The week outside Westminster

The Scottish government has refused a request by the US Senate for Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill to face the Senate foreign affairs committee to answer for the early release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.


• The Scottish government has refused a request by the US Senate for Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill to face the Senate foreign affairs committee to answer for the early release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

MacAskill has been accused of “running a mile” by Labour and the Tories, who insist he had no justification for refusing the “perfectly legitimate” request to give evidence and account for his actions.

Labour’s Holyrood justice spokesman Richard Baker said:

“There is a legitimacy for the US senators, they represent so many of the families who lost loved ones on that flight, I think it’s a perfectly legitimate request… I think it speaks volumes about the lack of confidence [MacAskill] has now in his own decision that he is running a mile from any scrutiny of it.”

The committee has also requested BP chief executive Tony Hayward, BP special adviser Sir Mark Allen, Andrew Fraser, health and care director of the Scottish Prison Service – who produced a report that said al-Megrahi’s health had “declined significantly” – and former UK justice secretary Jack Straw, who said that he would consult Gordon Brown and the foreign office before deciding whether to accept the inivitation.

Earlier this week, Alex Salmond wrote to Senators to rebuff the concerns they had raised over the release of Al Megrahi. The Scotsman accused MacAskill of trying to evade responsibility for the decision – while Left Foot Forward reported on the strain being placed on relations between Holyrood and Westminster as a result of the continued debate over al-Megrahi.

• Scottish education secretary Michael Russell pledged to publish a “uniquely Scottish solution” to universities.

• The chair of the commission that recommended abolishing tuition fees in Scotland told Ministers not to rule out introducing them again.

• Ministers were advised to privatise Scottish Water.

• There was mounting pressure on Scotland Office Minister, David Mundell, over his election expenses.

• The Scottish Government’s chief economic adviser warned that the Coalition Government’s emergency budget would hit the poorest Scots families the worst.

• “Scotland’s labour market conditions deteriorated in June due to a rise in the number of people looking for employment,” said Bank of Scotland chief economist, Donald MacRae.

• Research suggested that Mrs Thatcher’s “right to buy” policy had trapped many people in their homes.

• There were fears of a hospital staffing shortage.

• New figures found that the number of 16-19 year olds not in education, employment or training had increased.

• There were fears of a double dip recession in Scotland.

• New research showed that Scots consume 24 per cent more alcohol than the rest of the UK.

• A group of senior churchmen and MSPs called for same sex couples to have the same legal rights as those that are married.

Northern Ireland

• Four arrests were made as part of investigations into dissident republican activities.

• Three hundred and fifty jobs looked set to be lost in the departments for the environment and social justice.

• The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Pat Convery, called on the police to meet some of the young people involved in the Belfast riots.

Concerns were expressed that dissident republicans have secured “heavy” weapons such as rockets from continental Europe.

Responses were published to the consultation on the proposals put forward by the Consultative Group for the Past, most of which rejected the plan.

• The Home Office confirmed that the number of people arrested and charged with terrorist related offences has increased.

• Age Northern Ireland reported that too many elderly patients are leaving hospital malnourished.

• There was a warning of further trouble in the Ardoyne area.

• Police discovered a pipe bomb near a west Belfast police station.


• Some Welsh Police forces began to implement recruitment freezes.

• The Western Mail revealed that the number of civil servant working for the Assembly government has doubled over the past year.

• An analysis warned that the Welsh jobs market would not recover until 2025.

• The Assembly government pledged to protect free bus passes for pensioners.

• Health minister Edward Hart questioned the UK Government’s approach to the NHS.

• Conservative MP Gyln Davies described as wrong the decision to increase pay for 300 officials at the Assembly.

• Deputy health minister Gwenda Thomas called for social services to be safeguarded in the spending review.

• Assembly members concluded that the Government had a “golden opportunity” to develop the green economy across Wales.

• Three hundred jobs were at risk at the Economy and Transport department.

• Speaking of the cuts to come, Welsh secretary, Chery Gillian admitted: “There is an acceptance across government that there could be a disproportionate effect on Wales.”

• The Assembly government got powers to legislate on housing issues.

Quote of the Week

“The experiences of republicans, nationalists, unionists and all others form part of our collective memory. They are part of who we are as a community, as a nation.”

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, Martin McGunness calling for all Irish sacrifices during World War Two to be remembered

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