A FORMER diplomat who was found in contempt of court during the Alex Salmond trial has said he would “go to jail with a clean conscience”.

Craig Murray, former ambassador to Uzbekistan, wrote about the case on his blog with a court ruling the coverage of the former First Minister’s trial could identify four of the female complainers.

Mr Murray is due to start his eight-month jail sentence shortly, with protesters preparing to gather outside an Edinburgh police station today. They argue that his sentence “sets a dangerous legal precedent for freedom of speech and equality before the law”.

The 62-year-old’s offending blog posts contained details which, if pieced together, could lead readers to identify women who made allegations against Mr Salmond, who was acquitted of all 13 charges including sexual assault and attempted rape in May last year.

At a virtual sentencing in May, Lady Dorrian said Mr Murray knew there were court orders giving the women anonymity and he was “relishing” the potential disclosure of their identities.

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

Today Mr Murray tweeted that “in my absence the Craig Murray Justice Campaign will be continuing the fight”, linking to a statement which suggested he would start his jail term “with a clean conscience”.

Neale Hanvey, the Alba MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, said on Twitter he was “devastated and sickened by this development”, adding: “Scotland is no longer a safe, tolerant or free country.

“The vindictiveness of those who wield power is on naked display.”

Mr Hanvey, who was suspended from the SNP prior to the 2019 general election for antisemitic social media activity, defected from the party to join Alba when it was formed earlier this year by Mr Salmond.

Last month, Mr Murray’s bid to appeal the contempt of court ruling was rejected.

In February, Clive Thomson, who tweeted the names of women who gave evidence against Mr Salmond at his trial, was jailed for six months.

The 52-year-old carried out a “blatant and deliberate” breach of a contempt of court order banning the identification of the complainers by naming five of them on social media, said Lady Dorrian at the High Court in Edinburgh.