[The following are excerpts from a report in today's edition of The Herald.]
The Holyrood Ministerial roadshow received a boost in Stirling when unexpected visitor and former Labour foe Dennis Canavan received applause for backing the SNP-administration’s approach on the Megrahi case.
The former Labour MP turned independent MSP received the first applause of a public meeting in the city’s Albert Halls to coincide with a cabinet meeting convened by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the absence of Alex Salmond who is on holiday.
Mr Canavan, still a popular figure in Stirlingshire, rose to support the issue of raising Scotland’s profile on the international stage.
He then said he supported the decision of Mr MacAskill almost a year ago to release on compassionate grounds the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, the applause for his comments doubling as he “wholeheartedly supported” the refusal of Scottish ministers to heed a summons to appear before US senators.
But the former MSP said “unanswered questions” about the Megrahi conviction led him to believe an international commission or tribunal would be best placed to reveal what had really happened during the case.
“What action is the Scottish Government taking to bring about such an inquiry?” he asked, prompting Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to respond that, while he supported such a course of events, the Scottish Government simply did not have the powers needed to order such an inquiry, which could only be created by the UK, the US or the United Nations.
[The local newspaper for the area in which the meeting was held, the Stirling Observer, reports the exchange as follows:]
Former Falkirk West MSP Dennis Canavan raised the controversial subject of the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.
He said he supported justice secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to release the bomber on compassionate grounds – and the Scottish Government’s decision not to go “crawling across to the other side of the Atlantic” to give evidence at a US inquiry – but added that some kind of international inquiry was necessary and asked what steps the administration was taking on this issue.
Mr MacAskill answered that when he made the decision to release the bomber he “also made clear that there are outstanding issues”.
He added: “I made it quite clear that I would fully support an inquiry that had the appropriate jurisdiction.
“Scotland doesn’t have that jurisdiction however. It is beyond the limitations we have either as a government or in the laws of Scotland.”
[The excuse about the Scottish Government not having sufficient powers to institute a meaningful inquiry is becoming boring. To quote from a recent letter sent by the Justice for Megrahi campaign:]
The Scottish Government should not be allowed to expect other authorities to pick up the gauntlet.
*The case was investigated by a Scottish police force.
*The trial was conducted under Scots Law.
*Mr Al-Megrahi was convicted under Scots Law.
*Mr Al-Megrahi was imprisoned in a Scottish gaol.
*The SCCRC referred the second appeal to the Scottish Court of Appeal.
*Mr Al-Megrahi was given compassionate release by the Scottish Cabinet Minister for Justice.
This is undeniably a Scottish issue.