A FORMER diplomat knew the names of the complainers in the Alex Salmond trial and took great care not to identify them on his blog, his lawyer has argued.

Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, faces a contempt of court hearing after posting about Salmond’s trial.

The former First Minister was cleared at the High Court in Edinburgh of 13 sexual assault charges involving nine women following a trial last year.

Murray attended two days of the case in March 2020, sitting in the public gallery, and wrote about it.

At a virtual hearing on the contempt proceedings at the High Court of Justiciary, Edinburgh, before Lord Justice Clark Lady Dorrian on Wednesday, the Crown argued that information Murray put on his blog could lead to identification of the women involved, breaching a court order and creating a substantial risk of prejudicing the trial.

However, his lawyer John Scott QC argued Murray already knew the names of the women and went to great lengths to keep their identities hidden. Scott said: “[Murray] was aware of the names of the complainers, even when there was no court order regarding them. But he said it would not be responsible journalism to have named them.

“The Crown appears to say there must be a deliberate campaign to drop enough hints so that the complainers can be identified.

“There is a great deal of evidence showing he was not someone who was fixated on naming the complainers and dropping hints to identify. The fact alone is that he knew about the names and if he wanted to name them, he could have done so.”

Scott said the Crown contacted Murray over an article in January 2020 prior to Salmond’s trial, but did not demand it taken down.

Murray viewed the contact as “inappropriate censorship, as opposed to welcome advice”, his lawyer said.

Lady Dorrian also questioned why the case against Murray was brought after Salmond’s trial. She said: “Both articles published were in advance of the trial. If the Crown was of the view these articles created a substantial risk, it seems strange the Crown did not take action.”

Alex Prentice QC, advocate depute, said: “I accept that is factually correct and a matter that the court can take into account.”

A written judgment will be published in due course.