[This is the heading over a post by James Kirkup on his blog on the Telegraph website. It reads:]
Some American political people appear to be unhappy about the Lockerbie bomber’s continuing failure to die.
Now, I accept that it’s rather ill-mannered of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi to cling to life having implicitly promised to go the way of all flesh within three months of his return to Libya.
But I’m more concerned that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and a diverse cast of senators appear intent on holding David Cameron accountable for both Megrahi’s freedom and his longevity.
The President will apparently raise the issue with the PM in Washington today. And Mrs Clinton has asked the UK government to “review” the circumstances of Megrahi’s release last year. The lady and gentlemen from the Senate, meanwhile, are intent on exploring what role BP’s relationship with Tony Blair had in the decision to release the bomber.
Whether for reasons of ignorance or (much more likely) political convenience, the president, his secretary of state and the senators are perpetuating a misunderstanding: the idea that Mr Cameron (or his predecessor) has any responsibility for Megrahi’s release. He doesn’t.
What’s really odd is that this misunderstanding is taking place in country that has a federal system. How can US politicians steeped in the concept of states’ rights and the limits to federal authority not grasp the concept of Scottish devolution?
Devolution means power over – and legal responsibility for – certain issues rests in Edinburgh with the administration elected by the people of Scotland. And not, repeat not, with the Government in London. One of those issues was the release of Megrahi. That’s because Scotland has its own legal system, quite distinct from that of England, and over which ministers in London have precisely no influence.
Since this point doesn’t seem to be properly appreciated in Washington, let me repeat it: the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was made by ministers in Scotland before the current UK government came to power.
So perhaps our American friends would do well to consider this: holding David Cameron responsible for the actions of Scottish Nationalist Party ministers in 2009 is like holding Barack Obama responsible for the actions of the Supreme Court of Texas and its Republican governor in 2007.
In other words, you’ve got the wrong man. Try directing your attentions to Edinburgh. You can start by calling +44 131 556 8400 and ask for Alex.