Friday, 23 July 2010

Statement by Scottish Government on refusal to attend Senate hearing

[What follows is the text of a statement issued by the Scottish Government.]

First Minister Alex Salmond has written to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations again today following the Scottish Government's decision to formally decline the invitation for Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, and Director of Health and Care of the Scottish Prison Service Dr Andrew Fraser to attend a hearing in person.

The FM, in addition to information already provided, has offered to answer any additional questions in advance of the hearing, and any more that may arise from the hearing itself.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said:

"The First Minister wrote to Senator Kerry on Wednesday providing comprehensive information and assistance, which is the appropriate nature of Scottish Government involvement in the Senate Committee's hearing next week.

"Since the Lockerbie atrocity in 1988, all matters regarding the investigation, prosecution and compassionate release decision have been conducted according to the jurisdiction and laws of Scotland. Clearly, the Senate Committee has responsibility to scrutinise decisions taken within the US system, and Scottish Ministers and public officials are accountable within the Scottish Parliament system. That is the constitutional basis of our democracies.

"The Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee has already undertaken a full inquiry into the decision on compassionate release, and the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee has also examined the issue in terms of the formal inter-governmental relations that exist within the UK. That is right and proper.

"The focus of the Senators' concern has been any role played by BP in decisions on Al-Megrahi, and we have stated categorically to Senator Kerry that there was no contact of any kind between the Scottish Government and BP.

"In addition to the extensive information already provided, we have written to Senator Kerry again today and offered to answer any additional questions in advance of the hearing, and we would also be very happy to answer formally and in writing any more questions that may arise from the hearing itself.

"In that constructive spirit, we have also given the Committee permission to have the First Minister's initial letter to Senator Kerry, containing substantive information, entered into the hearing's record."

"If any matters emerge concerning the Scottish Government from the UK Cabinet Secretary's upcoming trawl of papers, we would also be happy to respond as necessary.

"We reiterate, however, that the only relevant material held by us and not yet published is information provided by or concerning the US and UK administrations - which we would like to publish in the interests of openness and full disclosure."


  1. There are some surprising quotes in the Herald today attributed to Dr Richard Baker (Labour) and Annabel Goldie (Tory Leader at Holyrood) suggesting neither of them understands that Scottish Ministers do not have to scamper over the Atlantic on the whim of certain American senators. One has to ask should the Americans have any issues with future Scottish Administrations involving either of their Parties they will respond at once when the US snaps its fingers and do as they are told. I think not.

    The bottom line here, and Dr Baker knows this particularly, that the lobbying done by BP was directly to the former leader of the Labour Party, and indeed Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair. No approaches were made to the Scottish Government by BP. It is BP's involvement the Americans are interested in. That leaves the buck firmly at the feet of the previous UK Labour Administration.

    I have to say however that I found, once again, the tactics of Baker and Goldie pretty disgusting given the subject matter here, Lockerbie. That they are interested in little other than Party-politics leaves one shocked to say the least. They may be the political opponents of the SNP but in this matter, if the truth matters at all, they should certainly not be seeking to make political gain out of it.

  2. Even Gary Robertson (I think) was demanding that Kenny MacAskill go and be humiliated by the Yanks so that he could pay his respects to the US Lockerbie relatives while he was there! Of all the pathetic reasons for suggesting he go, that took the biscuit.

    We know what happened to Tony Hayward when he showed up on command for a Yank grilling. He had some of that coming to him, maybe, but they clearly have the bit between their teeth and have decided to do the same thing to some Limey politicians.

    It is absolutely right that both Scottish and UK politicians tell them to go take a running jump. And they can squeal about evasions and cover-ups till they're sick.

    Mind you, they've achieved the hitherto impossible. The UK Labour party and the SNP Scottish government are in absolute agreement about something!

    I think you have a point, Jo. Once this has died down, there's a wee bit of capital to be made from Goldie and Gray and others' eagerness to say "how high?" when some clueless Yank shouts "jump!"

  3. I'm writing to Goldie and Gray just now asking under what Scottish Parliament rules any Administration is required to go the US and appear at any hearing called by that country and in what way we are remotely accountable to the US.

    Rolfe, I am sickened by the way in which both the Tories and Labour at Holyrood have used this issue since Megrahi's release for blatant Party-politicial purposes. It is disgusting. I'm shocked that they will not look at the clamour for a new independent Inquiry into Lockerbie et al. Wednesday at Westminster we had some idiot MP making a joke about Salmond having found a miracle cure for prostate cancer. These people do not belong in any Parliament. They are not fit to be there. Clearly the calibre of politician continues to deteriorate.

  4. I couldn't agree more. I'm not best pleased with the SNP heid-yins either, because of this persistent insistance that the conviction is sound and that Megrahi withdrew his appeal of his own free will. I suspect Kenny of twisting his arm, and by the way on that one, listen to Magnus Linklater about 13 minutes into tonight's Any Questions. (iPlayer is your friend.) What reason do the SNP have to collude with a Lockerbie cover-up for goodness sake?

    But the behaviour of Goldie, Gray and the rest of that crew is pernicious. They sound little better than the unionist rabble who rant on the Scotsman comments pages.

    At least the Any Questions audience sounded very sympathetic to the SNP position in not going to America. And when Magnus said that Megrahi was "perfectly well", there was a chorus of "shame". (Diane Abbott took a chance of pointing out that the man is terminally ill with prostate cancer and not expected to live much longer.)

    Who knows how this will play out, but once the dust settles, it's scarcely possible for the SNP to come out looking worse than that rabble.

  5. Those reasons have been something I've wondered about Rolfe and I still can't find a single one. The thing I liked about it being the SNP did this was that they, as a Party, had nothing to hide or to fear from releasing Megrahi nor did they have any reason to want the appeal gone. The only thing I could think of was the damage to the Scottish Justice System if the truth came out and I didn't think that would over-ride the importance of the truth over our Justice System being the casualty. Let's face it, people who were and remain part of the Scottish Justice System are themselves calling for the truth about Lockerbie.

    I winced hearing McAskill saying that day that the verdict was sound and I winced again seeing that line in Mr Salmond's letter. It tainted everything.

    I'm happy tho that the Herald has called for a full inquiry and that more newspapers may follow. Its about time!

  6. Actually I think every UK/Scottish Newspaper should carry the question, "DO YOU WANT A FULL INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO THE LOCKERBIE ATROCITY?"

  7. It makes me sick, the way they're carrying on. In 18 years, it's the first real disagreement I've ever had with major party figures or policy. The best I managed before was a stand-up fight with Rob Gibson about organic food.

    I bought my first book about the Lockerbie controversy at an SNP party conference. Low-level "he didn't do it" within SNP circles was part of my reason for getting interested.

    If this is just lawyers like Kenny MacAskill and Nicola Sturgeon closing ranks to cover up for the disgrace of Camp Zeist (sorry, Prof. Black, but it was) then it's shameful. But why is Alex Salmond going along with it?

    Is there any possibility that they have become complicit in a wider cover-up, even to maintain the status quo in the Middle East, I wonder?

  8. I can't get my head around it Rolfe. Remember the Wark interview? Salmond was blazing mad about Blair using Megrahi as a bargaining tool. The PTA also required the dropping of the appeal and the SNP were at one point not keen on that either. Blair introduced Megrahi into the Deal in the Desert. The SNP weren't remotely considering dealing with anyone over his fate and the appeal had just been delayed again. I agree tho that its all very worrying.

    We should remember tho that many within the legal establishment, especially Robert Black, have been with this cause since after the trial and have been working hard for justice even when the fight for justice involved exposing the injustices being committed within our own legal system.

  9. That is very true. If anyone might have a motive for trying to stifle discussion of Camp Zeist it is Prof. Black, but here we are, discussing it by his invitation.

    I was shocked to my socks last year when suddenly dropping the appeal was being discussed, and it dawned on me that Kenny actually seemed to be manoeuvering Megrahi to induce him to do that. I could have expected it from Labour or the Tories, but from the SNP - in God's name, WHY?

    If it's not just cover up the rotten justice system, is there some great secret about why the truth about Lockerbie must never be known that governments get told when they take the reins of power? Something sufficiently compelling to make even a completely uninvolved party start toeing the cover-up line?

    It's enough to make you think the conspiracy theorists with their New World Order and Bilderbergs and Illuminati might have the right idea!

  10. Again I must agree. When it became clear that Megrahi was going to drop his appeal last year I contacted all sorts of people within the SNP imploring them not to allow this because I saw it as our only chance to get at the truth about Lockerbie. Plus, I'd been sure the SNP were committed to getting at the truth. Christine Grahame certainly was. After Mr McAskill's speech she spoke in the Chamber asking him to arrange as early as possible for the release of the SCCRC paperwork. There was a statutory instrument available to him as Justice Minister to order this. He said it was up to the SCCRC. The SCCRC said it was up to him. Then we had the, "Well no we can't, it would breach Data Protection Law."

    I applauded the decision to release Megrahi but I was deeply concerned about the loss of the appeal and keen to know the circumstances under which that came about. Megrahi had declared he would keep fighting to clear his name. I was shouting at the television as Mr McAskill paid tribute to the prosecutors at the orginal trial and to the Scottish Justice System. I could not believe those words were being said by him in view of the SCCRC findings which he KNEW about. Yes, something stank. It still does.

  11. Indeed. And there is Christine Grahame, another Scottish lawyer who isn't overly concerned about exposing problems in the Scottish justice system.

    I too thought the SNP was committed to uncovering the truth. That's why I was so shocked when it looked as if Kenny was pressurising Megrahi to drop the appeal.

    The apparent desire to get the appeal out of the way, plus the speechifying about how guilty Megrahi was, and the later assertions that the conviction is sound and how great the justuce system is, are absolutely baffling to me. They speak of a man with a hidden agenda, but I'm damned if I know what it is or why.