[This is the headline over an article by journalist, commentator and clergyman Ron Ferguson in today's edition of The Press and Journal a daily newspaper circulating mainly in Aberdeen and the north of Scotland. It reads in part:]
The Scottish Government is quite right to turn down the invitation from Washington to appear before the US Senate. Why on earth should Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill accept a summons to cross the Atlantic and be interrogated by senators who are posturing before their own electorates?
Let's be clear: this furore is more about domestic politics in the US than it is about an international incident. Senators who are nervous about their prospects at forthcoming elections are trying to gain political kudos by grandstanding in front of the TV cameras.
“Thanks, but no thanks," is the correct response from the Scottish Government. Scotland may be a small country, but our elected representatives should not roll over just because America snaps its fingers. (...)
What about the fact that al Megrahi is still alive? Kenny MacAskill could deal only with the expert medical information he was given. He is not a medical man. He depended on the reports of the experts.
As any doctor knows, predicting how long someone with a terminal illness will last is far from being an exact science. Various factors can come into play, such as the morale of the person suffering the illness.
Al Megrahi’s return to his family may well have had a positive effect on his inner wellbeing. What no one disputes is that al Megrahi is suffering from terminal cancer.
I applaud First Minister Alex Salmond's statement that he will not let the US “bully” Scotland. He is right to point out that American anger at the huge BP oil spill has fuelled the attacks on his government by politicians from across the Atlantic.
“This is all about BP,” he said. “We don’t object to people asking us questions, but the point about going to the Senate hearing is quite clear. Serving ministers are responsible to their parliaments and their people. I am responsible to the people and parliament of Scotland – not, with great respect, to the American senators.
“No American senator or government official would ever turn to any other parliament’s committee to be held responsible. No American came to the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War, for example.”
Mr Salmond has written to Senator John Kerry, who will chair the US Senate committee, laying out the Scottish Government’s position on the matter. He added: “John Kerry described the letter of evidence that I sent as thoughtful and thorough and asked if it could be read on to the record of the committee, and I said yes.
“That tells everything that we have got to say on the issue. They are inquiring into BP’s influence, as they see it, in securing the release of al Megrahi. BP had no influence over the Scottish Government and there was no contact between BP and the Scottish Government – formal or informal – in this entire process. Fact.”
We could do with an inquiry into the whole Pan Am case, but it should be an independent inquiry, not a piece of political theatre designed to save skins in Washington.