Scotland & the Lockerbie Ruling

Kenny MacAskillIt’s perhaps doubtful whether the Libyan people – and economy – will recover from the shock of the withdrawal of a trade visit from Prince Andrew, as reported in the Torygraph today. When other countries want to pressurise in foreign relations they withdraw diplomatic links or impose sanctions, England delays the arrival of an inbred halfwit.

More seriously the Guardian’s Comment if Free runs a characteristically bold piece by Lesley Riddoch on the issue here:

“I was a member of the prisons commission that MacAskill set up on his appointment as justice secretary – charged with finding out why Scotland imprisons twice as many people as our neighbours Ireland and Norway. He accepted our recommendations in full and the controversial policy of a seismic shift towards community payback has already begun amid a hail of media brickbats suggesting the SNP has adopted a “thug’s” charter.

It’s clear the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has soured relations between Scotland and America. But perhaps, in the long run, the release decision will have a longer-lasting impact in the domestic arena, where the SNP wants to put clear blue policy water between itself and England. Kenny MacAskill’s decision to choose the compassionate rather than the punitive option regarding Megrahi’s release didn’t come from nowhere.”

The point she makes is a simple one, that MacAskill’s decision is consistent with previous and recent policies he has initiated and comes on the back of politically unpopular – but correct – decisions on policing and sentencing. In an era of spin, political merger and wafer-thin Blair – Brown – Cameron populism, this is refreshing. In the face of the bile, thinly disguised racism and general howling of anti-Scottish mock outrage (read the comments following Riddochs piece and Fraser Nelsons error-strewn drivel at the Spectator here) my respect for MacAskill grows rather than diminishes. What is more surprising, and has been forgotten in the avalanche of criticism of the Justic Minister is that he made this as a minority government with a crucial by-election beckoning and a referendum around the corner.

Moreover, as one contributor to the Scotsman has pointed out, ‘just a wee reminder to put some perspective on all of the unionist hand wringing’: “In early June 2007, just few weeks after the SNP entered government, it emerged that Tony Blair, the then prime minister, had struck a “deal in the desert” with Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi on judicial co-operation between the two countries. A livid Alex Salmond told MSPs the agreement covered “law, extradition and prisoner transfer”. Although Westminster insisted this was not aimed at transferring Megrahi home, it was hard to imagine the UK’s most famous Libyan prisoner had been overlooked.

That Blair’s visit coincided with BP signing a £450 million oil contract with Libya fuelled suspicions that Megrahi was part of diplomatic horse-trading between London and Tripoli. Westminster would later tell Edinburgh apologetically that, actually, Lockerbie was covered by the deal, much to Salmond’s fury.” Sunday Herald, August 21, 2009

Comments (5)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Scunnert says:

    “Scottish” Labour, once again, demonstrates the cynical opportunism that has come to characterize their positions on issues. If this decision was not devolved al – Megrahi would have been home months ago for business reasons rather than compassion.

  2. Alex Buchan says:

    An interesting intervention by the Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson in today’s debate cast further light on what’s been going on behind the scenes.

    First to set her intervention in context.

    It became clear today from MacAskill that the Prisoner Transfer request came from the Libyan government, not Megrahi himself. MacAskill said it was this that required him to find out what Magrahi’s view on his government’s request was, which led to the prison visit. His initial fact-finding including speaking to the families of the bereaved as well as Megrahi was therefore necessary in response to this move by the Libyan government.

    Now to Ferguson’s intervention.

    She asked if the Justice Secretary had sought advice from his legal advisers as to whether he was competent to stop the Prison Transfer rather than to merely check that Magrahi met the criteria. In other words she was saying that the Prisoner Transfer legislation because it was based on a treaty between the UK and Libya was not something he had authority to intervene in.

    Macaskill did not accept this, but the fact that he pre-empted it makes one wonder. Magrahi’s dropping of his appeal may have come out of MacAskill informing him that he was not eligible for P.T. because of outstanding legal proceedings maintained the pressure on MacAskill if as Ferguson avers he had no powers to stop it. Clearly, having objected to the deal, the Scottish government would not want to be seen to be implementing it if there was an alternative. But in going for compassionate release, instead, they have let the UK government off the hook and taken all the flack themselves.

    This also explains the Libyan government’s response of thanking Brown i.e. because the release came out of the process initiated by their request for Prisoner Transfer under the agreement reached with the Labour government. Presumably, also, they would have been reminded of this option when Gaddafi spoke to Brown at the G8 and his son spoke to Mandelson in Greece.

    Brown may well have guessed that the Scottish government would be forced by the terms of the Prisoner Transfer legislation to seek an alternative solution, which respected Scot’s Law. But if the P.T. legislation was non-discretionary it is incumbent on journalist to expose the true dynamic behind this decision.

  3. Alex Buchan says:

    An interesting intervention by the Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson in today’s debate cast further light on what’s been going on behind the scenes.

    First to set her intervention in context.

    It became clear today from MacAskill that the Prisoner Transfer request came from the Libyan government, not Megrahi himself. MacAskill said it was this that required him to find out what Magrahi’s view on his government’s request was, which led to the prison visit. His initial fact-finding including speaking to the families of the bereaved as well as Megrahi was therefore necessary in response to this move by the Libyan government.

    Now to Ferguson’s intervention.

    She asked if the Justice Secretary had sought advice from his legal advisers as to whether he was competent to stop the Prison Transfer rather than to merely check that Magrahi met the criteria. In other words she was saying that the Prisoner Transfer legislation because it was based on a treaty between the UK and Libya was not something he had authority to intervene in.

    Macaskill did not accept this, but the fact that he pre-empted it makes one wonder. Magrahi’s dropping of his appeal may have come out of MacAskill informing him that he was not eligible for P.T. because of outstanding legal proceedings maintained the pressure on MacAskill if as Ferguson avers he had no powers to stop it. Clearly, having objected to the deal, the Scottish government would not want to be seen to be implementing it if there was an alternative. But in going for compassionate release, instead, they have let the UK government off the hook and taken all the flack themselves.

    This also explains the Libyan government’s response of thanking Brown i.e. because the release came out of the process initiated by their request for Prisoner Transfer under the agreement reached with the Labour government. Presumably, also, they would have been reminded of this option when Gaddafi spoke to Brown at the G8 and his son spoke to Mandelson in Greece.

    Brown may well have guessed that the Scottish government would be forced by the terms of the Prisoner Transfer legislation to seek an alternative solution, which respected Scot’s Law. But if the P.T. legislation was non-discretionary it is incumbent on journalist to expose the true dynamic behind this decision.

  4. At the very least, BP lobbying the British Gov’t for a prisoner release raises the question of what can be considered business activity. For BP to have lobbied with an oil deal outstanding represents at least the appearance of a conflict of interest. Jack Straw has admitted that the oil deal was a factor in the British government signing off on the prisoner release.

    See Related: http://euandus3.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/973/

Keep our Journalism Independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address to subscribe for free here and receive Bella direct to your inbox.

 
Bella Caledonia