FOUR months after he was jailed over his blog reports from the Alex Salmond trial, former UK diplomat Craig Murray was yesterday cheered by around 100 supporters as he was freed from HMP Edinburgh.

The 63-year-old former British ambassador to Uzbekistan looked chipper (below) as he emerged from Saughton Prison sporting a bushy white beard, to hug his wife Nadira and their children.

Judges had ruled that his blog coverage of the former first minister’s trial could lead to the “jigsaw identification” of four complainers. Salmond was cleared of all 13 charges against him.

The National:

Murray was later refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against his eight-month sentence, when Lady Dorrian said in a written judgement: “In its determination the court considered the rationale for the protection of anonymity, and the fact that it extends beyond the rights of complainers in the individual case to providing comfort to those who maybe considering reporting a sexual offence.

“It considered that the actions of the applicant were such as struck at the heart of the fair administration of justice.”

READ MORE: Jailed blogger Craig Murray no longer an SNP member, party says

On leaving the prison Murray said it was “horrible in there … prison is not a pleasant place”.

He said: “Scotland should be ashamed of his antiquated, old fashioned and retrograde justice system.

“It’s been a hard four months. I’ve learned a lot, one thing I have learned is that dignity comes from inside.

“Nobody can take away dignity from you if you don’t allow them to do so and those in the Scottish establishment who attempted to humiliate and degrade me only succeeded in humiliating themselves and sadly in bringing shame on Scotland internationally.”

However, he added: “I’ve come through it mentally and physically unscarred.”

Murray almost broke down in tears as he thanked his family and his supporters, telling them in a 15-minute address that he had thousands of letters from across the world, including ones which said they were “appalled at this attack on freedom of speech and this miscarriage of justice”.

He welcomed the Republic of Barbados into existence after it had “shaken off the British monarchy”, and went on to attack Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP for their lack of progress on independence.

The National:

“I’m not in the least surprised that there’s been no progress on Scottish independence, which is infuriating, but not unexpected,” he said.

And of the First Minister’s announced intention to have a poll in 2023, he said: “I shall believe it when I see it. I don’t think that the British government nor the Supreme Court is going to agree a poll, and I think Nicola Sturgeon knows that … this requires a determination to achieve independence without asking the British state for permission and I see no signs that Nicola Sturgeon has any intention to do that whatsoever.

“Boris Johnson is not going to grant a Section 30 [Order] and the UK Supreme Court is going to back Boris Johnson that a Section 30 is necessary, so I think it’s posturing.

“We have to accept that the road to independence does not lie to London in any way.”

Murray claimed the prison guards he had encountered had told him they did not think he should be in jail.

READ MORE: Craig Murray ‘could have named if he’d wanted to’ in Alex Salmond case, lawyer says

“A couple of them went further and stated straight out that they did not sign up to join the prison service in order to keep political prisoners,” he said, adding that every day inside was a school day. “I learnt a great deal about the problems of Scottish society, about the problems of drug addicts.

“The majority of people in jail are there for reasons related to drug addiction. Most of them are addicts and many of them are involved in the drug trade. And the whole war on drugs approach isn’t working, and locking people up in prison whose basic problem is addiction isn’t working.”

Murray said he would catch up with his family in the coming days and added: “I’m going to be catching up with Julian Assange’s family and what we’re doing on the campaign to free Julian. And I’m going to get myself back to blogging. I’ll be attending an Alba event in Glasgow in two days’ time I think, but other than that there’s nothing in the calendar.”

And he said his beard is likely to be short-lived: “Nadira’s going to be pretty insistent that the beard goes.”