked for more time and resources to complete their work. Even more flabbergasting, this ICC report paragraph gives as a supporting footnote the infamous UK government “dodgy dossier” on Iraqi WMD, a totally discredited document, without any indication there is any problem with it.

The truth is, that the paragraph in the report by the ICC prosecutor on the origin of the war is precisely as the UK would draft it, and in its unmoderated presentation of extremely contentious positions and its remarkable selectivity as to what facts are presented, it is entirely tendentious. I suspect that not only could it have been drafted by the UK government, it is very likely it was so drafted. I cannot think of anyone else, not even the current US government at time of writing, who would consider that paragraph a fair or reasonable explanation of the origins of the Iraq war.

This criticism applies to the entire document. It is written entirely in the preferred language of the invaders. For example, Iraqis resisting the foreign occupation are referred to as “insurgents” throughout the document. We first see this in para 43, in the statement that the British forces in Basra faced “an increasingly violent insurgency”. Oh, those poor innocent British forces, sitting at home in Basra, facing invasion from “insurgents” who had surged in from… from… err, Basra. The idea that the invaders were the respectable power and the locals were “insurgents” may be the language of the British MOD and may be adopted by the Daily Mail, but it should not be the language of the International Criminal Court. Here again, the prosecutor simply accepts the entire British framing of the narrative. Insurgents are referred to throughout.

Not only is the entire report written in the British voice, it entirely omits the Iraqi voice. The Prosecutor has written a report on British war crimes against Iraqis. The Prosecutor accepts there is credible evidence that hundreds of such war crimes were committed. Yet nowhere is there one single direct quote from an Iraqi victim. Not one. In the hundreds of references, The Prosecutor has based the entire report on whether to prosecute Brits for crimes against Iraqis, solely on interviews with Brits in official positions.

Everything is seen through the British military lens. To give another small illustration of this point, a skirmish at Majar-al-Kabir, following which captives were grossly mistreated, is referred to as “The Battle of Danny Boy”, which it is called by nobody except the British army. The ICC should not be calling a site in Iraq by the name the British army gave their checkpoint there, nor representing a skirmish involving 100 people as a “battle” because the British army does. “The Battle of Danny Boy” is a good illustration of the way that this report is written entirely through the British military gaze using British, not Iraqi, terms.

This next fact alone sufficiently illustrates my point, and entirely damns both this report and the International Criminal Court. Of the 776 footnotes, not a single one references a document in Arabic or in translation from Arabic. Not one. The vast majority of references are to official British documents. On the rare occasions when Iraqis are mentioned in the report, it is frequently to impugn their reliability as witnesses. The Iraqi individual most discussed – still briefly – is not a victim but a lawyer engaged in collecting testimonies. The Iraqi voice has gone unheard in this ICC decision. The victims are unconsidered.

You will search in vain for the Iraqi voice even where it could easily be found, in the witness statements of Iraqis to the British courts the report so freely quotes. But no, where Iraqi experience is recounted at all it is thoroughly mediated by British judges or other authorities.

Yet remarkably the report accepts that British forces were responsible for war crimes on a substantial scale. The report was written by a team, and plainly the team that was setting out the facts on the ground held rather different views from the politically influenced bosses who were writing the conclusions. The report notes:

70. The UK deposited its instrument of ratification to the Rome Statute on 4 October 2001. The ICC therefore may exercise its jurisdiction, from 1 July 2002 onwards, over alleged acts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed either on UK territory or by UK nationals on the territory of other States.
71. As set out more fully below, on the basis of the information available, there is a reasonable basis to believe that, at a minimum, the following war crimes have been committed by members of UK armed forces:
wilful killing/murder under article 8(2)(a)(i)) or article 8(2)(c)(i));
torture and inhuman/cruel treatment under article 8(2)(a)(ii) or article 8(2)(c)(i));
outrages upon personal dignity under article 8(2)(b)(xxi) or article 8(2)(c)(ii));
rape and/or other forms of sexual violence under article 8(2)(b)(xxii) or article 8(2)(e)(vi)).

Then again:

113. The information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that in the period from April 2003 through September 2003 members of UK armed forces in Iraq committed the war crime of wilful killing/murder pursuant to article 8(2)(a)(i) or article 8(2)(c)(i)), at a minimum, against seven persons in their custody. The information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that in the period from 20 March 2003 through 28 July 2009 members of UK armed forces committed the war crime of torture and inhuman/cruel treatment (article 8(2)(a)(ii) or article 8(2)(c)(i)); and the war crime of outrages upon personal dignity (article 8(2)(b)(xxi) or article 8(2)(c)(ii)) against at least 54 persons in their custody. The information available further provides a reasonable basis to believe that members of UK armed forces committed the war crime of other forms of sexual violence, at a minimum, against the seven victims as well as the war crime of rape against one of those seven victims while they were detained at Camp Breadbasket in May 2003. Where such detainee abuse occurred, this typically arose in the early stages of the internment process, such as upon capture, initial internment and during ‘tactical questioning’.
114. As noted above, the findings set out above are a sample pool of incidents which, while not reflecting the full scale of the alleged crimes relevant to the situation, were sufficiently well supported to meet the reasonable basis standard and allow the Office to reach a determination on subject-matter jurisdiction.

Later the following aggravating factor is considered:

140. The manner in which these crimes are alleged to have been committed also appears to have been particularly cruel, prolonged and severe. Notably, in five cases of deaths in custody, the victims were allegedly tortured – or at least severely and repeatedly assaulted – by UK personnel who detained them prior to their death. In the killing of Baha Mousa in September 2003, the victim was hooded for almost 24 hours during his 36 hours of custody and suffered at least 93 injuries prior to his death.

It is important to note that this appalling catalogue of crimes, where there was a reasonable prima facie case to proceed, represented only a very small sample of the thousands reported to the International Criminal Court. But even this small sample convinced the prosecutor that there was good enough evidence for the investigation to go forward.

So why did it not proceed? The Prosecutor decided to drop the case on the principle of “Complementarity”. This means that the ICC cannot prosecute if the government concerned – the UK government in this case – is itself genuinely investigating or prosecuting. The prosecutor based the decision not to proceed on these provisions of the Statute of Rome:

But none of the catalogue of crimes for which there is good evidence, examined by the ICC, had resulted in prosecution. In fact the report detailed that not a single prosecution had resulted from the work of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) in the MOD, although they had investigated scores of cases which the IHAT itself – consisting of former military and retired policemen – considered viable. In every single case, the proposal for a prosecution had been knocked back by the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA).

In fact the ICC only references two cases in which there were convictions for war crimes, and in both cases the conviction was purely because somebody immediately admitted the truth and confessed at the initial investigation stage. The maximum sentence given out was just one year in prison. The report’s account of how one of these convictions from confession came to fruition is extremely revealing:

91. Several notable features stand out from the Camp Breadbasket court martial. First, although multiple military personnel knew about the alleged abuses (including the alleged sexual crimes), each failed in their duty to report them. The conduct only came to light when one of the soldiers involved in taking trophy photographs had the photographs developed in a civilian shop and the shop assistant reported the conduct to civilian police, who made an arrest. Second, during his testimony, when asked why he had not reported alleged criminal conduct at Camp Breadbasket, Corporal Kenyon asserted that, “there was no point in passing anything up the chain of command, because it was the chain of command who was, in my eyes, doing a wrongdoing to the Iraqis to start off with, and they were passing Iraqis down to us, for us to do the same things basically”.

The key fact here is that the MOD’s processes and investigations had nothing whatsoever to do with the conviction. It came about because of the chance of a civilian seeing the photo and bringing in the civilian police, who had plain and undeniable photographic evidence of torture and sexual abuse. Otherwise this would have been entirely covered up by the MOD, exactly like all the other thousands of cases bar one other (in which somebody wracked by conscience insisted on confessing). For the ICC to quote the Camp Breadbasket conviction as evidence the UK investigation processes are working is tendentious. It was very obviously a fluke; I cannot think of a better example of an exception that merely proves the rule.

The International Criminal Court’s decision that there are no grounds to continue investigation, on the grounds the UK’s own procedures are adequate, becomes truly incredible – in the real meaning of the word, utterly lacking in credibility – when you read this passage of the report. It really is worth reading:

380. The Office has pursued a number of lines of inquiry to independently ascertain the veracity of the BBC/Times allegations with a view ultimately to speak with the primary sources of the allegations and other persons directly involved or with knowledge of facts related to the events. Overwhelmingly, those former IHAT staff the Office spoke to indicated that they had concerns about the outcome of IHAT’s investigations. Most considered that the investigative teams did a thorough job, but when it came time for the investigations to progress to prosecutions, there was something obstructing this. The former IHAT investigators were unable to specify what this obstruction was, given their limited access to decision-making, but insisted that such obstruction came at levels higher up within IHAT or the SPA (Services Prosecuting Authority).
381. Several former IHAT investigators reported their frustration at the outcome of inquiries into systemic issues submitted for internal IHAT/IHAPT review, whether in terms of recommendation for further investigative steps or referrals for prosecution, in view of their concern that cases involving superior responsibility were prematurely terminated or that there was leadership pressure within IHAT/IHAPT not to pursue them.
382. Several former IHAT staff were of the view that IHAT’s independence and impartiality was undermined by its relationship with the army and MoD, including: its physical location on a British Army base; IHAT’s use of MoD resources and systems; and requirements that IHAT staff go through the RNP or MoD personnel for certain functions (such as securing custody and travel).
383. Multiple former IHAT staff described difficulties in accessing evidence in the possession of the RMP or the MoD. They described how some RMP and MoD personnel obstructed access to files, in their view unjustifiably; did not permit IHAT staff to locate documents they had been vetted to inspect; and imposed restrictions on access; or were repeatedly told that they had been given all of the relevant material pertaining to a certain matter, only to later discover that they had not. The former IHAT staff described how some storage boxes had been mislabelled, obscuring the discovery of relevant evidence, and their view that the RMP only gave IHAT a fraction of the relevant material they possessed.
384. The former IHAT staff the Office spoke to also conveyed the difficulties the teams encountered in attempting to interview witnesses and suspects and to conduct other investigative steps. They described multiple occasions on which their requests to interview important witnesses were blocked for either unexplained reasons or for administrative ones, such as ‘expenses not allowing’. They described how witness interviews were hampered by IHAT refusing to reimburse witnesses for travel, travel details being changed at the last minute and in one case a potential witness being arrested before meeting with investigators. Some had the impression that IHAT management were trying to put obstacles in their way. Multiple former IHAT staff relayed their impression that there was no will on the part of IHAT management to allow proper investigations which would result in prosecution.
385. Concern was also expressed over the SPA’s involvement in the termination of cases. Several former IHAT staff that the Office spoke to felt that the SPA, as part of the MoD, was not truly independent or impartial respecting the armed forces. Multiple individuals with extensive civilian criminal investigations experience described how the investigation teams built cases which they considered were evidentially strong and ready to proceed, but the SPA refused to lay charges. With respect to certain alleged killing incidents, the view was conveyed that evidence supporting charges of manslaughter or murder, which would have proceeded in a domestic civilian police inquiry, were discontinued by the SPA.

Read that, and then consider that the conclusion of the International Criminal Court report is that their investigation must be dropped as there is no evidence that the UK is not diligently pursuing prosecutions.

The ICC then details a dozen paragraphs of what I would characterise as bland managerial reassurances from the MOD that these concerns are unwarranted, a result of the limited understanding of junior staff, and decisions not to prosecute have always been taken on the advice of external counsel. You are welcome to read that section of the report starting at para 386. The ICC accepts these reassurances and the British Government view as genuine without question, never for example considering that the MOD might have external counsel of notable militarist views and disinterest in human rights. The fact that external counsel is involved in the decisions not to prosecute is taken by the ICC as substantial guarantee that the procedure is genuine.

After the IHAT was closed down its workload was transferred to the smaller Service Policy Legacy Investigations Team, which immediately closed down 1213 out of the 1283 cases it inherited. That this indicates that a genuine process is underway is apparent to the ICC, but not to me. The report also notes something remarkable about the IHAT’s approach in that it categorised cases into three tiers, of which only the first tier was actively pursued. The second tier were cases considered less serious so it was not “proportionate” for them to be pursued. But consider what was in the second tier. This is from para 355 of the report:

Tier 2 allegations are those that may meet the investigative threshold of the SPLI but are dependent upon a further review. They are cases of moderate severity and ill-treatment where no life changing injuries or significant psychological harm has been sustained. Examples of Tier 2 cases could include, but are not limited to, GBH type offences that are not of a life changing nature; e.g. broken bones and or fractures. Tier 2 allegations could also include lower level sexual allegations e.g. intimate searches, and other treatment of a serious nature i.e. mock execution, nonfatal shootings and electrocution.

But as the report notes, this almost all meets the definition of torture: GBH inflicting broken bones and “non-fatal shooting”, as well as “lower level” sexual abuse is pretty serious stuff. If somebody shot you in the knee while holding you captive, would you think it “proportionate” for them to be prosecuted? The MOD would not – subject to an unspecified future review.

The question of the work of the IHAT being frustrated by senior management is one of those instances where the content of the report is at such variance with its conclusions, it is pretty clear that these were not written by the same people. In fact, the report returns to the concerns of IHAT staff again, plainly giving real weight to something earlier paragraphs had already dismissed:

408. The Office spoke with a number of former staff of IHAT who held different levels and functions. This sample of individuals was to some extent self-selected (being persons who were willing to speak to the Office). Accordingly, there may be limits to the representativeness of their experiences as compared with that of former IHAT staff as a whole. The Office nonetheless notes that the views of these individuals were on the whole balanced, as evidenced through their advancement of both praise and critique for various aspects of IHAT’s work. The Office also accepts that these individuals were not natural ‘whistle-blowers’. As former law enforcement personnel bound by confidentiality undertakings with their former employer and liable for penal sanction for potentially breaching protections on classified information, they may have been naturally reticent to speak with the ICC, which also reduces their likelihood of having made frivolous or malicious allegations. On the whole, the information received by the Office corresponds to the reports made in the BBC Panorama programme and in the Sunday Times.
409. The Office views with concern the fact that professional IHAT investigators – drawn from experienced retired officers of civilian police forces or serving Royal Navy Police personnel – would have made allegations of a cover-up or expressed concerns over the fate of the IHAT investigations that they worked on.

The schizophrenic report attempts to reconcile this by constantly referencing only para 2 (a) of the admissibility criteria, and claiming that neither the lack of prosecutions nor the allegations of IHAT staff give conclusive evidence that criminals are being deliberately shielded from prosecution. The report claims on the basis of previous court decisions that for a case to be admissible, “shielding” by the state must be proven to the standard of criminal proof. I am not sufficiently expert in the court’s previous judgements to know if that is true. But on the face of it, it is an extremely curious view of the admissibility criteria, read as a whole. Even apart from that, the evidence of shielding of soldiers by the MOD appears to be fairly compelling; certainly enough to justify further investigation.

The detail of the report gives ample evidence, much of it from UK courts, that cases are not being adequately investigated, that prosecutions are not being properly pursued, and that the military are conspiring – “Closing ranks” as more than one senior judge has put it – to cover up crimes, and getting away with it.

Para 213
The commanding officer referred Baha Mousa’s death for investigation by the RMP’s SIB, which was concluded in early April 2004 and resulted in the court martial of seven soldiers of the QLR. The court convicted Corporal Donald Payne of inhuman treatment but acquitted him of manslaughter and perverting the course of justice. He was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. Payne appears to have been the first British soldier ever to be convicted in the UK of a war crime. In the case of five other defendants, the Judge Advocate ruled that there was no case to answer due to lack of evidence, while two further accused were cleared by the jury of negligently performing the duty of ensuring that detainees were not ill-treated by men under their command.331 Justice MacKinnon, who presided over the court martial, acknowledged that despite his finding that Baha Mousa’s injuries were the result of numerous assaults over 36 hours “none of those soldiers have been charged with any offence simply because there is no evidence against them as a result of a more or less obvious closing of ranks”.

A similar example:

217. Naheem Abdullah died from a blow or blows to the left side of his head inflicted by one or more soldiers of a section of the 3rd Batallion of the Parachute Regiment while in their custody in Maysan Province on 11 May 2003.346 Naheem Abdullah’s death was investigated by the RMP’s SIB in 2003 and seven soldiers were charged with murder. At a court martial on 3 November 2005, the Judge Advocate found that the evidence did not permit a conclusion to be drawn on the individual responsibility of each defendant. The Judge Advocate criticised the RMP’s SIB investigation as “inadequate” with “serious omissions” by investigators in not searching for records of hospital admissions or registers of burials.
218. During the Ali Zaki Mousa litigation, the UK High Court noted its concern that IHAT had not taken the case forward despite the court martial finding that the death was a result of an assault by the section to which the soldiers belonged.
219. On 27 March 2014, the Secretary of State for Defence announced that an IFI investigation into Naheem Abdullah’s death had been commissioned in order to comply with the High Court’s decision in Ali Zaki Mousa (No. 2) but that “no prosecutions will result”. The IFI made “exhaustive inquiries about the whereabouts of the transcript of the court martial” but concluded it had probably “been destroyed or thrown away”. It further noted that the soldiers had not given oral evidence, been examined or cross-examined and found that the “need for them to give oral evidence” was a “critical aim” of the IFI inquiry.

In what universe is this not an unwillingness or inability of the UK authorities genuinely to prosecute? If this were a stabbing by a group of civilian youths, they would all be banged up under the doctrine of “common purpose”. The difficulties of prosecuting criminals who stick together are by no means the sole preserve of the armed forces, and the days when nobody could be convicted because of the problem of proving which gang member struck the fatal blow are long gone in civilian life.

The sole difficulty here is the prosecutors’ and investigators’ unwillingness to use the toolbox regularly used against gangs or organised crime, against self-protecting groups of soldier war criminals. The criminals are indeed being shielded.

Para 228 further shows the MOD’s failure in this regard is systemic:

As IHAT/SPA set out to the Office: 7 defendants were prosecuted during a six month court martial, with the case against all but 2 being dismissed by the judge at the conclusion of the prosecution case. The reasons for this outcome are complex but relate to the quality of the evidence given by the British soldiers who were called as witnesses by the prosecution. While the defence did not dispute that the detainees in this case had been subjected to serious mistreatment, including acts of violence, during their detention at “BG Main”, the detainees themselves were unable to identify which individual soldiers had been responsible for which aspects of their mistreatment or for which assault. This was primarily because the detainees had been hooded for most of the relevant time. Several of the soldiers who were called as witnesses by the prosecution proved reluctant to provide evidence against those with whom they still served, leading to what the Judge Advocate, a senior judge from the civilian system who had been brought in to try this case, described as a “more or less obvious closing of ranks”. The 2 defendants against whom the case was not dismissed at the conclusion of the prosecution case were subsequently acquitted by the Military Board after consideration of all of the evidence.

Finally, one last paragraph to illustrate that the conclusion of the report is completely incompatible with its internal evidence:

250. The Baha Mousa Inquiry report, published on 8 September 2011, made findings on the death of Baha Mousa in British custody in Basra after several days of abuse in September 2003. Five years prior to the report, seven suspects had been subject to the pre-IHAT procedure described above, which resulted in six acquittals at a court martial and one conviction for the war crime of inhuman treatment (following a guilty plea). The report found that British soldiers had subjected detainees to serious, gratuitous violence and that although doctrinal shortcomings may have contributed to the use of a process of unlawful conditioning, it could not “excuse or mitigate the kicking, punching and beating of Baha Mousa which was a direct and proximate cause of his death, or the treatment meted out to his fellow Detainees”.414 The findings did not inspire new prosecutions. On 8 June 2017, during a hearing to review the progress of IHAT investigations, Justice Leggatt noted that it was “difficult to understand why almost six years after a major public inquiry was finished in 2011 there has been no resolution of the question whether to prosecute anybody in relation to Baha Mousa.”

Yet the International Criminal Court claims not to have sufficient evidence that the UK government is not genuinely pursuing prosecutions: and remarkably states that even the passing now of legislation specifically to give an amnesty to soldiers for historic war crimes, does not radically affect its judgement as to the MOD’s practice and intent.

This report is a nonsense. It is based on adopting the UK MOD gaze throughout, and accepting that everything statted by UK official sources is true and given in good faith, which is never even questioned. The failure even to entertain the notion that the UK is acting in bad faith renders the report utterly pointless. Never can a report have been written on any subject where the internal evidence was so utterly incompatible with the conclusion. The report is the responsibility of prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. I find her motives as baffling as her conclusions.

What is however plain is that I can no longer argue that the ICC is an impartial body. Its protection of the UK not only over the initiation of the Iraq War, but even over the many crimes committed by its working level soldiers, let alone those who commanded them, stands in such stark contrast to the ICC’s treatment of those viewed as the designated enemies of the Western powers, that it has lost all moral authority.

I leave you with Ms Bensouda’s conclusions:

502. The Office recalls that, based on its evaluation of the totality of the information available, it cannot conclude that the UK authorities have been unwilling genuinely to carry out relevant investigative inquiries and/or prosecutions (article 17(1)(a)) or that decisions not to prosecute in specific cases resulted from unwillingness genuinely to prosecute (article 17(1)(b)). Specifically, for the purpose of article 17(2), the Office cannot conclude that the relevant investigative inquiries or investigative/prosecutorial decisions were made for the purpose of shielding the person concerned from criminal responsibility for crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court; that there has been an unjustified delay in the proceedings which in the circumstances is inconsistent with an intent to bring the person concerned to justice; or that the proceedings were not or are not being conducted independently or impartially, and they were or are being conducted in a manner which, in the circumstances, is inconsistent with an intent to bring the person concerned to justice.
503. On this basis, having exhausted all avenues available and assessed all information obtained, the Office has determined that the only appropriate decision is to close the preliminary examination and to inform the senders of communications. While this decision might be met with dismay by some stakeholders, while viewed as an endorsement of the UK’s approach by others, the reasons set out in this report should temper both extremes.

Do you feel a little bit sick too?

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Before the usual appeal for funding to continue this blog, I want to make a brief point. There is only one of me. I am aware that output this past month has been very slight. This has partly been due to exhaustion (and perhaps writers’ block) and partly to a whole series of quite major happenings in my personal life, some good, some bad, but all of them stressful. I am very grateful to those of you who subscribe to keep the blog going, but it does not come with a guarantee of any particular volume of output. It is also the case that some articles, like this one, require rather a lot of work. This blog will always have spells of unusually high and unusually low activity. I am doing my best.

 
 
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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The post The International Criminal Court: Now Simply Indefensible appeared first on Craig Murray.

The Fake Political and Media Class

Par craig

This blog has been silent for three weeks so nothing would stand between the “bold” predictions in my last article, and the proof that they were true. I am in fact neither particularly prescient nor brilliant. To anybody with serious experience of diplomatic negotiation, it was very obvious a deal was fairly easy. As I predicted, the level playing field mechanism is solved by it not only being a case of the UK following EU standards, but of mutual rights. In the entirely improbable circumstance of Tory UK adopting higher environmental, social or safety standards than the EU, the UK will have resort to a range of measures against unfair competition; just as the EU can in the much more likely scenario of the UK failing to keep up with evolving improvements in these areas. The same goes for state aid. The mutual obligation undercuts the “sovereignty” argument and squares that (silly) circle. Elsewhere, a few tonnes of fish here or there was never going to outweigh the manufacturing interests on both sides. So this very limited agreement, covering the 22% of UK/EU trade that is in goods, was always a shoo-in.

As I also predicted and still predict, the media will now go wild about “Johnson’s Christmas Triumph”.

What I want to discuss with you is not the agreement itself, nor the process of reaching it, but the quite extraordinary fact that a deal which was always going to be made, was the subject of pretend cliffhanger drama and tension by the entire professional media and the entire professional political class, both government and opposition, not just in the UK but right across Europe and on other continents as well.

Sane, sober and alone, any serious professional political journalist knew that this deal would be made and broadly what it would look like. So did Keir Starmer, Nicola Sturgeon, Bill Cash and Nigel Farage. Yet absolutely everyone has been pumping out this false narrative of cliff-hanging tension, as have the national ministers of EU states in the EU Council and the Members of the European Parliament.

Why? I think this really is quite a profound question. And I think the answer is that the professional media and political class – the latter an ever burgeoning number, battening on to the body politic at our ever increasing expense – have become simply a form of entertainment. High politics is no more than a form of reality TV, where both those taking part and those reporting on it know that dramas and crescendos have to be manufactured to keep the plebs interested and keep the golden goose laying. The politicians and the political journalists have a joint interest in putting on a show over artificial crises. The worrying thing is, they manage to convince themselves, at least some of the time, to their own professional gain, that the version they are promulgating of what is happening, is reality.

Let me add a few thoughts to this. The first is that I do not think that anybody except a very few utter nutters really believe, for example, that Jeremy Corbyn is personally a racist. Yet the mainstream political and media classes pump out the anti-semitism slur in a continual stream. This forcefully reminds me of the run-up to the Iraq War, when I asked an FCO colleague working directly on Iraq how he managed to do his job when he knew full well that Iraq had no Weapons of Mass Destruction. He replied to me that he was an avid player of “Football Manager”; while in the game he really was immersed for hours and the manager of Arsenal, once he left the game of course he knew he was not. Walking into the FCO to work was the same. While in the FCO, he believed Iraq had WMD and acted on that basis; once he left in the evening he did not.

In a sense this game, where the political and media class connive at contrived dramatic happenings, replaces and covers for the absence of real differences in politics, as will be illustrated when Starmer’s Labour votes for Johnson’s Brexit Deal. Just as they have failed to oppose even the granting of powers to kill and torture to the security services, or the granting of amnesty to those who commit war crimes. When you do not really have an actual opposition, you will get pretend political events. I am also reminded of those in the SNP who pretend to be absolutely committed to Scottish Independence, while having not the slightest intention of doing anything towards that goal that may jeopardise their comfortable and well-paid political careers.

I stand by my prediction that phasing of implementation of procedures will mean that the non-tariff friction that is, despite this agreement, going to make UK trade in goods with the EU much more logistically difficult, will not have immediate effect, so in the early part of 2021 Brexiteers will be gloating that predictions of doom did not happen. I also stand by the prediction that the real effects will come through slowly and surely and increase both inflation and unemployment in the second half of 2021. This agreement of course covers goods only – the UK financial services industry will become still further oriented towards servicing non-EU clients seeking minimal scrutiny. The EU will now be able to impose a transaction tax as a brake on reckless trading in derivatives. London will become the high risk centre for the dodgy money and the fast buck, to an even greater extent than it is already.

Johnson will now surf a jingoistic media wave and be hailed a great success. Which, for us Scots, makes it still more certain he will never agree voluntarily to an Independence referendum. Anybody who now argues the route to Independence must only lie through the agreement of Downing Street, is arguing the Unionist Case.

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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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post The Fake Political and Media Class appeared first on Craig Murray.

Sorry, Johnson Will Not Disappear

Par craig

It is currently popular among those who make money writing media articles about politics, to argue that Boris Johnson will implode next year and be replaced as Tory leader by someone more rational and conventional. I very much doubt this: the most important reason for that doubt being the power of the atavistic English nationalist forces that Johnson has unleashed in British politics. Astonishingly, despite the UK government’s hideously inept performance in the Covid crisis, and the corruption and looting of the public purse on a massive scale for which the pandemic has been used, the Conservatives still lead Labour in the UK opinion polls.

Partly that is due to Sir Keir Starmer having no apparent policy other than to ensure that no party member ever criticises Israel. But it is mostly due to the fact that Johnson’s supporters do not care what happens to the country, as long as they can see news footage of black people being deported on charter planes and immigrant children washed up dead rather than rescued. The racist brand is very, very strong in England. Cummings and Johnson’s plan to appropriate it and target the areas of England with lowest levels of educational achievement as their new political base still holds up as a political strategy. Look at the polls.

Tory MP’s care about themselves. They will ditch Johnson extremely quickly if he becomes a perceived electoral liability and therefore a threat to their own jobs. But as long as the Tories are ahead in the opinion polls, then Johnson is secure. The idea that there is a norm to which politics revert is a false one. Many of the same pundits who are assuring us now that Johnson will depart, also assured us that his kicking out moderate and pro-EU Conservatives from his party, and removing Remainers from his Cabinet, was a temporary move to be reversed post-election. There is in fact no going back to the norm.

Even the dimmest Labour Party members must now realise that Starmer lied when he promised he would carry on with Corbyn’s radical economic policies if elected to the leadership of the Labour Party. The Corbyn phenomenon was interesting. It arose as a reaction to the massively burgeoning wealth inequality in UK society and the great loss of secure employment opportunity with rights and benefits available to the large bulk of the population. That situation continues to worsen. Brexit was in large part a cry of pain resulting from the same causes. But Brexit in itself is going to do nothing to improve the social position or economic prospects of the working class.

Whether the novelty of Brexit will in the long term continue to be enough to channel the desire for radical change away from actual programmes of redistribution of wealth and ownership, I doubt. I suspect the Starmer project will falter on public reluctance to yet again embrace a choice of two Tory parties, and Starmer will be ejected as Labour leader before he can become the third Blue Labour PM. In the meantime, I can only urge those in England to vote Green. I can certainly see no reason to vote Labour and validate the Starmer purge.

As a former professional diplomat, I am going to be astonished if there is not a Brexit deal announced very shortly. It is plainly highly achievable given the current state of negotiations. The EU have moved very far in agreeing that an independent UK body, as opposed to the European Court of Justice, can be responsible for policing UK compliance with standards regulation to ensure against undercutting. The “ratchet clause” sticking point, where a mechanism is needed to ensure the UK does not undercut future improved EU regulatory regimes, can be resolved with some fudged wording on the mutual obligation to comply with the highest standards, but which does not quite force the EU to simply copy UK regulation in the improbable event it becomes more demanding than the EU regime. By making the obligation theoretically mutual the “sovereignty” argument about UK subservience to EU regulations and standards is met, which is the ultra Tory Brexiteers biggest fetish. Fisheries is even simpler to solve, with obvious compromises on lengths of agreement periods and quotas within easy grasp.

It should not be forgotten that David Frost is not the plain loutish Brexiteer he has so spectacularly enhanced his career by impersonating domestically, but is the smooth and effective professional diplomat he shows when actually interacting with Barnier. It could only be an act of utter lunacy that would lead Johnson to eschew a deal that the Express and Mail will be able to trumpet as a massive victory over Johnny Foreigner. I expect we shall be seeing a union jacked apotheosis of saviour Johnson all over the media by a week from now at the very latest – another reason he will not be leaving office.

It is of course, all smoke and mirrors. By expectation management, a deal which is a far harder Brexit than anybody imagined when Theresa May set down her infamous red lines, will be greeted by a relieved business community as better than actually blowing your own brains out. As I have stated ever since the repression of the Catalan referendum, I can live with leaving the EU and live with abandoning its political and security pillars. I continue to view leaving the single market and losing the great advantage of free movement as disastrous.

One thing that has been very little publicised is that, deal or no deal, the UK is going to fudge the worst consequences by simply not on 1 January applying the new rules at the borders. There will not be immigration checks on the 86% of truck drivers entering the UK who are EU citizens, for the first six months. Otherwise the queues by mid January would scarcely be contained by Kent itself. Similarly, the UK side will not be applying the new customs paperwork on 1 January except on a “random sampling” basis. Those who are eagerly anticipating chaos on 1 January will thus probably be disappointed. In fact the deleterious economic effects of Brexit are quite probably going to take some time to show through in a definite way. I do not believe we will see either empty shelves or major price hikes in the first few weeks.

My prediction is this: Boris will agree his thin deal and at the end of January the Brexiteers will be gloating that the predicted disaster did not happen. Effects on economic growth and employment will take some time to be plainly identified, and it will be mortifying how readily the Tories will twist the narrative to blame the EU, and also to obtain English nationalist support for the notion that this gradual pain is worth it in pursuit of a purer country, with less immigration. That may sound crazy to you. But is it not crazy to you that the Tories are still ahead in UK polls after the last year? Mark my words; hope that Boris Johnson will simply vanish is very misplaced.

There is of course the possibility that Johnson is indeed completely bonkers and will not agree any deal at all, in which case 1 January chaos is unavoidable and all bets are off. I should be very surprised indeed. But then I did not think Trump would be mad enough not to concede the US Presidential election. Trying to predict the irrational mind is a pointless undertaking. I don’t think Johnson is that irrational; but I have been wrong before.

The post Sorry, Johnson Will Not Disappear appeared first on Craig Murray.

The State You May Not Criticise

Par craig

In the 15 year history of this blog, I have criticised the Human Rights records of states including Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Burma, Cameroon, China, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Libya, the Maldives, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

The only country of which criticism has resulted in substantial legal and political action against me and attempted censorship is Israel. Criticism of Israel also immediately results in heavy suppression of traffic to my site from the corporate gatekeepers of Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Now a group of witch-hunting UK MPs has written to Amazon to complain that Alexa has quoted my blog on Israel.

It is worth looking at precisely what the MPs are complaining of in my case. Let’s look at the exact passage:

“Question: Is Israel guilty of war crimes?
Answer: Here’s something I found on the web: according to www.craigmurray.org.uk, ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and serial human rights abuse, including war crimes, yes, Israel is guilty of these atrocities.”

The website in question includes numerous conspiracy theories.

Now the MP’s of the All Party Group Against Anti-Semitism do not attempt to say what is wrong with this answer. They do not say why it is untrue – in fact, they do not even claim it is untrue. They do not say why it is anti-semitic; presumably, although they do not say as much, they must believe it is anti-semitic for the All Party Parliamentary Group on anti-semitism to be complaining about it. In fact, they ground their objection entirely on an unsubstantiated claim that this website includes conspiracy theories.

I maintain that the answer quoted from my website is self-evidently true and highly capable of proof. It states fact which a large majority of the public would recognise as true. Yet I am told by a journalist from the Times who contacted me, that on the basis of this incoherent letter from self-selecting MP’s, Amazon have blocked Alexa from quoting my website. This is only a tiny example of the removal of access to dissenting opinions – dissenting as in not conforming to the wishes of the political Establishment, although not diverging from objective truth. The trend towards this censorship on the internet is massive.

I am particularly concerned that one of the signatories of the letter is Lisa Cameron, an SNP MP. The statement that “ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and serial human rights abuse, including war crimes, yes, Israel is guilty of these atrocities” is completely in line with longstanding SNP policy on Palestine. Lisa Cameron’s part in having my website blacklisted for an opinion in line with SNP policy is shameful.

But it is not isolated. As I feared, the SNP’s large cohort of MPs at Westminster have become very comfortable there with their life of privilege and large income, and they have been almost entirely captured by Britnat standards and Britnat attitudes. Last week, we had the official party paper on defence policy in which Stewart MacDonald MP and Alyn Smith MP directly jettisoned the party’s long term commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament in favour of “multilateralism” – a long word for no nuclear disarmament ever.

Along exactly the same lines of moving to align with the right wing obsessions of British Nationalism, the SNP’s Stewart Hosie had signed up to the off the wall Russophobic report of Westminster’s Intelligence and Security Committee, a report conditioned by the appalling list of war hawks who were the only ones asked to give evidence.

Land Reform has been reduced to the foundation of a Scottish Land Commission which can put public money towards other funds raised by community groups to buy out great landlords in specific tracts at an assessed “market price”. Yes, the market price. So the great success of the much touted land reform is that it has put £5 million of public money straight into the pocket of the Duke of Buccleuch, for some tiny and insignificant portions of his vast estates, marginal and despoiled moorland he was probably glad to be shot of. The Chair of Buccleuch Estates, Benny Higgins, is also economic adviser to Nicola Sturgeon.

There is much triumphalism at the new “realism” of the Blairite triangulated SNP and its positioning as a “safe” part of the Establishment. How much of the old radicalism of the SNP remains may, in small part, be measured by how many votes I garner in the election for President at the current conference. I fear it may not be a high number.

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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.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post The State You May Not Criticise appeared first on Craig Murray.

The Route to Independence Leads Through Oban

Par craig

Grassroots Oban are hosting me for a zoom talk on the Route to Independence this evening at 7pm. You are welcome to join us, which you can do by registering in advance (ie now) here:

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0kfuqrpzIrGNLlxVYFLb2z2LlxT6Hx_vFf

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. I hope that over half the meeting will be open to questions and contributions and I am very happy for these to be wide-ranging. I must confess I don’t like online meetings and I very much miss actually getting round and meeting people. Hopefully we are not too far now from being able to do that again.

The post The Route to Independence Leads Through Oban appeared first on Craig Murray.

Militarism and the Populist Playbook

Par craig

Why militarism is such a surefire winner for populists is an interesting question, to which the answer is probably an unpleasant reflection on human nature. Atavism and racism are the easiest way to political success, despite the demonstrably catastrophic consequences.

For an economically dominant power to allocate its resources under the influence of militarism, and then project the resulting capability for extreme violence on less wealthy or organised states, is the time-honoured way for populist politicins to satisfy the atavistic urge they have whipped up, while minimising the catastrophic consequences at home. UK military power is not for “defence” and has never been for “defence” since the formation of the UK. It is for the projection of military power abroad. The destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen are all, in varying degrees, the result of the application of UK military force on weaker states.

replace the entire British curriculum with this TikTok pic.twitter.com/z9xgKwUm5B

— Róisín Lanigan (@rosielanners) June 29, 2020

These countries were unable to offer any significant military response; the major cost to the UK of destroying them has been the cost of munitions, supply and pay. Costs in British servicemen injured or maimed has been terrible for the individuals concerned but politicians don’t care; indeed our casualties are unrelentingly put to the service of whipping up more jingoism and militarism. British killed and maimed is of course a tiny number compared to the killed or maimed which Britain has inflicted.

There are other costs, of course. Almost all the terrorism in the UK has been blowback terrorism from this destruction abroad. There have also been resultant refugee flows which have disturbed the political equilibrium of all of Europe. But remarkably neo-conservative politicians are able to fashion those consequences into arguments for us to invade and kill still more frequently abroad.

Johnson’s announcement of an extra £16 billion of defence spending will be wildly popular with his electoral base, who love a bit of jingoism. It will be wildly popular with his MPs, because nothing lines the pockets of politicians and their close business associates as reliably as “defence” spending – except for Covid spending, but that giant chance to plunder the public purse will run out soon. In a country that could not afford to feed school children, a country that starves asylum seekers and lets kids drown in the channel rather than take them in, £16 billion extra to blow up other countries is no problem.

It is four times the amount of new money the government pledged yesterday to tackle the actual existential threat of climate change. To be spent instead on tackling a pretend existential threat. The idea that Russia or China wants to invade the UK is an utter nonsense. Neither has any plans to do so, nor has ever had any plans to do so. The UK has not been at war with either Russia or China for 150 years. We are however doing our best to provoke conflict, with billions more going into avowedly offensive cyber capability targeted on Russia and China. You also do not have to be a devotee of Isaac Azimov to understand that the pouring of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into the specific purpose of designing artificial intelligence to kill people is not necessarily a good long term goal. The advantage of these areas of spending for Tories is of course that outcomes are nebulous and thus the scope for super-profits and for corruption is simply enormous.

As I said, militarism is a very successful part of the populist brand. You therefore have this vast waste of money on offensive military capability being hailed by Labour under Sir Keir Starmer, the right wing muppet who leads the UK’s laughingly titled opposition. You also have, not coincidentally, a defence paper published on Tuesday by the SNP which tries to outflank the Tories from the right in extreme Sinophobia and Russophobia and proposes continued operations from Scottish bases post_independence by both US and English armed forces.

With the ousting of the left from Labour and the astonishing rightward gallop of the SNP, there is currently no realistic route to oppose militarism available in the UK’s – or Scotland’s – so called democratic electoral system.

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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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post Militarism and the Populist Playbook appeared first on Craig Murray.

Where are the Praetorian Guard When You Need Them?

Par craig

Here is Boris Johnson writing on devolution in 2001:

OCH aye, it’s the New Jerusalem! It’s a land of milk and honey they’re building up there in Scotland, laddie. They’ll nae be doing with your horrid Anglo-Saxon d e v i l-t a k e-t h e-h i n d m o s t approach. No, they’re just more socialist than us sour-mouthed Sassenachs.

They want to spend on the puir wee students, provided, of course, that they are poor wee Scottish students, not English ones. They want to shame the tightwads in the Treasury by spending on the puir wee Scottish teachers – in fact, they’ve given them a pay rise of 21.5 per cent over the next three years, far more than the English teachers are getting. And now, just to show how much generally nicer they are than the English, they have decided to spend, spend, spend on the puir wee old folks who need someone to help them open a can of beans.

In the teeth of opposition from the Treasury of what is still laughably called the United Kingdom, the Scots have decided to pay for free personal care for the elderly. Yes, that means all of us, folks. Even if we have assets of more than £16,000, we will be entitled not just to free nursing care – changing our dressings, putting our drips in – but to everything connoted by “personal care”.

If we are so lucky as to live in Scotland, it won’t matter that we could well afford to pay for someone to run our baths, or tie our shoes. There’ll be none of that business about reaching for our own wallets. Not in Scotland, Jimmy.

The BBC have been in overdrive spinning away that Boris is actually a great fan of devolution, and we should all apparently understand that naturally he says entirely different things to different audiences. In fact there is no shortage of evidence that Boris Johnson’s expressed view that devolution is a “disaster” is his genuine view. His premiership so far has all been about the extreme centralisation of power not just in Whitehall but in No. 10, of which more later.

The latest Tory ploy to claw back powers from Holyrood to Whitehall has been the Internal Market Bill. It is more notorious for openly and declaredly breaching international law, but the seizure of regulatory authority by (let us be blunt) England across a broad range of economic activity is just as significant. The Tory response has been, aided by a complicit media, simply to deny that what is happening, is happening.

But Boris’ declaration of war on devolution makes that approach more difficult. It also queers the pitch for the Gove strategy to head off Independence by false promises of more powers for Holyrood. This was done famously with “The Vow”, which promised Scotland the strongest federal parliament in the world. Referendum over, the opposite happened. All the signs are that the people of Scotland already are not stupid enough to fall for that trick again, but Boris has made it impossible for the unionists to even try.

If the Tories offer Maxi Maxi Devo-Maxi Maxi Max again, who will now believe them?

I am strongly of the view devolution has run its course. Undoubtedly it brought great benefits to Scotland. Free personal care for the elderly, no university tuition fees, free prescriptions. It also strengthened the sense of national identity and faith in Scottish competence in self-government.

But after a time, the cumulative effect of Tory austerity and spending cuts over years and years erodes services beyond the ability of even the most competent devolved administration to mitigate them. You then fall into the devolution trap, where you become the body that imposes the cuts, and takes the blame for falling standards, which are caused by the Treasury in London. The time comes when gradualism has achieved all that gradualism can, and it is time to break free from the devolution chrysalis and spread the wings of Independence. That time is now.

In his talk to the Northern Tory MP’s, Johnson called them his “Praetorian Guard”. That chimes with me, because I had been fretting about my inability to write anything useful about developments in Westminster politics. These defy ordinary political analysis, and bear more relation to the account of the courts of Roman emperors by Tacitus than anything that ought to happen in a modern western democracy. There were no great questions of public policy that led Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings to resign. There are vital decisions pending on a basic deal with the EU, but that was not the dispute – in fact nobody in No 10 seems to care about that one way or the other. What the great spat was about, was dinner party jostling for personal advantage among people with names like Allegra, Dominic, Carrie and Dido. Various individuals were “in tears” or “felt disrespected”. The good of the people who are being governed features nowhere at all in the insider accounts of what is happening at the top of the UK government.

It is understandable why Johnson thinks of himself as a Roman Emperor; he governs like Nero. The National Audit Office report yesterday listed £10.5 billion worth of contracts for NHS supply awarded without any proper tender. Many of these were to firms with no history of supplying medical equipment, chosen by the personal influence of MPs and Ministers. It is unsurprising there is so much personal jostling for influence, and the Civil Service has been effectively and deliberately barred from its customary role in decision making, when self-enrichment by corruption has become the primary aim of Westminster politicians.

Boris Johnson appears to have forgotten that the most common death met by Roman Emperors was murder by the Praetorian Guard. I could think of five such Imperial deaths – Wikipedia lists 13! Now where are the Praetorian Guard when you really need them?

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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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: craigmurray1710@btinternet.com

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Michael Russell, Neo-Liberal

Par craig

Mike Russell is claiming I have in some way misinterpreted or mis-attributed his detailed advocacy of privatisation of the NHS. I therefore bring you the following published critiques, every one of which has evidently “misunderstood” Mike Russell too. First from Iain MacWhirter in the Scottish Review of Books:

I have to say that Russell’s own ideological adventure rather confirms the need for political parties. Grasping The Thistle – even the revised version – is a blueprint for an essentially neo-conservative political revolution in Scotland. He wants to privatise the state, abolish inheritance tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax and introduce the highly regressive flat-rate income tax, which has been introduced in some Eastern European countries like Estonia.

If Russell were in charge, Scotland would be exposed to something like the “shock therapy” that the Friedmanite ideologues imposed on the Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This would imply, not just a rebalancing of public spending, but the wholesale destruction of the welfare state, taking the clock back to Edwardian Britain before Lloyd George’s People’s Budgets.

I’m not sure the Scottish people are prepared for such a Year Zero. Imagine the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh having to close because it failed to make a profit. What would happen to the patients? Scotland is a relatively egalitarian country with much less income inequality than England. Under the Russell/MacLeod revolution it would become a playground for the super-rich, a plutocratic caste with no interest or connection with the ordinary people. Jock Tamson need not apply.

Grasping The Thistle may be independent thinking, but I’m not entirely sure it is rational thinking. Certainly, these ideas are so far removed from the manifesto of the Scottish National Party that it becomes difficult to know how Russell can remain a member of it. It seems to me that he disagrees with just about everything his own movement stands for: social democracy, Europe, independence, parliamentary democracy, progressive taxation, public services free at the point of need, an oil fund – the list goes on and on.

Here is Rob Brown in Bella Caledonia, who obviously also entirely misunderstood Mike Russell:

After years of deifying social democracy, monkish Mike Russell suddenly saw the light and realised that right-wing heresy had to become the new orthodoxy within the national movement.

He devoted all his spare hours – when not praying for a swift return to that most holy of shrines, Holyrood – to reading the ancient runes with a businessman called Dennis MacLeod. Together this Druidic duo co-authored a tome dissing almost everything the SNP had stood for in its modern incarnation. Even that most sacred and patriotic of mediaeval parchments the Declaration of Arbroath got debunked in the first few pages.

The SNP, Russell and MacLeod jointly pontificated, should banish devilish notions of national independence and instead seek to negotiate a “New Union” with England. Once Westminster conferred its blessing on full fiscal autonomy for Bute House, in return for abolition of the Barnett formula, auld Scotia could then be administered all the shock therapy she so desperately required to be jolted out of her zombie state.

Our semi-independent government could then go on the lion rampage against the undeserving poor, the idle and the feckless. Scotland’s welfare state and taxes would be slashed, with vouchers introduced to marketize provision of schools and hospitals – none of which would be supplied through the NHS, since this would be dismantled in favour of an insurance-based health service.

Here is David Gow also misunderstanding Mike Russell:

Already then, however, other, overtly pro-capitalist strands of thinking were developing, often taking on anti-statist blindly pro-market tones (as in Mike Russell’s Grasping the Thistle).

Michael Keating of the University of Aberdeen even failed to grasp the subtleties of Russells “dialogue” on a neo-liberal approach in an academic paper:

There have been advocates of the liberal market strategy in Scotland. While
out of parliament, Mike Russell (later SNP Cabinet Secretary for Education) and
Dennis MacLeod wrote a book promising exactly that, with a drastic reduction in the
role and size of the state and of public spending and taxes (MacLeod and Russell,
2006). This was widely seen as an effort to out-Thatcher Margaret Thatcher and
seems to have riled the SNP leadership sufficiently for them to have had the text
toned down between proof and publication (Macwhirter, 2006).

Gerry Hassan has rushed to Russell’s aid online now, but strangely enough also had failed to understand Russell did not really mean it:

Pre-2007, there was the well-intentioned work of Kenny MacAskill (2004) alongside Mike Russell’s advocacy of a host of predictable right-wing and neo-liberal platitudes (MacLeod and Russell 2006).

While if Mike Russell is not a neo-liberal, it is unfortunate to find him quoted in another academic book called Neo-Liberalism in Scotland:

In his biography of Thatcher, Hugo Young quotes his subject as
saying, “the Scots invented Thatcherism, long before I was thought of”,
dryly adding that this “was believed to be a reference to Adam Smith, the
economist, and possibly the philosopher David Hume”.12 In her
autobiography Thatcher noted with bemusement the failure of her
“revolution” to win hearts and minds in Scotland, “home of the very same
Scottish Enlightenment which produced Adam Smith, the greatest
exponent of free enterprise economics till Hayek and Friedman”.13 The
more openly pro-market figures in the SNP, like Michael Russell, have a
similar view:
“Adam Smith was the father of modern capitalism and it is high time that
his own people rediscovered his genius, particularly as, in his own land,
that genius is currently tarnished by the half-baked economic models
espoused by most of our political parties.14”

Finally, just to remind you how very bad what Russell and MacLeod wrote about the NHS was:

Take health first of all. We would encourage the private sector to compete with established NHS hospitals, clinics and other services. We would encourage NHS management and staff to buy out existing NHS facilities and services under favourable financial terms and join the private sector. We would require NHS facilities that remained in government ownership to be run at a profit however modest. Those that failed to maintain profitability over a reasonable time frame would be privatised. In each geographic area the government would solicit bids from the area’s medical facilities and GPs for the various services it required for its citizens. Fragmentation of services may well see the redundancy of large general hospitals and their replacement with privately run clinics specialising and competing in particular medical procedures and services, at least in the more populated areas.

One idea that is worth further consideration is the possibility that some provision may be supported by “Payment vouchers” made available free of charge to citizens in order that patients would receive treatment wherever they wished. Citizens who wished to make their own arrangements with medical service suppliers would be free to do so. Armed with their voucher they could shop for the fastest and best service and if they so wished add to the value of the voucher.

—————————————————–

 
 
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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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post Michael Russell, Neo-Liberal appeared first on Craig Murray.

It’s Only Words

Par craig

UPDATE:

Mike Russell has responded in a tweet that his book is a dialogue between the two authors, implying he did not subscribe to its views on the NHS. Unfortunately, having read the full book, this is demonstrably untrue.

It is certainly true that the Introduction states that not all the ideas are agreed by both the two authors. As the Introduction also notes (p.14), in some places these disagreements are noted in the text. But unfortunately, in the entire section on the NHS, indeed the entire section on privatisation, there is no sign of any disagreement between the authors and certainly there is NO dialogue. No counter-argument is given. In fact the entire text at this juncture is written in the first person plural. The book states:

We would encourage the private sector to compete with established NHS hospitals, clinics and other services. We would encourage NHS management and staff to buy out existing NHS facilities and services under favourable financial terms and join the private sector. We would require NHS facilities that remained in government ownership to be run at a profit.

Here the “We” used at the start of each of those three sentences can only mean the two authors, Dennis MacLeod and Michael Russell. It can mean nothing else in the context of the book. It is not a dialogue. Plainly Mike Russell signed up to these views. If he wishes to say he sincerely recants, I would accept that. But he cannot pretend he did not sign up to it.

I also reject the puerile idea that because the Labour Party criticised him for his views on the NHS, it is wrong for anybody in the SNP to criticise him. As for his outrage at being questioned in this way, this is what democracy looks like. We are in an election. Expect to be scrutinised. Actually, I am just starting.

In the contest for SNP President, you are allowed only 25 words for your electoral statement to voters. Yes, 25 words. Approximately half a tweet. Obviously intellectual debate is not being encouraged. There are no official hustings (though kudos to the SNP trade union group who are trying to organise one).

This is my best shot at 25 words so far:

2014 no gold standard. Biased BBC, the Vow breaking purdah.
Tories will never agree a referendum they know we will win.
We must take Independence.

Grateful for your suggestions.

In the interests of public knowledge I wish to publish, entirely unedited, some of the writings of another candidate for President, Mike Russell. As I showed, when I announced my candidacy I faced a storm of very unpleasant social media criticism from what I might term the Scottish media and political Establishment, which insofar as it was not purely abuse, centred on the “accusation” that I hold non-mainstream opinions. I am proud to affirm that I do indeed.

I therefore thought you ought to know the opinions of Mike Russell, the establishment’s candidate. There is no trick here. The below passage is complete and unedited from his book, Grasping the Thistle (Argyll Publishing 2006), by Dennis MacLeod and Michael Russell. It is jointly authored and the passage I quote is written specifically as “We”, indicating both authors agree (not true of the whole book, as is made clear in it, but plainly applying to this passage of “We” proposals on the NHS).

I am not attacking Michael Russell. I make no comment on his views on NHS Scotland, other than to say mine are very different. I merely publish his views as the large majority of SNP membership have come into politics since 2014 and may be unaware of them. I should say I had no idea Mike Russell held these opinions, and when first told a week ago, I did not believe it until I bought a copy of his book. He is of course perfectly entitled to his view, and an Independent Scotland will include people of all shades of political opinion. Indeed, he may have changed this opinion, perhaps at the first sight of his Scottish Ministerial limousine. While I shall not comment, you may wish to comment below on what you make of his opinion on the NHS. I encourage you to do so.

MIKE RUSSELL, CANDIDATE FOR SNP PRESIDENT, WRITES ON NHS SCOTLAND:

Take health first of all. We would encourage the private sector to compete with established NHS hospitals, clinics and other services. We would encourage NHS management and staff to buy out existing NHS facilities and services under favourable financial terms and join the private sector. We would require NHS facilities that remained in government ownership to be run at a profit however modest. Those that failed to maintain profitability over a reasonable time frame would be privatised. In each geographic area the government would solicit bids from the area’s medical facilities and GPs for the various services it required for its citizens. Fragmentation of services may well see the redundancy of large general hospitals and their replacement with privately run clinics specialising and competing in particular medical procedures and services, at least in the more populated areas.

One idea that is worth further consideration is the possibility that some provision may be supported by “Payment vouchers” made available free of charge to citizens in order that patients would receive treatment wherever they wished. Citizens who wished to make their own arrangements with medical service suppliers would be free to do so. Armed with their voucher they could shop for the fastest and best service and if they so wished add to the value of the voucher.

Now it is pretty well a certainty that Mike Russell will win the SNP Presidency. The voters at Conference are a very controlled base and these days the payroll vote is a very high percentage of conference votes. There is very little chance I shall get over 20% of the vote. I am standing to give those ordinary members who are free to do so, a chance to express their concern at lack of focus on getting Independence and particularly to protest at the acceptance that Westminster has a veto on Independence via the S30 mechanism. There are also deep concerns at the way the party is being run.

I am standing because this is what democracy looks like, as my friend Clark reminded me.

There is also a third candidate, Corri Wilson, a former MP. I spoke to her and she seems a very decent person.

Dennis MacLeod, Russell’s co-author, was a multi-millionaire Canadian mining magnate and highly respected SNP member and party donor. Mike Russell has a record of decades of impeccable service to the party. They were perfectly entitled to publish their personal opinion on the NHS and indeed they were entitled to argue for a ultra right economic policy, as their book does. These opinions of Russell and MacLeod do not represent SNP policy and are most unlikely ever to represent SNP policy. Just as I have published personal opinions which are not SNP policy nor likely to be.

My point is simply this. As people, including paid SNP staff, have pointed to my opinions and said they make me unfit to be SNP President, I am entitled to point to Mike Russell’s opinions so that people may make a fair comparison before they vote. You can characterise it as you wish, but it is a fairly plain left/right choice.

At the moment we are in the nomination phase which lasts until Friday 13th. Then voting takes place at the virtual conference.

Nomination phase: Any SNP member can nominate me. I need 100 nominations to stand. Go to snp.org and login with your membership number. Then go to My Account top right, then next menu Elections, then next menu Nominations. You will find you have to click the nominate button by my name several times until the “remove nomination” button appears. There have been glitches, so if you have already nominated me I would be grateful if you could check the “remove nomination” button still appears. I know people who have rejoined the party in order to nominate, and been able to do so immediately.

For the actual voting you need to be a conference delegate to the virtual conference. I understand almost all branches still have open slots, so contact your branch secretary and say you wish to be a delegate.

This is the first election of any kind I have ever entered where there is no mechanism at all for the candidate to verify nominations or ballots. You are simply given the results of the electronic polling, as passed through the hands of SNP HQ staff – including some of those directly involved trying to fit up Alex Salmond on false charges and send him to jail. I therefore will feel much more confident of avoiding shenanigans if I receive well over the minimum 100 nominations.

UPDATE Mike Russell has responded in the following tweet:

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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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The post It’s Only Words appeared first on Craig Murray.

Trident Must Be Destroyed, Not Given to Westminster

Par craig

There appears to be a presumption that upon Scottish Independence, the Trident submarine fleet and its incredibly destructive WMD’s must simply be handed over to Westminster by Holyrood. That is wrong in international law; if the weapons remain on the territory of Scotland, a sovereign state, it will be for the Scottish Government to dispose of them as it chooses.

The principle is well-established and there is a directly relevant and recent precedent in the nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the highly mobile tactical nuclear weapons were swiftly taken back to Russia but the Trident comparators, the strategic nuclear weapons with their silos and the Tupolev strategic bomber fleet and its weapons, were destroyed, many inside Ukraine itself, following the Budapest Agreement of 1994 between the US, UK, Russia and Ukraine and separate bilateral agreements between Ukraine and France, and Ukraine and China.


This photo is of a Ukrainian technician dismantling a SS-19 missile at a US government funded facility at Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. [Russia of course breached the Budapest Agreement when it invaded Crimea, but that does not impact on the legal precedent of Ukraine’s right to dispose of the missiles on its territory].

There is no doubt that in international law, independent Scotland will be under no obligation to hand the Trident system over to Westminster. By taking another route, and seeking the dismantling of the Trident system under international auspices while ratifying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, START and its protocols and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Scotland will earn great kudos at the United Nations. Making this intent plain at the time of the Declaration of Independence will help secure for Scotland the developing country votes which Scotland will need at the UN General Assembly, recognition by which is the defining test for a country’s Independence.

Scotland has a moral obligation to the world to destroy nuclear weapons on its territory. It is also the case that it should be a simple matter to mobilise international aid funding for the cost of decommissioning and dismantling the Trident nuclear fleet and its missiles – a process in which China, Russia, the USA, France and Westminster should be invited to participate. In fact, the decommissioning work would take years and would bring an economic boost to Scotland, providing far more work than the simple maintenance and operation of the nuclear fleet ever has.

The United Kingdom is a rogue state. It invaded Iraq in a blatantly illegal war of aggression, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands, displacing millions and setting the economic development of the country back 50 years. It significantly contributed to the similar destruction of Libya. It has brazenly defied the United Nations General Assembly and the International Court of Justice in refusing to decolonise the Chagos Islands. It is passing legislation to grant its soldiers immunity from war crimes charges and its secret service officers and agents immunity for murder and torture. To hand Trident missiles, and the capacity to unleash the destruction of the human race, over to the control of this erratic, declining imperial construct would be grossly irresponsible.

An Independent Scotland must not allow WMD to be operational from its territory for one single minute after Independence. We cannot prevent the UK from moving the Trident system out of Scotland before Independence is finalised – in which case we will at least achieve the system being non-operational for about ten years while a new base is constructed, which will itself be a worthwhile achievement.

We in the SNP have to stop pretending to be anti-Trident while expecting to be complicit in a transition plan to let Westminster keep operating Trident. That is an immoral stance and a grossly hypocritical stance.

You don’t negotiate over WMD. You destroy them.

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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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Bitcoin: bc1q3sdm60rshynxtvfnkhhqjn83vk3e3nyw78cjx9

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post Trident Must Be Destroyed, Not Given to Westminster appeared first on Craig Murray.

Internalised Danger

Par craig

We have got so used to the United States being an extremely violent danger to the rest of the world, that the prospect of it internalising its violence is fascinating as well as horrifying. I am hopeful that it is not however likely.

I have to admit I thought Trump was smarter. I expected him to fight for an election result good enough to give him some leverage, and then at a point about about 36 hours ago start to negotiating with Biden for immunity for his family and himself, no tax investigations, and perhaps some continued government boosting of his business affairs, in return for a concession in the election. One thing we know from Burisma and China is that old Joe Biden loves a bung, so I was expecting comfortable understandings to be reached between two immoral and grasping old men. I thought I possessed a fair store of worldly wisdom, but plainly I underrated how crazy Trump is.

The American political system is plainly broken. The Democrats almost managed to fail to defeat Trump, having yet again managed to ensure that the poor electorate was given the choice of two horribly unattractive candidates. The Electoral College system came within an inch of reimposing Trump against the wishes of a large majority of the popular vote.

I do know all the arguments for the electoral college system, that it gives a counterbalance to the huge populations of the cities and coasts and allows rural states to protect their interests. But what it means in the real world is that the votes of conservative white people have disproportionate effect. If Trump had won due to this system, the strain on the fabric of the American body politic would have been – rather like the strain on the UK from Scots being permanently ruled by English Tories. Californian votes in effect are worth less than other votes because they have to be discounted in electoral college representation, because there are so many Californians. Biden having squeaked it removes the acuity of this sore, but the sore is still there waiting to burst out again in 2024.

Having been wrong about Trump backing out, I am reluctant to predict further. My instincts are that Trump’s gun touting fanatics are blowhards and while I fear there may be a few fatalities and incidents, mostly this is going to fizzle out in a series of dead-end lawsuits. I don’t see widespread rioting by “deplorables”, rather long term nursing of grievance. I have no expectation at all that a Biden administration will carry our any meaningful social and economic reform to improve the lives of those whose feelings of alienation were manipulated so adroitly by Trump.

It is typical of the shallowness of the identity politics which have replaced real attempts at social progress and economic improvement for ordinary people, that we are supposed to be celebrating that Kamala Harris will be Vice President on the grounds of her gender and race, when she is a power hungry right winger of the most hardened kind.

America urgently needs a radical dose of social and economic reform as championed by Bernie Sanders. It needs the Green New Deal, and the world needs a real commitment in Washington to environmentalism. One prediction of which I am very confident is that we are not going to see any genuinely significant action on any of this. None of Trump’s poorer supporters will be changing their political minds due to an improvement in their livelihood and prospects over the next four years.

Of one thing I am sure; I am pleased for those who feel released tonight from a regime rooted in racism, and I hope they are right that Trump will now fade away into irrelevance. But as the social and economic position of middle class Americans continues to deteriorate, one thing will be plain in future. Trump was not the cause of America’s problems, he was only a symptom. The future is not bright.

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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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post Internalised Danger appeared first on Craig Murray.

Moving Forward

Par craig

AUOB continues its heroic work in trying to weld together the disparate forces of the Yes movement, including the SNP. It is vital that we do pull together as it will take the entire Yes movement to get us over the line to Indy. AUOB is to be congratulated in securing top level SNP support for a virtual Assembly on 14 November, at which SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford will speak alongside wider movement figures such as Lesley Riddoch, George Kerevan and Robin Mcalpine, plus the more open face of the SNP, Kenny Macaskill. The Assembly on 14 November is an online event, and you can sign up for it here. There have of course been a number of efforts to unite the disparate elements of the Yes movement, but I feel this may turn out to be the most hopeful initiative. Neil Mackay of AUOB in particular is to be commended for his indefatigable behind the scenes work and diplomacy.

Less behind the scenes and more front stage, today we must commend another hero of endless perseverance, Martin Keatings, who yesterday won a key procedural ruling enabling his crowd-funded hearing on the legality of an Independence referendum without S30 permission from Westminster finally to go ahead. The case has been subject to massive obstruction not just from Westminster but from the Scottish government itself. No, that is not a mistype. The “respectable” argument the Scottish Government has deployed is that the petitioners are usurping the power of the Parliament in asking for a ruling on the legality of a referendum which the Parliament has not voted to hold. It is for the Scottish government, not the plebs, to ask if it has the power to hold a referendum without Boris Johnson’s permission.

The catch is, of course, that the Scottish government has no intention of asking the question as the status quo gives a perfect excuse to do nothing on Independence while remaining firmly in power on the backs of Independence supporters.

My own view is that Keatings and his backers in Forward as One are absolutely right to try to try to move the prospects for a referendum forward, and to clear up the legal ambiguity. But I should add that, even if the court rules that in UK domestic law Westminster permission is still needed for Scotland to hold a referendum on Independence, that has no effect on international law and the Scottish people’s absolute right of self-determination.

I suspect if Keatings wins his case, the Tories will immediately move to change the law at Westminster specifically to make referenda on Independence, or on all reserved matters, illegal. But that in itself would precipitate a crisis to which the Scottish Government would be obliged to respond. In short, I continue to see no downside to Keatings’ actions and plenty of upsides.

Finally may I ask any SNP members who have not yet done so to nominate me to stand for party President. You need to go to SNP.org and log in with your membership number. Then go to My Account top right, then elections and then nominations.

It is a two stage process. Those who receive 100 nominations go forward for election. Any party member can nominate but only Conference delegates will be able to vote. To vote you need to contact your branch secretary and say you wish to be a conference delegate (it is an online event). I believe almost all branches have plenty of spare delegate slots available. I understand it is also still possible to join or rejoin online to support me. Many thanks indeed to all those who have done so to date.

—————————————————–

 
 
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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: craigmurray1710@btinternet.com

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Bitcoin: bc1q3sdm60rshynxtvfnkhhqjn83vk3e3nyw78cjx9

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post Moving Forward appeared first on Craig Murray.

American Presidents

Par craig

I have hardly blogged on the US Presidential elections for two reasons. Firstly the debate is so polarised that many people are oblivious to rational argument that moves outwith the few favoured memes of each side, and I have more than enough abuse in my life already. Secondly, it is some years since I spent any substantial length of time in the USA, and it is a country I find that I understand less and less. I prefer to blog about things where I bring not just judgement, but an extra store of knowledge.

I am very frequently chided for not posting on a subject; a number of people have approached me asking me to post on Nagorno-Karabakh, and indeed I have been offered money to post here on the subject, an offer I suspect would have turned out to be accompanied by conditions as to what I wrote. I will never accept such offers. I am not a corrupt shill like the highly respectable mainstream media journalists receiving secret UK government cash for propaganda from the Integrity Initiative. But also Nagorno-Karabakh is an ancient and tangled dispute with roots that lie deep in history, with complex modern consequences, and which would require a huge amount of reading before I was ready to take a considered view. It is part of a region of which I do in fact have a very deep knowledge, but on Nagorno-Krabakh not specific enough.

I think it is important not to become an all-purpose pundit who fires off unconsidered views on everything that occurs. Such pundits are two a penny in the mainstream media

On the US election I showed my limitations with a tweet yesterday evening predicting Biden would win fairly comfortably, and Trump would concede with good grace. I was wrong. I think Biden will win, but not comfortably and with margins in the key “rust bucket” states close enough for Trump to have every right to question in court aspects of the United States’ rickety voting practices. I still expect to see President Biden at the end of it all.

I know that many of my readers will be triumphant at the departure of Trump. I can understand that. From the viewpoint of US domestic policy and particularly attitudes to social division, race and immigration, the end of Trump’s cynical manipulation of atavistic instinct among the electorate will be in itself a good thing. This has not been a healthy period in US politics.

But Trump has not been defeated by a Bernie Sanders; he has been defeated by a corrupt political hack backed to the hilt by the large majority of the billionaire owned media, financed out of Wall street and with no intention of pursuing anything other than neo-liberal economic policies. It is also the firm re-establishment of the rule of the security state and the military-industrial complex. Trump’s instinctive isolationism made him an enemy of the security state interest which spent a great deal of time in trying to undermine its President.

With Biden we will return to business as usual, and that means war and invasions. Under Trump we have had no new wars started, even if he continued old ones with little control. Without Trump, I have not the tiniest doubt that Syria would have been bombed back to the Stone Age, exactly like Libya, and millions more people would have been killed. Irrespective of the undoubted damage Trump has caused inside the United States across many fronts, Hillary would have killed a lot more people. Just not Americans.

I pause to note that the terrorist in Vienna had attempted to go as a jihadist to Syria and fight against Assad. If he had not been prevented from doing that, he would have been financed by the Saudis, fed and clothed by the Turks, armed by the CIA, trained by the SAS and given air support by the Israelis. He might even have got to be a TV star posing in a White Helmet, or employment artfully placing chlorine bottles on beds for pictures by Bellingcat. Unfortunately, having been prevented from joining the western sponsored insurgency, he ended up killing Austrians instead of Syrians and now is a “terrorist”, whereas jihadist killers of Syrians are “heroes”. A strange world. The Manchester Arena bomber was of course physically brought in to the UK by the British military after fighting for “our side” in Libya. You do indeed reap what you sow.

I hope that those who consider themselves of the left enjoy their relief when the electoral process finally puts to bed the extraordinary populism of Trumpism, and returns the USA to the smoother control of the regular media and political classes and their billionaire controllers. Because anybody who believes any more than that is happening is a fool. I said that I did not blog about the US elections because of the appalling partisan nature of debate. The truth is the system threw up, again, two truly obnoxious candidates entirely antithetical to the real interests of ordinary people in the USA. Biden will do nothing to tackle the appalling wealth and resource inequality which is the most startling problem the country faces. He will hopefully resolve social tensions in the short term. But the cause of those social tensions is a system of gross exploitation of the middle and working classes which is not sustainable in the long term, and which was the root of the Trump political eruption.

Kamala Harris was of course the most right wing possible Vice-Presidential pick. Her advance into power, despite being entirely rejected in the Democratic primaries, is in itself a huge condemnation of the system. I believe I am right in saying that Harris’s Primary campaign was so disastrous she managed to obtain zero delegates at all to the Democratic National Convention. Zero, None. Absolute bottom of the pile. Rejected by Democratic voters as the candidate in toto. Attempting to confirm this zero delegate fact, I just looked up the Wikipedia page on her primary campaign, which turns out to be the most entirely false, hagiographic and manicured Wikipedia page I have ever seen, on any subject, which is saying a lot. Apparently her Presidential Primary bid was in fact a tour de force of brilliant debating and political strategy, recounted in enormous detail, not an abject failure resulting in no delegates. The extraordinarily dishonest Wikipedia page is not perhaps in itself hugely important, but it is emblematic of the sinister manipulation behind the scenes of Kamala Harris’s rise to power.

Let us put a note in our collective diaries to look again in two years and see whether the USA has entered a period of renewed social progress, or just reinvigorated its position as a violent threat to the world. I am looking forward to the period when Biden’s mainstream cheerleaders have to find something positive to say rather than just respond “But Trump is evil”. I predict most of the responses below will say nothing much more on analysis than “But Trump is evil.” Knock yourselves out.

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Defence Fund and Contempt Case Update

Par craig

I have transferred £10,000 from my defence fund to Mark Hirst’s defence fund, which needs money immediately. If anybody who donated objects, your donation can be refunded if you use the contact button top right to send a message.

This does not mean that my own defence fund has more money than it needs – quite the opposite, as the Crown seems to be continuing its policy of spinning out the case as long as possible, with multiple procedural hearings, to drain our funds and ability to fight. The Crown has still not produced the new argument on how it proposes to prove “jigsaw identification”, which we strongly deny and have produced considerable evidence to disprove. The Crown was ordered at the last procedural hearing to come up with new substantive argument, and we are yet to see this. The Crown’s only tactic to date has been to argue that all of our witnesses and evidence are inadmissible, even most of my own witness statement, and the Crown refuses to produce any of the documentation requested by my defence.

The requested documentation included the messages from Peter Murrell to Sue Ruddick, Chief Operating Officer of the SNP, stating that “it was a good time to be pressurising the police” to take action against Alex Salmond, and another to get the Metropolitan Police to act because “the more fronts he is having to firefight on the better”. Incredibly, even though these messages are now firmly in the public domain, the Crown Office still refuses to release the original documents to my lawyers for use in my defence.

Those messages are the tip of the iceberg. It is some months since I saw them, but others include a message from one of the SNP’s most senior officials in which they explain that the police were saying they did not have sufficient evidence to act on some of the complaints. There then follows a line that had me springing up from my chair when first I read it. It was to the effect that if the police would only specify what evidence they need, then they could get it for them.

My sworn statement, given to the High Court in August, names that official. I am not permitted to tell you the name before the trial.

There is much more of this that I could tell you. Either the Crown Office will release these documents for my defence, or from the witness box I shall recount them (which is the reason they seek to stop me giving evidence). To prove to you that I really do know this material, here is an extract from my twitter direct messages detailing the famous Murrell one, written two months before it was leaked to Kenny Macaskill and given by him to the press.

The trial keeps slipping backwards due to Crown procrastination. I am in the peculiar position of facing a potential jail sentence yet being impatient for them to bring it on. Currently scheduled for 20 and 21 January in the High Court, Edinburgh. Please put it in your diary.

For those asking how can I stand for President of the SNP while exposing this kind of dirty laundry, the answer is very simple. This is a part of why I am standing. This kind of appalling behaviour by party officials has nothing to do with party members, nothing to do with Independence, and we have to stand up to put a stop to it, before it does still more damage to the party. Hushing it up would eventually explode in the face of the Independence campaign.

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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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The post Defence Fund and Contempt Case Update appeared first on Craig Murray.

Virtue Signaling Over Corpses

Par craig

I was sent this lovely anecdote of Sean Connery today by a successful Hollywood screen writer. They said I could publish but did not want to be named.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was involved in a series of movie projects with Sean Connery. He was everything you’d like a Hollywood star to be in person: charismatic, gregarious, intelligent, very focused in meetings, a great raconteur. He’d often remind you of his Scottishness and in case you’re wondering, he was more attractive in real life than he was onscreen.

One day we were in a meeting in his office, discussing whatever was our latest venture. The phone on his desk kept ringing. He’d pick it up, put it back down to end the call, then the phone would start ringing again. Then his mobile phone started to ring and ring and ring. Annoyed, he buzzed the outer office on the intercom.

Sean: What’s going on? I’m in a meeting.
Office person: It’s Tony Blair.
Sean (exasperated sigh): I can’t talk to HIM right now.

Then he looked at us, shaking his head and said ‘Sorry about that.’ And we carried on with our meeting.

He will be missed but when Scotland is independent, he can be in your pantheon.

I have also been deluged with social media postings about Sean Connery’s reported views on slapping women.

Do we have to do this?

What he said is not defensible: but are there really people out there who have never in their life said or done anything wrong? The worst thing I ever did in my life (which was not at all criminal but was wrong) still gives me nightmares of remorse, quite literally. I wake up thinking about it. I hope and believe it is outweighed as a single incident in a life in which I generally tried to do good. But I would not want it dragged up for public gloating when I die.

Every single human has made mistakes. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that Sean Connery was a generally bad man like Jimmy Savile. His first marriage was unhappy but his second was very happy and lasted forty years. Connery was born the same year, into the same class and the same city, as my own father. Ten minutes walk between their homes. My father would have shared Connery’s views on women – some of my father’s views were very worrying. They were the views of a working class man brought up in Edinburgh in the 1930s and 1940s.

I am not a moral relativist. I think that Connery’s view was plain wrong, just as my father talking of people coming “off the banana boat” or “having a touch of the old tarbrush” was plain wrong. But I also know why my father did not understand it was wrong, and why by contrast I did know it was wrong. Part of the reason I knew it was wrong is that my father worked so hard to lift his family out of poverty and enable us to benefit from the great free educational opportunities the state then gave us – opportunities he never had, leaving school at 13. Who was I to sneer at him?

I recognise the vicious circle of destructive macho that led Connery to repeat the claims when challenged. I should say that pretty well all my father’s closest friends were black, he actively helped several refugees and there was an extraordinary gap between his extremely kind and completely colour-blind personal behaviour, and the horrible views he used to state. It was a peculiar kind of defiance or assertion of identity, not something real.

Even today, I wish I understood this better of my father. Likewise Connery: I suspect that by the time he was repeating in the 1980’s his obnoxious views of the 60’s, Connery was doing something similar. He was defending the remembered tropes of his class and community, no longer what he was actually living by. And did not know how to back down.

I like to think that in seventy years time, people will look back at today’s virtue signaling students who are swamping the internet with anti-Connery memes, and be horrified at the completely unacceptable views that today’s students hold in tolerating massive wealth inequality.

I repeat that I found Connery’s view on violence against women absolutely obnoxious. It is a good thing that such views are now beyond the pale. But that a ninety year old man expressed a single obnoxious view in 1969 and 1984 does not invalidate him as a human being. It is not the most important thing about him. We are mourning one of Scotland’s most talented sons, and perhaps the most famous. He did not have to be perfect; nobody does.

It is possible to bury the dead without virtue signaling over their still warm corpse.

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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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Craig Murray for SNP President and Independence in Two Years

Par craig

The party hierarchy decided members should not be allowed to vote on routes to Independence that do not depend on the permission of Boris Johnson. To give party members a chance to register their concern, I have decided to go forward as a candidate for President. I do so not in the hope of winning (I won’t beat longstanding party servant Mike Russell), but because the ordinary members need to be able to show that they are not happy with the lack of focus on Independence and the closed nature of the party establishment – which two things are related.

Every vote for me is a vote for early Independence and no veto for Boris Johnson. Independence must be obtained within two years. It will not be given, we must take it.

The party appears to have no plan that could deliver Independence before 2026 at the earliest. Instead of conference being allowed to debate Plan B, there will be a “discussion” on “Independence in the Future”. It is plain that for many of the party’s very well paid elected officials and functionaries, that future is some far off optional destination, not an immediate arrival.

Obviously I shall be writing more on this in the next month. My opening shot is here, as an advert in the National newspaper.

My announcement has brought a great deal of twitter vituperation from the pillars of the political class – mainstream media journalists and SNP paid staff and leadership acolytes. Plainly democratic choice is not high on their agenda. Some are absolutely astonished that a candidate not approved by the leadership should have the temerity to stand, and not only that, but actually have the nerve to ask people to vote for them.

Mostly though it is just intellect free vituperation, on quite a wide scale:

That was just the first little period. There are huge amounts more of this stuff, much of it from paid SNP staffers. For those of a morbid mind with plenty of free time, the linkages between SNP staffers and unionist journos on twitter are really quite interesting to trace.

I should point out that I have said nothing in the least critical of Mike Russell or Corri Wilson. This is all entirely unprovoked.

A party where the Chief Executive is married to the leader and has a secret salary kept from members is not a healthy party. Particularly when he is then seeking to pressurise police into taking action against the last leader. This is not good.

I leave you with a last thought. Only rebels from the Establishment have ever won Independence, anywhere. We will never be given Independence, we will have to take it. Who is the most likely to play a useful role in that?

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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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Time to Stand Up and Be Counted

Par craig

Today, nothing is more important than to say that we will not be silent on the dreadful oppression of the Palestinian people; the daily beatings, killings, humiliations, demolitions, expropriations and destruction of groves that are the concomitant of Israeli illegal occupation.

We will never be browbeaten into silence on the slow genocide of the Palestinian people.

Nobody with any grasp on the location of their right mind believes Jeremy Corbyn to be an anti-Semite. Nobody with any grasp on their right mind believes the Labour Party is now anything but the substitutes’ bench for the Neoconservative team. Under Keir Starmer, the Labour Party has failed to oppose the granting of legal powers to the security services to kill, torture, entrap, forge and fake with impunity. It has failed to oppose the limitation of prosecution of British soldiers for war crimes. The Labour Party now seeks to erase all trace that it might once have been a party that offered an alternative to the right wing security state.

As Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer pressurised Swedish prosecutors who wished to drop the case against Julian Assange, to persist in order that he might be rendered to the USA. He further persuaded them not to interview Julian here, which is standard practice when he was never charged but only wanted for questioning, and which would have reduced Julian’s ordeal by four years.

Starmer received £50,000 in personal donations from lobbyist Sir Trevor Chinn to fund his leadership bid.

It is perfectly plain that Starmer’s aim in suspending Corbyn is to drive the mass membership that Corbyn attracted out of the Labour Party, and make it a reliable arm of the right wing security state. He wants the Labour Party to be financially dependent not on its members, who have annoying principles, but on donors like Chinn.

The media and political elite have attained their aim; there is no longer any point in voting in Westminster elections. A right wing government supporting the neo-con status quo and the ever tightening security state is now firmly guaranteed and cannot be influenced by a Westminster election.

 
 
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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Paypal address for one-off donations: craigmurray1710@btinternet.com

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MURRAY CJ
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post Time to Stand Up and Be Counted appeared first on Craig Murray.

The Circle of Amnesiacs

Par craig

Today was a particularly interesting meeting of the Holyrood Inquiry into the mishandling of the Salmond affair, with two senior civil servants, Judith Mackinnon and Barbara Allison, who both had very convenient and complete failures of memory, about key points which just happened to be the very points on which the committee had previously been lied to.

To take Barbara Allison first, she had been happily on holiday in Mauritius. I am sure it is of great comfort to the ordinary people of Scotland that, as has been clear from this inquiry, the Scottish Government employs an extraordinary plethora of officials, nearly all of them female, in non-jobs with silly titles at salaries that enable them to spend their vacations at the most expensive and exclusive spots on the planet.

Now Ms Allison, Director of Communications, had forgotten that, on the day Alex Salmond won the judicial review case against the Scottish Government, she had immediately texted from Mauritius to Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, and that Leslie Evans had instantly replied “Battle may be lost but not the war.” She denied it had happened under oath to the committee when she gave evidence on 15 September 2020. She only remembered it when the Crown Office subsequently handed over the text – which police Scotland had taken from her own phone – to the Committee. She then was forced to write to the Committee correcting her evidence, which if the text had never been produced, presumably she would never have done.

The remarkable thing is, that Leslie Evans’ message had been famous ever since the Alex Salmond trial. It had featured quite literally scores of times in the media after being mentioned in the evidence at Alex Salmond’s preliminary hearing (where it was among the evidence the defence were banned from using at trial) and after being quoted from the steps of the court room by Alex Salmond after his complete acquittal. It is the subject of this column by Iain Macwhirter, for example, and features in the title. Presumably as part of her job Ms Allison must have followed all this, but none of it jogged her memory that she had received the message. Even when Leslie Evans gave evidence to the Inquiry on 8 September that she had sent the message, that did not remind Ms Allison that she had received the message before she explicitly denied, under oath, receiving it to the committee exactly one week later.

It is plain from the messages that Evans and Allison are close. Civil servants do not normally add kisses to work related texts. We are asked to believe that on 8 September Evans gave evidence on this text message to Allison, and did not mention it to Allison before her own appearance before the committee the following week. That is ludicrous.

But remarkably, the fog of Allison’s memory still has not cleared. Nothing has yet been jogged. The infamous text from Evans is evidently a reply to one from Allison. Evans’ reply begins “Thanks Barbara”. Yet Allison today told the committee, again under oath, that she had no recollection of sending Evans her initial text and no recollection what she had said in it. In fact she testified she had no recollection of the event at all.

Let us dig a bit further into that. Imagine you are in Mauritius on holiday. It is a wonderful place.

You are there on holiday. You are relaxing by the sea in the magnificent scenery and enjoying a drink or a meal. You receive immediate notification of the result of the Salmond civil case judicial review, thousands of miles away. How? It did not make the Mauritian or the international media. Plainly somebody has contacted you to give you the news instantly. Had you organised for that, or had someone thought it so important as to bother you on your holiday?

[As a former senior civil servant myself, I can tell you for certain that an event would have to be considered extremely significant, and requiring indispensable involvement of a particular civil servant, for them to be interrupted when away on a holiday. Plainly, this was not casual.]

Your tropical idyll has been interrupted. You then immediately initiate an exchange of texts with the Permanent Secretary. You now cannot – just eighteen months later – recall any of this happening at all.

I just do not buy it. I do not believe it. I do not accept it. It is my opinion (cf Dugdale vs Campbell libel case) that Barbara Allison gave a very strong impression that she is a liar.

The content of Barbara Allison’s text is of course very important, because of Leslie Evans’ wildly improbable explanation to the committee, that when she said “battle may be lost but not the war”, with reference to the judicial review case against Alex Salmond, the “war” to which she referred was not the war against Alex Salmond, but rather a wider struggle that government should have “equality at the heart of what it does”. In this (frankly unbelievable) context, the missing Barbara Allison text message becomes very important indeed.

Did Allison text that day from Mauritius “God that bastard Salmond won. We have to nail him”, to which Evans replied “Thanks Barbara, the battle may be lost, but not the war”? Or did Allison text from Mauritius “I am in full support of the effort to incorporate equality and women’s rights at the heart of all we do”, to which Evans replied “Thanks Barbara, the battle may be lost, but not the war.” As I hope you see, it makes a major difference which it is.

Unfortunately, of course, Allison has (ahem) forgotten what her text message said. And here is the extraordinary thing – she had deleted that key message before she handed her phone over to the police. Now, she had not deleted her messages with one of the accusers from months earlier. Also she had not deleted the reply from Lesley Evans to her deleted text, nor had she deleted her reply to Lesley Evans’ reply to her missing text. We are left with this:

Text X – deleted
“Thanks Barbara. Battle maybe lost but not the war. Hope you are having lovely and well deserved break. L”
“Thanks Lesley. It is lovely here. My mind and thoughts are with you all there tho. Best wishes B. x ”

Now why did text X get deleted and not the other two? Allison told the committee that she routinely deletes texts to unclutter her phone.

Is that not rather strange? We all know how text messages work – your phone shows you the most recent message in a conversation first. So scrolling back, Allison decided to keep the last two but to delete the third one back? Why that one? Why not the whole exchange? It is very hard to think of any logical explanation for that selection – unless the deleted text happened to say something like “God that bastard won. We have to nail him”, which might be incriminating given the subsequent (ahem) organisation of complainants for the criminal case. But as Allison cannot remember writing or deleting that text message, we may never know.

Except of course, we should know. Police Scotland took the messages from the phone to give to the Crown Office. Unfortunately the interest of Police Scotland was in conspiring with Peter Murrell to fit up Alex Salmond. Had they not been otherwise fixed on a corrupt intent, Police Scotland would have been able to deploy their resources to recover the obviously missing deleted text, either from the iPhone or from the service provider.

Let us leave the unpleasant Ms Allison to stew in her own mendacity, and move on to another unreliable witness with a very poor memory, Judith McKinnon. Now I have to refer here to an earlier witness, civil servant Mr James Hynd, who had evidently been selected to take upon himself the responsibility for having devised a procedure to investigate ex-ministers. He had testified it was entirely his own idea, that he had never discussed it with anybody at all, and that it had first existed in a draft policy he had alone written.

Unfortunately this attempt to sanitise the genesis of the “get Salmond” policy quickly collapsed as documents have slowly been squeezed out of the Scottish government showing that a procedure against ex-ministers had been discussed by civil servants and special advisers before Hynd “first” thought of it, including by Judith McKinnon, who had gone on to coach the initial complainants against Alex Salmond. In fact, Mckinnon had produced a “flowchart” of the new procedure including ex-ministers, dated before Hynd’s document which he claimed was the first time the idea had been thought of. Hynd was another one forced to write to the committee to “clarify” his evidence under oath.

Today McKinnon was pressed on why she had included ex-Ministers in her flowchart before Hynd had thought of it, and McKinnon replied that it had been generally discussed and was generally agreed. Pressed by committee members as to who she had generally discussed it with, and whether this included Leslie Evans or the First Minister’s office, McKinnon replied that – she had forgotten who she discussed it with.

Now there is a shock.

Scotland employs, on very high salaries, a quite fascinating number of women with very poor memories.

The members of the committee were most excited about another point. They questioned both women on the fact that the new procedure which the court had found unlawful and tainted by apparent bias, under which McKinnon could both coach complainants and be the investigating officer, was still in place. There was, huffed Alex Cole Hamilton, the possibility the same mistake could be made again and the taxpayer again lose a great deal of money.

Silly Mr Cole Hamilton. He has not yet understood that the “new procedure” was only ever a single shot, designed to “get” Alex Salmond. There was never any chance it would be used against anybody else. So why bother to amend it now?

Finally and perhaps even more interestingly, today a letter has been released which Alex Salmond wrote to James Hamilton, who is conducting the investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code. This entire letter is well worth reading, but this bit is truly stunning. Alex Salmond points out that Hamilton’s remit was written by Sturgeon’s deputy John Swinney, and he suggests it is a “straw man”, deliberately misdirecting Hamilton to areas where Sturgeon probably did not break the ministerial code.

Salmond instead suggests other areas where Sturgeon did actually break the ministerial code, and asks Hamilton if he is able to investigate them or just carrying out the Swinney defined charade. This is the first direct and public attack by Alex on Nicola since she conspired to have him jailed, and it is extremely significant. I am hopeful it may be the starting point of a change towards a Scottish government that will actually use its popular mandate to act on Independence.

UPDATE I have been informed it wasn’t Mauritius, it was the Maldives. Which is, of course, even more spectacularly exclusive and expensive.

 
 
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The post The Circle of Amnesiacs appeared first on Craig Murray.

Covid-19 and the Political Utility of Fear

Par craig

The true mortality rate of covid-19 remains a matter of intense dispute, but it is undoubtedly true that a false public impression was given by the very high percentage of deaths among those who were tested positive, at the time when it was impossible to get tested unless you were seriously ill (or a member of society’s “elite”). When only those in danger of dying could get a test, it was of course not at all surprising that such a high percentage of those who tested positive died. It is astonishing how many articles are published with the entirely fake claim that the mortality rate of Covid-19 is 3.4%, based on that simple methodology. That same methodology will today, now testing is much more widely available to those who feel ill, give you results of under 1%. That is still an overestimate as very few indeed of the symptomless, or of those with mild symptoms, are even now being tested.

The Guardian’s daily graphs of statistics since January 1 illustrate this very nicely. It is of course not in fact the case, as the graphs appear to show, that there are now vastly more cases than there were at the time of peak deaths in the spring. It is simply that testing is much more available. What the graphs do indicate is that, unless mortality rates have very radically declined, cases tested on the same basis they are tested today would have given results last spring of well over 100,000 cases per day. It is also important to note that, even now, a very significant proportion of those with covid-19, especially with mild symptoms, are still not being tested. Quite possibly the majority. So you could very possibly double or treble that figure if you were looking for actual cases rather than tested cases.

I do not believe anybody seriously disputes that there are many millions of people in the general population who had covid and survived it, but were never tested or diagnosed. That can include people who were quite badly ill at home but not tested, but also a great many who had mild or no symptoms. It is worth recalling that in a cruise ship outbreak, when all the passengers had to be compulsorily tested, 84% of those who tested positive had no symptoms.

What is hotly disputed is precisely how many millions there are who have had the disease but never been tested, which given the absence of widespread antibody testing, and inaccuracies in the available antibody tests, is not likely to be plain for some time, as sample sizes and geographical reach of studies published to date have been limited. There is no shortage of sources and you can take your pick. For what it is worth, my own reading leads me to think that this Lancet and BMJ published study, estimating an overall death rate of 0.66%, is not going to be far off correct when, in a few years time, scientific consensus settles on the true figure. I say that with a certain caution. “Respectable” academic estimates of global deaths from Hong Kong flu in 1968 to 70 range from 1 million to 4 million, and I am not sure there is a consensus.

It is impossible to discuss covid-19 in the current state of knowledge without making sweeping assumptions. I am going here to assume that 0.66% mortality rate as broadly correct, which I believe it to be (and if anything pessimistic). I am going to assume that 70% of the population would, without special measures, catch the virus, which is substantially higher than a flu pandemic outbreak, but covid-19 does seem particularly contagious. That would give you about 300,000 total deaths in the United Kingdom, and about a tenth of that in Scotland. That is an awful lot of dead people. It is perfectly plain that, if that is anything near correct, governments cannot be accused of unnecessary panic in their responses to date.

Whether they are the best responses is quite another question.

Because the other thing of which there is no doubt is that covid-19 is an extremely selective killer. The risk of death to children is very small indeed. The risk of death to healthy adults in their prime is also very marginal indeed. In the entire United Kingdom, less than 400 people have died who were under the age of 60 and with no underlying medical conditions. And it is highly probable that many of this very small number did in fact have underlying conditions undiagnosed. Those dying of coronavirus, worldwide, have overwhelmingly been geriatric.

As a Stanford led statistical study of both Europe and the USA concluded

People

The study concludes that for adults of working age the risk of dying of coronavirus is equivalent to the risk of a car accident on a daily commute.

I should, on a personal note, make quite plain that I am the wrong side of this. I am over 60, and I have underlying heart and lung conditions, and I am clinically obese, so I am a prime example of the kind of person least likely to survive.

The hard truth is this. If the economy were allowed to function entirely normally, if people could go about their daily business, there would be no significant increase in risk of death or of life changing illness to the large majority of the population. If you allowed restaurants, offices and factories to be be open completely as normal, the risk of death really would be almost entirely confined to the elderly and the sick. Which must beg the question, can you not protect those groups without closing all those places?

If you were to open up everything as normal, but exclude those aged over 60 who would remain isolated, there would undoubtedly be a widespread outbreak of coronavirus among the adult population, but with few serious health outcomes. The danger lies almost entirely in spread to the elderly and vulnerable. The danger lies in 35 year old Lisa catching the virus. She might pass it on to her children and their friends, with very few serious ill effects. But she may also pass it on to her 70 year old mum, which could be deadly.

We are reaching the stage where the cumulative effect of lockdown and partial lockdown measures is going to inflict catastrophic damage on the economy. Companies could survive a certain period of inactivity, but are coming to the end of their resilience, of their financial reserves, and of effective government support. Unemployment and bankruptcies are set to soar, with all the human misery and indeed of deleterious health outcomes that will entail.

There is no social institution better designed than schools for passing on a virus. The fact that schools are open is an acknowledgement of the fact that there is no significant danger to children from this virus. Nor is there a significant danger to young adults. University students, the vast, vast majority of them, are not going to be more than mildly ill if they catch coronavirus. There is no more health need for universities to be locked down and teaching virtually, than there would be for schools to do the same. It is a nonsense.

The time has come for a change in policy approach that abandons whole population measures, that abandons closing down sectors of the economy, and concentrates on shielding that plainly defined section of the population which is at risk. With this proviso – shielding must be on a voluntary basis. Elderly or vulnerable people who would prefer to live their lives, and accept that there is currently a heightened risk of dying a bit sooner than might otherwise be expected, must be permitted to do so. The elderly in particular should not be forcefully incarcerated if they do not so wish. To isolate an 88 year old and not allow them to see their family, on the grounds their remaining life would be shortened, is not necessarily the best choice for them. It should be their choice.

To some extent this selective shielding already happens. I know of a number of adults who have put themselves into voluntary lockdown because they live with a vulnerable person, and such people should be assisted as far as possible to work from home and function in their isolation. But in general, proper protection of the vulnerable without general population lockdowns and restrictions would require some government resource and some upheaval.

There could be, for example, a category of care homes created under strict isolation where no visitation is allowed and there are extremely strict firewall measures. Others may have less stringent precautions and allow greater visitation and movement; people should have the choice, and be assisted in moving to the right kind of institution for them. This would involve upheaval and resources, but nothing at all compared to the upheaval being caused and resources lost by unnecessary pan-societal restrictions currently in force. Temporary shielded residential institutions should be created for those younger people whose underlying health conditions put them at particular risk, should they wish to enter them. Special individual arrangements can be put in place. Public resource should not be spared to help.

But beyond those precautions to protect those most in danger, our world should return to full on normal. Ordinary healthy working age people should be allowed to make a living again, to interact socially, to visit their families, to gather together, to enjoy the pub or restaurant. They would be doing so in a time of pandemic, and a small proportion of them would get quite ill for a short while, and a larger proportion would get mildly ill . But that is a part of the human condition. The myth that we can escape disease completely and live forever is a nonsense.

Against this are the arguments that “every death is a tragedy” and “one death is too many”. It is of course true that every death is a tragedy. But in fact we accept a risk of death any time we get in a car or cross a road, or indeed buy meat from the butcher. In the USA, there has been an average of 4.5 amusement park ride fatalities a year for the last 20 years; that is an entirely unnecessary social activity with a slightly increased risk of death. Few seriously want amusement parks closed down.

I genuinely am convinced that for non-geriatric people, the risk of death from Covid-19 is, as the Stanford study suggested, about the same as the risk of death from traffic accident on a daily commute. The idea that people should not commute to work because “any death is a tragedy” is plainly a nonsense.

The problem is that it is a truism of politics that fear works in rendering a population docile, obedient or even grateful to its political leaders. The major restrictions on liberty under the excuse of the “war on terror” proved that, when the statistical risk of death by terrorism has always been extraordinarily small to any individual, far less than the risk of traffic accident. All the passenger security checks that make flying a misery, across the entire world, have never caught a single bomb, anywhere.

Populations terrified of covid-19 applaud, in large majority, mass lockdowns of the economy which have little grounding in logic. The way for a politician to be popular is to impose more severe lockdown measures and tell the population they are being saved, even as the economy crumbles. Conversely, to argue against blanket measures is to invite real hostility. The political bonus is in upping the fear levels, not in calming them.

This is very plain in Scotland, where Nicola Sturgeon has achieved huge popularity by appearing more competent and caring in managing the covid-19 crisis than Boris Johnson – which may be the lowest bar ever set as a measure of political performance, but it would be churlish not to say she has cleared it with style and by a substantial margin.

But when all the political gains are on the side of more blanket lockdowns and ramping up the levels of fear, then the chances of measures tailored and targeted specifically on the vulnerable being adopted are receding. There is also the danger that politicians will wish to keep this political atmosphere going as long as possible. Fear is easy to spread. If you make people wear face masks and tell them never to go closer than 2 metres to another person or they may die, you can throw half the population immediately into irrational hostility towards their neighbours. Strangers are not seen as people but as parcels of disease.

In these circumstances, asking ordinary people to worry about political liberty is not fruitful. But the new five tier measures announced by the Scottish government yesterday were worrying in terms of what they seem to indicate about the permanence of restrictions on the, not really under threat, general population. In introducing the new system, Nicola Sturgeon went all BBC on us and invoked the second world war and the wartime spirit, saying we would eventually get through this. That of course was a six year haul.

But what really worried me was the Scottish government’s new five tier system with restrictions nominated not 1 to 5, but 0 to 4. Zero level restrictions includes gatherings being limited to 8 people indoors or 15 people outdoors – which of course would preclude much political activity. When Julian Assange’s father John was visiting us this week I wished to organise a small vigil for Julian in Glasgow, but was unable to do so because of Covid restrictions. Even at zero level under the Scottish government’s new plans, freedom of assembly – an absolutely fundamental right – will still be abolished and much political activity banned. I cannot see any route to normality here; the truth is, of course, that it is very easy to convince most of the population inspired by fear to turn against those interested in political freedom.

What is in a number? When I tweeted about this, a few government loyalists argued against me that numbering 0 to 4 means nothing and the levels of restriction might equally have been numbered 1 to 5. To which I say, that numbering the tiers of restriction 1 to 5 would have been the natural choice, whereas numbering them 0 to 4 is a highly unusual choice. It can only have been chosen to indicate that 0 is the “normal” level and that normality is henceforth not “No restrictions” but normal is “no public gathering”. When the threat of Covid 19 is deemed to be sufficiently receding we will drop to level zero. If it was intended that after level 1, restrictions would be simply set aside, there would be no level zero. The signal being sent is that level zero is the “new normal” and normal is not no restrictions. It is both sinister and unnecessary.

UPDATE I just posted this reply to a comment that this argument amounts to a “conspiracy theory”. It is an important point so I insert my reply here:
But I am not positing any conspiracy at all. I suspect that it is very easy for politicians to convince themselves that by increasing fear and enforcing fierce restriction, they really are protecting people. It is very easy indeed to genuinely convince yourself of the righteousness of a course which both ostensibly protects the public and gives you a massive personal popularity boost.

It is argued that only Tories are worried about the effect on the economy in the face of a public health pandemic. That is the opposite of the truth. Remarkably, the global lockdowns have coincided with an astonishing rate of increase in the wealth of the richest persons on the planet. That is an effect we are shortly going to see greatly amplified. As tens of thousands of small and medium businesses will be forced into bankruptcy by lockdown measures and economic downturn, their assets and their markets will be snapped up by the vehicles of the super-wealthy.

I am not a covid sceptic. But neither do I approve of fear-mongering. The risk to the large majority of the population is very low indeed, and it is wrong that anybody who states that fact is immediately vilified. The effect of fear on the general population, and the ability of politicians to manipulate that fear to advantage, should not be underestimated as a danger to society.

There has been a substantial increase in human life expectancy over my lifetime and a subsequent distancing from death. That this trend should be permanent, in the face of human over-population, resource exhaustion and climate change, is something we have too readily taken for granted. In the longer term, returning to the familiarity with and acceptance of death that characterised our ancestors, is something to which mankind may need to become re-accustomed.

In the short term, if permanent damage to society is not to be done, then the response needs to be less of an attack on the entire socio-economic structure, and more targeted to the protection of the clearly defined groups at real risk. I greatly dislike those occasions when I feel compelled to write truths which I know will be unpopular, particularly where I expect them to arouse unpleasant vilification rather than just disagreement. This is one of those times. But I write this blog in general to say things I believe need to be said. I am very open to disagreement and to discussion, even if robust, if polite. But this is not the blog to which to come for comfort-reading.

 
 
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Magic Novichok

Par craig

The security services put an extraordinary amount of media priming effort into explaining why the alleged novichok attack on the Skripals had a delayed effect of several hours, and then failed to kill them. Excuses included that it was a cold day which slowed their metabolisms, that the chemical took a long time to penetrate their skins, that the gel containing the novichok inhibited its operation, that it was a deliberately non-fatal dose, that rain had diluted the novichok on the doorknob, that the Skripals were protected by gloves and possibly only came into contact in taking the gloves off, or that nerve agents are not very deadly and easily treated.

You can take your pick as to which of those convincingly explains why the Skripals apparently swanned round Salisbury for four hours after coming into contact with the novichok coated doorknob, well enough to both drink in a pub and eat a good Italian lunch, before both being instantaneously struck down and disabled at precisely the same time so neither could call for help, despite being different sexes, ages and weights. Just as the chief nurse of the British army happened to walk past.

So now let us fast forward to Alexei Navalny. Traces of “novichok” were allegedly found on a water bottle in his hotel room in Tomsk. That appears to eliminate the cold and the gloves. It also makes it possible he ingested some of the “novichok”. I can find no suggestion anywhere it was contained in a gel. So why was this deadly substance not deadly?

There seems no plain allegation of where Navalny came into contact with the “novichok”. Assuming he spent the night in his hotel room, then the very latest he can have come into contact with the deadly nerve agent would be shortly before he left the room, assuming he then subsequently touched the bottle before leaving. This is true whether the bottle was the source or he just touched it with novichok on his hands. After poisoning with this very deadly nerve agent – which Germany claims is “harder” than other examples, he then checked out of the hotel, went to the airport, checked in for his flight, had a cup of tea and boarded the flight, all before being taken ill. This after contact with a chemical weapon allegedly deadlier than this:

Which of course is aside from all the questions as to why the Russians would use again the poison that was ineffective against the Skripals, and why exactly the FSB would not have swept and cleaned up the hotel room after he had left. All that is even before we get to some of the questions I had already asked:

Further we are expected to believe that, the Russian state having poisoned Navalny, the Russian state then allowed the airplane he was traveling in, on a domestic flight, to divert to another airport, and make an emergency landing, so he could be rushed to hospital. If the Russian secret services had poisoned Navalny at the airport before takeoff as alleged, why would they not insist the plane stick to its original flight plan and let him die on the plane? They would have foreseen what would happen to the plane he was on.

Next, we are supposed to believe that the Russian state, having poisoned Navalny, was not able to contrive his death in the intensive care unit of a Russian state hospital. We are supposed to believe that the evil Russian state was able to falsify all his toxicology tests and prevent doctors telling the truth about his poisoning, but the evil Russian state lacked the power to switch off the ventilator for a few minutes or slip something into his drip. In a Russian state hospital.

Next we are supposed to believe that Putin, having poisoned Navalny with novichok, allowed him to be flown to Germany to be saved, making it certain the novichok would be discovered. And that Putin did this because he was worried Merkel was angry, not realising she might be still more angry when she discovered Putin had poisoned him with novichok

There are a whole stream of utterly unbelievable points there, every single one of which you have to believe to go along with the western narrative. Personally I do not buy a single one of them, but then I am a notorious Russophile traitor.

The eagerness of the Western political establishment to accept and amplify nonsensical Russophobia is very worrying. Fear is a powerful political tool, politicians need an enemy, and still more does the military-industrial complex that so successfully siphons off state money. Many fat livings depend on the notion that Russia poses a serious threat to us. The nonsense people are prepared to believe to maintain that fiction give a most unpleasant glimpse into the human psyche.

 
 
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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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People Need to Reclaim the Internet

Par craig

No matter how much you dislike Trump, only a fool can fail to see the implications for public access to information of the massive suppression on the internet of the Hunter Biden leaks.

This blog has been suffering a ratcheting of social media suppression for years, which reached its apogee in my coverage of the Julian Assange trial. As I reported on 24 September:

Even my blog has never been so systematically subject to shadowbanning from Twitter and Facebook as now. Normally about 50% of my blog readers arrive from Twitter and 40% from Facebook. During the trial it has been 3% from Twitter and 9% from Facebook. That is a fall from 90% to 12%. In the February hearings Facebook and Twitter were between them sending me over 200,000 readers a day. Now they are between them sending me 3,000 readers a day. To be plain that is very much less than my normal daily traffic from them just in ordinary times. It is the insidious nature of this censorship that is especially sinister – people believe they have successfully shared my articles on Twitter and Facebook, while those corporations hide from them that in fact it went into nobody’s timeline. My own family have not been getting their notifications of my posts on either platform.

It was not just me: everyone reporting the Assange trial on social media suffered the same effect. Wikileaks, which has 5.6 million Twitter followers, were obtaining about the same number of Twitter “impressions” of their tweets (ie number who saw them) as I was. I spoke with several of the major US independent news sites and they all reported the same.

I have written before about the great danger to internet freedom from the fact that a few massively dominant social media corporations – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – have become in effect the “gatekeepers” to internet traffic. In the Assange hearing and Hunter Biden cases we see perhaps the first overt use of that coordinated power to control public information worldwide.

The way the power of the “gatekeepers” is used normally is insidious. It is quite deliberately disguised. “Shadow banning” is a term for a technique which has many variations. The net result is always that the post is not ostensibly banned. Some people see it, so that if the subject of the suppression claims to be banned they look stupid. But it is in fact shown to far, far less people than it would normally be. So even members of my own immediate family find that my posts no longer turn up in their timeline on either Facebook or Twitter. But a few followers, presumably at random, do see them. Generally, though not always, those followers are apparently able to retweet or share, but what they are not told is that their retweet or share is in fact put in to very, very few people’s timelines. The overall audience for the Tweet or Facebook post is cut to as little as 1% of what it might be without suppression. As 90% of the traffic to this blog comes in clicks from these social media posts, the effect is massive.

That was the technique used on the Assange hearing. In normal times, the ratchet on traffic can be screwed down or released a little, from week to week or post to post.

In the Hunter Biden case, social media went still further and without disguise simply banned all mention of the Hunter Biden leaks.

As I reported on September 27 last year:

What I find deeply reprehensible in all the BBC coverage is their failure to report the facts of the case, and their utter lack of curiosity about why Joe Biden’s son Hunter was paid $60,000 a month by Burisma, Ukraine’s largest natural gas producer, as an entirely absent non-executive director, when he had no relevant experience in Ukraine or gas, and very little business experience, having just been dishonorably discharged from the Navy Reserve for use of crack cocaine? Is that question not just a little bit interesting? That may be the thin end of it – in 2014-15 Hunter Biden received US $850,000 from the intermediary company channeling the payments. In reporting on Trump being potentially impeached for asking about it, might you not expect some analysis – or at least mention – of what he was asking about?

That Hunter Biden received so much money from a company he never once visited or did any legitimate work for, located in a country which remarkably at the same time launched into a US sponsored civil war while his father was Vice President, is a question which might reasonably interest people. This is not “fake news”. There is no doubt whatsoever of the facts. There
is also no doubt that, as Vice President of the USA, Joe Biden secured the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating Burisma for corruption.

The story now is that Hunter Biden abandoned a laptop in a repair shop, and the hard drive contained emails between Hunter and Burisma in which he was asked for, and promised, various assistance to the company from the Vice President. This hard drive was passed to the New York Post. What the emails do not include is any incriminating correspondence between Hunter and his father in which Joe Biden agrees to any of this – which speaks to their authenticity, as that would be the key thing to forge. Given that the hard drive also contains intimate photos and video, there does not seem to be any real doubt about its authenticity.

However both Facebook and Twitter slapped an immediate and total ban on all mention of the Hunter Biden emails, claiming doubts as to its authenticity and an astonishing claim that they never link to leaked material or information about leaked material.

Alert readers will note that this policy was not applied to Donald Trump’s tax returns. These were extremely widely publicised throughout social and mainstream media – and quite right too – despite being illegally leaked. Twitter may be attempting to draw a distinction between a “hack” and a “leak”. This is difficult to do – the Clinton and Podesta emails, for example, were leaked but are frequently claimed to have been hacked.

I am astonished by the online comment of people who consider themselves “liberals” who support the social media suppression of the Hunter Biden story, because they want Trump to be defeated. The truth is that those in control of social media censorship are overwhelmingly Atlanticist figures on the Clinton/Blair political spectrum. That embraces the roles of Nick Clegg and Ben Nimmo at Facebook. It explains the protective attitude of Blairite Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales (also a director of Guardian Media Group) toward the Philip Cross operation.

Censorship from the self-satisfied centre of the political establishment is still more dangerous, because more stable, than censorship from the left or right. It seeks rigorously to enforce the “Overton window” on social media. It has a “whatever it takes” attitude to getting Joe Biden into the White House and removing a maverick element from the political stability it so prizes. Its hatred of public knowledge is behind the persecution of Assange.

The Establishment’s problem is that inequalities of wealth are now so extreme in Western society, that the attempted removal of access by the public to radical thinking is not protecting a stable society, but is protecting a society tilting towards structural instability, in which the lack of job security and decent conditions and pay for large swathes of the population contrasts vividly with the spectacularly flourishing fortunes of the ultra billionaires. Our society desperately needs thinking outside the box into which the social media gatekeepers are attempting to confine us.

An early part of that thinking out of the box needs to relate to internet architecture and finding a way that the social media gatekeepers can be bypassed – not by a few activists, but by the bulk of the population. We used to say the internet will always find a work-around, and there are optimists who believe that the kind of censorship we saw over Hunter Biden will lead to a flight to alternative platforms, but I don’t see that happening on the scale required. Regulation to prevent censorship is improbable – governments are much more interested in regulation to impose more censorship.

The development of social media gatekeeping of internet traffic is one of the key socio-political issues of our time. We need the original founders of the internet to get together with figures like Richard Stallman and – vitally – Julian Assange – to find a way we break free from this. Ten years ago I would not have thought it a danger that the internet would become a method of political control, not of political freedom. I now worry it is too late to avert the danger.

 
 
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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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Lord Advocate Launches War on Twitter

Par craig

In what we think is a world first, the Lord Advocate of Scotland is claiming in the contempt of court case against me that I am legally responsible for the content of replies to my tweets.

The claim is founded on an argument that when you tweet, there is a menu which enables you to hide replies. If you do not hide a reply, you are therefore the publisher of that reply. As the Lord Advocate is putting it:

2. That the Twitter account under profile name @CraigMurrayOrg is operated by the Respondent. When the user of such an account publishes a post on Twitter, there is an option for readers to post publicly available comments in relation to each post and to reply to other readers’ comments. Replies to original posts will appear on the timeline of the author of the original post and on the timeline of the author of the reply. The user of the account who published the original cannot delete comments by others but, since November 2019, has the option to hide replies to their original post.

Note this is a very different argument to the accepted principle that if you publish a defamatory or otherwise illegal tweet, you bear a responsibility for people retweeting or passing on the information.

What the Lord Advocate is saying is that you can post a perfectly legal tweet, but you are responsible for any illegal replies. So if you post “Joe’s Fish and Chips are Great”, and somebody replies “But old Joe is a paedophile”, you become the publisher of the reply and liable in law for it (presumably unless you hide it, but that has not been stated in terms). The Lord Advocate is arguing that the reason that this has not previously been the law is that it is a new situation, with the “hide reply” option only being added in November 2019.

The reason this argument is being made is that the Crown is struggling to prove I published anything illegal myself, but believes a reply to one of my tweets is more obviously illegal.

The situation on Twitter is very different to a blog or media website. This website is mine. It is registered to me, I am the publisher and I accept responsibility for its content. Even there, however, the law on comments is much more nuanced than people realise and I am not generally liable for comments unless there was something in the content of my original post that was illegal or encouraged illegality, given that reasonable arrangements for moderation are in place.

But neither you nor I nor any other user is the publisher of Twitter. There is no sensible view in which you are the publisher of replies to your tweets. Twitter is the publisher of tweets and users are responsible for what they tweet.

The Lord Advocate’s approach would have a massive chilling effect on Twitter and fundamentally change its nature. When you tweet there is an option to limit who can reply. People would be loathe to allow replies at all if they were liable in law for what other people might say. Nobody wants to have to be constantly checking replies to their tweets, including to old tweets, in case somebody – who may be somebody you never heard of – tweeted something illegal.

For good or ill, Twitter has become a major medium of social and political debate. That dialogue would be entirely changed if replies are routinely turned off. What troubles me is that, in stretching for a way to convict me, the Lord Advocate appears completely oblivious to the very wide consequences of this argument for free speech. The Lord Advocate is of course not only Scotland’s chief prosecutor, he is also a member of the Scottish Government, appointed by the First Minister.

I cannot help but put this together with the Hate Crime Bill, which was condemned as an attack on free speech by every reputable body you can possibly imagine, and conclude that Scottish Government has no concern whatsoever for the concept of freedom of speech. It simply does not feature in their internal thinking, and is of no concern unless hammered upon them from outside.

The doctrine that Twitter users are the legal publishers of replies to their tweets has massive implications were it to succeed in court. That it should be recklessly resorted to as part of this vindictive attack on me, shows how deep down the rabbit hole we are going.

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Where Is My Final Assange Report?

Par craig

Numerous people have contacted me in various ways to ask where is my promised report on the final day of the Assange hearing, to complete the account?

It is difficult to explain this to you. When I was in London it was extremely intense. This was my daily routine. I would attend court at 10am, take 25 to 30 pages of handwritten notes, and leave around 5. In court I was always with Julian’s dad John, and usually for lunch too. After court I would thank supporters outside the courtroom, occasionally do some media and often meet with the Wikileaks crew to discuss developments and tactics. I would then get back to my hotel room, have a bite to eat and go to bed around 6.30pm to 7pm. I would awake between 11pm and midnight, shower and shave, read my notes and do any research needed. About 3am I would start to write. I would finish writing around 8.30am and proofread. Then I would get dressed. About 9.30am I would make any last changes and press publish. Then I would walk to the Old Bailey and start again.

Apart from being exhausting, I was totally immersed in a bubble, and buoyed by the support of others close to Julian, who were also inside that bubble.

But in that courtroom, you were in the presence of evil. With a civilised veneer, a pretence at process, and even displays of bonhommie, the entire destruction of a human being was in process. Julian was being destroyed as a person before my eyes. For the crime of publishing the truth. He had to sit there listening to days of calm discussion as to the incredible torture that would await him in a US supermax prison, deprived of all meaningful human contact for years on end, in solitary in a cell just fifty square feet.

Fifty square feet. Mark that out yourself now. Three paces by two. Of all the terrible things I heard, Warden Baird explaining that the single hour a day allowed out of the cell is alone in another, absolutely identical cell called the “recreation cell” was perhaps the most chilling. That and the foul government “expert” Dr Blackwood describing how Julian might be sufficiently medicated and physically deprived of the means of suicide to keep him alive for years of this.

I encountered evil in Uzbekistan when the mother brought me the photos of her son tortured to death by immersion in boiling liquid. The US government was also implicated in that, through the CIA cooperation with the Uzbek Security Services; it happened just outside the US military base at Karshi-Khanabad. Here was that same evil paraded in the centre of London, under the panoply of Crown justice.

Having left the bubble, my courage keeps failing me to return to the evil and write up the last day. I know that sounds either pathetic or precious. I know the mainstream journalists who revel in portraying me as mentally unstable will delight to mock. But this last few days I can’t even bring myself to look at my notes. I feel physically ill when I try. Of course I will complete the series, but I may need a little time.

 
 
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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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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

The post Where Is My Final Assange Report? appeared first on Craig Murray.

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