[This is the headline over a report just published on the Telegraph website. It reads in part:]
Alex Salmond has cut off communications with US senators investigating the release of the Lockerbie bomber after denouncing them for twisting the evidence he has submitted.
In an angry letter to the Senate’s foreign relations committee, which is conducting the inquiry, the First Minister said their behaviour “calls into question your ability to conduct any credible and impartial investigation.”
Mr Salmond accused the senators of selectively quoting from Scottish Executive documents to create the “contrived” illusion the release was influenced by British commercial interests.
He also said they were “unable or unwilling to understand” that the terminally-ill bomber was freed on compassionate grounds, and not under a controversial prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) between Libya and Britain.
The First Minister concluded by saying he was “drawing a line” under his correspondence with them and would not attend a meeting with the senators’ representative, who is due to arrive in Scotland this week.
But Richard Baker, Scottish Labour justice spokesman, said he would use his talks with the official to call for the publication of the bomber’s medical reports. (...)
In a letter sent to Mr Salmond last month, on the first anniversary of the release, Senator Robert Menendez, the committee’s chair, cited five occasions on which commercial pressures were put on Mr MacAskill.
But in his reply, the First Minister branded the committee’s evidence “circumstantial”, adding: “This seems to be a considerable weakening of your original position, but is still totally wrong”.
He said senators had selectively quoted from evidence provided by his administration, without making clear the decision was made on judicial grounds alone.
“To then accuse the Scottish government of selectively publishing correspondence … significantly undermines your credibility,” he added.
Mr Salmond said there is evidence BP’s interests influenced the PTA, but he had opposed the British Government signing the deal in 2007. In contrast, he told the senators: “You were silent”.
He argued his administration’s opposition to the PTA, and Mr MacAskill’s rejection of Libya’s application for Megrahi to be released under the agreement, “fatally undermines your line of argument”.
To get around this, the First Minister suggested the senators have “conflated” the bomber’s failed PTA application and the successful bid for him to be released on compassionate grounds.
Despite his attempts to make clear the distinction, Mr Salmond wrote: “You seem unable or unwilling to understand the nature of these separate legal processes.”
He said this failure to “accept these irrefutable and well-evidenced facts … calls into question your ability to conduct any credible and impartial investigation into these matters.”
Mr Salmond said “appropriate officials” would be made available to the committee’s representative but ministers will not attend.
[The treatment of this story in The Herald of Monday 13 September can be seen here; and The Scotsman's here.]