Al Megrahi debate puts Westminster/Holyrood relations under strain

Speaking in the US, Mr Cameron made clear that he felt al-Meagrahi “should have died in jail”, and speaking to the Herald, the foreign secretary at the time of the release, David Miliband, described the decision as “clearly wrong”.

During his first trip to Washington since taking power, David Cameron told ABC News that he has instructed cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell to review and publish all paperwork relating to the decision by Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

As the prime minister arrived in Washington, there was no doubt how strongly the US felt about the release of the man convicted of killing 243 passengers and 16 crew in 1988 on board Pan AM Flight 103 from Heathrow to New York.

The State Department had already indicated the decision had been a “mistake”, with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee having launched an inquiry into the matter. However, if US/UK relations are under strain as a result, the decision made last year has put just as much pressure on Westminster/Holyrood ties.

Speaking in the US, Mr Cameron made clear that he felt al-Meagrahi “should have died in jail”, whilst Conservative MP and chair of the All Party Group for Libya, Daniel Kawczynski has called for a public inquiry in the UK.

And speaking to the Herald, the foreign secretary at the time of the release, David Miliband, described the decision as “clearly wrong”. Reaction from the Scottish Government however has sought to defend the decision that was taken, shifting responsibility on to the shoulders of Westminster.

In announcing his decision in 2009, MacAskill clearly suggested that he was doing so based on evidence that the cancer stricken Libyan had just three months to live. Almost a year after, and serious questions are being asked on both sides of the Atlantic about the circumstances of the release.

Whilst indicating that he would be happy to assist with the Senate inquiry, MacAskill told the BBC:

“I stand by the decision I made. I reflected and followed the rules and laws of Scotland. I upheld the values and the beliefs that we seek to live by as the people of Scotland.”

His comments came just a day after Alex Salmond sought to point the finger at Tony Blair, following allegations that BP lobbied the UK Government in 2007 to agree a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya to protect the offshore drilling activities it had in the region. A spokesman for the first minister commented:

“If the US Senate wants to get the truth about the deal in the desert by the UK and Libyan governments in 2007, they should call Tony Blair to give evidence. Blair was its architect – he would be the one who knows about an oil deal.”

Yet today, the prime minister insisted BP should not be blamed for the “completely wrong” decision to release the Lockerbie bomber.

In its final report before the election, the House of Commons Scottish Affairs committee concluded:

“We consider it unfortunate that the official response of the UK Government to Mr al-Megrahi’s release in August 2009 did not reflect either the careful planning undertaken by both Governments beforehand or the information provided in the measured statement of the Foreign Secretary to the House of Commons on 12 October 2009.

“As a result, it appeared that the UK Government had not fully anticipated either the immediate media reaction or the subsequent international response. This is a matter for the UK Government to ponder.”

It remains to be seen what, if any, progress has been made to rectify this situation. What is clear is that once again the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber is causing great strains not just between the UK and the US, but also between Holyrood and Westminster.

7 Responses to “Al Megrahi debate puts Westminster/Holyrood relations under strain”

  1. David Glass

    RT @leftfootfwd: Al Megrahi debate puts Westminster/Holyrood relations under strain: //bit.ly/cx4ewq

  2. Hitchin England

    Al Megrahi debate puts Westminster/Holyrood relations under strain: //bit.ly/cx4ewq via @leftfootfwd

  3. Charles Norrie

    Mr Megrahi should not have died in jail, beacuse provably the had nothing to do with the Pan Am 103 atrocity at all. That was carried out on the orders of the US and Iranian governments using their CIA and Pasdaran agencies respectively to give Iran a one and one only revenge for the downing of IR-655, the Iranian Airbus.

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