Alex Salmond told US senators they should direct questions about a prisoner transfer agreement for the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing at former prime minister Tony Blair.
The First Minister has also accused a Tory MP of calling for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi to be used as a foreign policy bargaining chip. His comments followed a weekend of renewed questions in the US and London about the decision to return Megrahi to Libya. Salmond said a Senate hearing should call the former prime minister to give evidence about the “deal in the desert” which paved the way for BP to invest £450 million in exploring Libya’s oil reserves.
Almost a year after Megrahi, who is suffering from prostate cancer, was freed on compassionate grounds by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, a group of Democratic senators is demanding an inquiry into claims the oil giant lobbied for his release to smooth a deal. An influential Senate committee is also to examine the case.
A spokesman for Salmond said: “If the US Senate wants to get the truth about the deal in the desert by the UK and Libyan governments in 2007, they should call Tony Blair to give evidence. Blair was its architect – he would be the one who knows about an oil deal.”
Salmond’s spokesman dismissed a call for a UK Government inquiry by Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, chairman of Westminster’s all-party group on Libya. He has written to David Cameron asking how the Scottish Government can be held to account and asking for more information on UK Government involvement.
Salmond’s spokesman said: “As far as Daniel Kawczynski is concerned, he wrote to the Justice Secretary in August last year saying that al-Megrahi should be used as a foreign policy bargaining chip, which is as extraordinary as it is inappropriate in relation to determining applications for prisoner transfer or compassionate release.”
The issue threatens to overshadow David Cameron’s first visit to Washington as Prime Minister tomorrow.
In a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “There is no evidence that corroborates in any way the allegations of BP involvement in the Scottish Executive’s decision to release Megrahi.”
But Hague also said that the release was “a mistake”.
MacAskill said he would “support a wider UK public inquiry or United Nations investigation capable of examining all of the issues related to the Lockerbie atrocity, which go well beyond Scotland’s jurisdiction”.
[From an article in today's edition of The Herald by Political Editor Brian Currie.]