First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday defended the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber – although he said Dunblane killer Thomas Hamilton would not have been released under the same circumstances.
The SNP leader was questioned on the issue as he went head-to-head with Labour’s Jim Murphy, Scottish Conservative David Mundell and Liberal Democrat Scottish spokesman Alistair Carmichael in a live TV clash.
It was the Scotland’s second TV election debate of the general election campaign, and it saw the four politicians pressed on issues including benefits, the war in Iraq and the Pope’s visit to Britain.
The controversial release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi was also discussed during the 90-minute debate, broadcast across the UK on Sky News.
A questioner asked if the Dunblane killer, had he lived and been sentenced to life in a Scottish jail, would have been released from prison if he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Mr Salmond, whose cabinet colleague Kenny MacAskill made the decision to release Megrahi, said: “No, Thomas Hamilton shouldn’t and wouldn’t have been released.” He also insisted that Megrahi’s release was “made for the right reasons”.
Mr Mundell said, however, the decision to release Megrahi back to Libya was a “bad decision, badly made”.
Mr Carmichael further criticised Mr MacAskill for visiting the Libyan in prison before he made the decision to free him.
Meanwhile, Mr Murphy said his “personal reflection” was that if Hamilton was terminally ill in prison he should not be released “because his actions and the slaughter of those innocent children were just so vile”.
[From a report published on 26 April on the website of The Press and Journal, a daily newspaper circulating mainly in Aberdeen and the North-East of Scotland. The report of the interchange in The Times can be read here and that in The Scotsman can be read here.
Because of telephone line problems affecting most of the Northern Cape, I have been unable to access the internet from my Middelpos base since last Saturday. For the foreseeable future, I may be able to service this blog only during my weekly visits to Calvinia, where there is an internet cafe.]