Craig Murray – flawed champion?

Craig Murray’s blog gives a profound interpretation of the political world, but does his strategy for independence ignore the reality of everyday political change?

Where, if you’re independence-minded, do you go for serious political analysis?

You’re unlikely to find it in the overwhelmingly unionist press.  Of30 or so titles available in Scotland, only one, The National, is pro-indy.  As Paul Kavanagh, Wee Ginger Dug, says: The biggest obstacle to Scottish independence is our truly lamentable media, which is grossly unrepresentative of the views of the country it purports to serve.


Except for a few columnists – like Joyce MacMillan in The Scotsman – newspapers don’t bother to explore beyond their bias, hostility and – especially from London-based papers – ignorance towards independence.  Other writers who purport to offer insight into Scotland’s situation – like Chris Deerin, Alex Massie and Kenny Farquharson – have become their own echo chamber, cleaving to unionist faiths, however strained the reality of the union becomes.

My own political reading is mostly online – particularly a handful of bloggers – in order to try and understand where our nation is going and how well, or badly, it’s getting there.

Of the internet writers who tell it like it is, ex-ambassador Craig Murray is the intellectual heavyweight.  His background as a member of the establishment adds heft to his subsequent career as a whistle blower, activist and author.

His dissection of major political events is knowledgeable, shrewd and thorough.  He cuts through the surface aspects and reveals the deeper political motivations of those in power.  His recent pieces on the Russian invasion of Ukraine are typically forensic and provide a fuller picture than most other commentators:

At the same time, he goes out of his way to support campaigns and report on court cases, notably of Julian Assange and Alex Salmond.  For the former, he queued every day, from the early hours, for hearings in Belmarsh prison.  He produced uniquely valuable reportage on this deeply troubling example of British justice heavily influenced by the US government.

His accounts of proceedings in the Alex Salmond trial offered an alternative to most of the press, who seemed to have decided the former First Minister was guilty of the charges on which the jury then acquitted him.

Craig Murray himself ended up in the High Court in Edinburgh, charged with jigsaw-identifying some of the complainants in the Salmond case.  He was found guilty and sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment.

Personally, I found the grounds for his conviction weak and I contributed to his legal costs’ crowdfunder.  Many people protested vigorously at his sentence, while some pro-indy voices were noticeably silent. 

Whatever your view, is incarcerating someone like Murray, just for what they write, a good look for twenty-first century Scotland?  Given that he’s in his sixties, has young children and poor health, the decision to put him in jail, rather than some other sanction, seemed positively vindictive.

But – despite all that – I feel that Murray can be too intolerant of those pursuing a different path, especially when it comes to independence.

A recent post, is an example of this cavalier attitude.  He writes: The UK government is reeling like a boxer knocked unconscious before hitting the floor (this was at the depth of partygate).  He urges action while our opponent is at their weakest. 

He calls for a string of moves – declare independence; hold a plebiscite, convene a National Assembly and repeal the Act of Union.  (Simples!)  He immediately goes on to attack the SNP’s cowardice and their preference for the gravy train ofgovernance inside the UK, rather than attaining Independence.

Murray’s to-do list culminates with Scottish MPs (he doesn’t say which party!) walking out of Westminster.  He declares: it should be simply unconscionable for any genuine independence supporter to do otherwise.

We have, should, and will argue whether these specific steps are the best way forward.  My problem here is with his approach.  However brilliant the strategy he advocates, they’re just his own assertions.

Is that how political change happens?  Progress tends to come in concert – a multiple of people and actions.  Of course, we need an overview, a vision, but the fulfilment of independence is bound to take in a broad range of moves and players.  It’s as if Murray, in declaring his own strategy, has little time for the equally necessary gradual tactics being pursued by others.

The broad radical sweep shouldn’t cut off the tiny steps, sometimes unsung, of political persuasion.  These engage thousands of activists who chap doors (when doors can be chapped), fill envelopes, hand out leaflets and run street stalls.

It also encompasses politicians, at all levels.  Though they get paid, working away in councils, Holyrood and Westminster is still an uphill task.  They also serve who strive and wade through long boring meetings.

Our route to national liberation is manifold.  There are so many ways it will come about.  We need them all – from the flourish of a grand vision to the nitty-gritty, painstaking detail.  The key, it seems to me is how all the disparate approaches and activities combine to form an effective political movement.

That movement is bound to include the SNP.  To repudiate Scotland’s mass party is fruitless.  But the wider independence campaign is just as vital.  Murray has made his position clear: that some leading SNP politicians and apparatchiks, are not really interested in independence and are even working to frustrate it. 

He’s not alone in finding the leadership too timid, too cautious and too wedded to the existing system – though it must take Amazonian grit to keep the governing show on the road, whilst maintaining a radical view for the future.  These are real political disagreements which have to be hammered out.

Yet Murray seems prone to attack rather than reconciliation, and sometimes makes his objections personalised, blaming those who think otherwise.

Beyond such rancour stand hundreds of thousands keen to achieve Scotland’s autonomy, plus many others open to persuasion.  It’s not enough to be brilliant yet heedless or snide towards others’ efforts.  You need to be tolerant and consensual enough to make ideas work on the ground, over time and in tune with other people’s efforts.

From my own experience, I’d prescribe 4 wet Wednesdays out canvassing.  Not only does this essentially human exercise reach out to voters, it also helps you get a sense of perspective, a feeling of common cause and a taste of camaraderie.  I have every respect for the people, including elected politicians, who put hours into this kind of campaigning.

I also respect Craig Murray’s trenchant grasp of what we’re up against, as well as an inspiring picture of what could be ahead.  The essential challenge for the independence movement is how we can empower everyone to reach that future – together.

Paul Bassett


March 2022

Comments and feedback welcome, here or:

One thought on “Craig Murray – flawed champion?

  1. I also believe the SNP have been too timid, but can understand their reasons. They want a peaceful political separation, with friendly cooperation on both sides, this is extremely unlikely to happen with Westminster as an opponent. The SNP also want a fair and honest referendum to be the way forward. If 2014 is an example, then there was enough evidence of interference to be worrying, whether enough to affect the result is debatable. If polls are to be believed, then not much progress has been made in the interim. Not surprising with a hostile media. However the softly, softly method of persuasion isn’t working quickly enough. I would start by recalling all Scottish MP’s from Westminster to sit in Scotland as part of the Scottish Parliament. By sitting at Westminster they provide tacit agreement with any extreme legislation made there. Create a political schism, announce to the world that Scotland is no longer willing to follow Westminster’s Rule. Then using a National Assembly of all Scottish Parliamentarians vote to revoke the Treaty of Union. I personally would prefer a referendum, but with a hostile media and other foreign interference, doubt that a fair and honest one can be held.


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