[The following are excerpts from the report on the BBC News website on today's session of First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament.]
When later asked by Tory leader Ms [Annabel] Goldie, in keeping with convention, when he will next meet the prime minister, Mr [Alex] Salmond quipped: "As far as I can judge, the prime minister doesn't seem to be in a mood to meet anyone at the present moment."
Mr Salmond was asked by Ms Goldie to "explain the difference between the mass murderer Thomas Hamilton and the mass murderer al-Megrahi".
Hamilton was responsible for murdering 16 schoolchildren and their teacher at Dunblane Primary School in 1996, while Lockerbie bomber Megrahi was freed last year on compassionate grounds after developing terminal cancer.
Mr Salmond told a televised Scottish leaders debate on Sunday that Hamilton would not have been freed on compassionate grounds if he had survived the massacre and later been diagnosed with a terminal illness. [See this blog post.]
Ms Goldie put it to the first minister: "The point is that the first minister has publicly stated two irreconcilable and totally contradictory positions in relation to two mass murderers.
"How does he justify that contradiction - how can he support the release of one mass murderer and totally oppose the release of another?"
Mr Salmond said Hamilton would not have passed the "first principle" of guidance for release on compassionate grounds, that the offender's release should not create the risk of re-offending or endanger public safety.
He added: "Whatever may be said about the release of Mr al-Megrahi, nobody seriously believes that his release would put the safety of the Scottish public at risk."
[The Times's report on the exchange between Ms Goldie and Mr Salmond can be read here.
In the course of a blog post headed "Playing politics with the Dunblane Massacre: have we really stooped this low?" well-known Scottish journalist Joan McAlpine says the following:]
I wrote a lot about the Dunblane massacre in its immediate aftermath, mainly columns that supported the campaign for a ban on handguns (...)
I tried, in my own work, to ensure that [the murderer] slipped into the obscurity from whence he came. So it was quite shocking to hear the killer's name spoken, quite unexpectedly, in a question from a viewer on the Sky Scottish Leaders debate on Sunday. The purpose of the question was to ask Alex Salmond whether, if the Dunblane murderer had lived and contracted terminal cancer, would he be released on compassionate grounds - ie like the man charged with the Lorckerbie bombing. Salmond said he would not.
No sooner was the Sky programme finished than the Labour party had adopted Dunblane v Lockerbie as their attack strategy for the day. David Cairns on the Politics Show, in an interview conducted immediately after the debate had ended, started talking about Salmond's insult re Lockerbie/Dunblane. The Scottish leader Iain Gray echoed this line, which lead the BBC Scotland radio bulletin on Sunday and was given extensive coverage in the scottish press, including The Scotsman and The Times the next day. All lead with Labour's condemnation of Salmond's answer.
Using the hypothetical scenario of the Dunblane killer surviving the massacre for public entertainment and political advantage is unacceptable. Dunblane was an event that united the whole of Scotland in grief. Labour's George Robertson, the shadow Scottish Secretary who happened to live in Dunblane, worked closely with Michael Forsyth, the Conservative Scottish Secretary who was the local MP. There was no point scoring from either man, nor indeed from SNP nor Liberal Democrats. Dunblane was just too terrible for that...it was completely off limits.
The decision of Labour to take this tasteless line of attack is also inexplicable given the party's duplicity on the release of Al-Megrahi. Brown notably failed to comment on the Scottish government's decision to release Megrahi ... because he wanted the prisoner released without having to take any political flak himself. Foreign Office papers later revealed that his government was keen that Megrahi did not die in prison, so as not to damage the UK's relationship with oil rich Libya and its leader Colonel Gadaffi. Remember, that if Megrahi's conviction is sound and he is the bomber, he was sent on his deadly mission by Gadaffi, who is now on hand-shaking terms with British PMs. For more on Lockerbie, see Lockerbie and hypocrisy.