This is becoming embarrassing – for Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. His problem is that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, is, at time of writing, still defiantly alive in Libya, when he was supposed to be dead by now. When MacAskill released Megrahi in the teeth of world opinion, it was under the humanitarian convention whereby prisoners with less than three months to live may be set free.
The problem for our Kenny is that Megrahi has not done the decent thing. This Friday will see the expiry of his supposed three-month maximum lease of life, but it looks likely he will not have shuffled off this mortal coil, as MacAskill assured us he would.
[The above are the first five sentences of an article in Scotland on Sunday by regular columnist and right wing ideologue Gerald Warner. For those who have the stomach for it, the remainder of his diatribe can be read here. The readers' comments that follow the article are worth reading even if the article itself is not. It is, of course, untrue to say that Kenny MacAskill assured us that Mr Megrahi would die within three months. What he said was that the medical reports submitted to him were to the effect that three months would be a reasonable estimate of his life expectancy.
The following are the first four paragraphs of an article headed "Scots outraged over bomber's release" on SFGate, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle.]
Do not believe that Scotland was united behind Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's decision to grant "compassionate" release to the terminally ill convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi in August.
When al-Megrahi flew home to a hero's welcome in Libya, Member of Scottish Parliament Richard Baker recalls "universal outrage" among Scots at the sight of Scotland's flag "being waved to welcome home the Lockerbie bomber in Tripoli. It just turned stomachs" - and produced among sensible Scots "profound shame and embarrassment."
Al-Megrahi was released after the former Libyan intelligence officer served a mere eight years in Scottish prison for his conviction for the 1988 airline bombing that killed 270 people, including 11 souls on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland.
The Scottish Parliament in Holyrood voted 73-50 in favor of a measure that determined that MacAskill mishandled the decision. A poll conducted for the BBC found that 60 percent of Scots were opposed to al-Megrahi's early release and 32 percent supported it.
[As far as Scottish public opinion on the release is concerned, a more accurate picture than that given in the BBC's rogue poll can be found here and here.]