Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Media reaction to WikiLeaks Megrahi cables

There are no surprises in the coverage by the UK and Scottish media of the US diplomatic cables. The vast bulk of the media loathe and detest the Scottish National Party and all its works and so are keen to focus on criticism by US diplomats (and, through them, by UK diplomats and politicians) of the SNP Scottish Government. The opportunities for this are, however, somewhat limited since the cables make it clear that the UK Government (as this blog has maintained) was determined that, by hook or by crook, Megrahi should be repatriated, while the Scottish Government resisted both behind-the-scenes pressure and blandishments and approached the issue on the basis of the relevant legal provisions (though, no doubt, political considerations entered in to the surprising decision to link the two quite separate issues that were before the Justice Secretary -- the Libyan Government's application for prisoner transfer and Abdelbaset Megrahi's request for compassionate release; it was this quite unnecessary linkage that compelled Megrahi to abandon his appeal if he wished BOTH of them to remain live options).

In the mainstream media, useful reports can be found on the BBC News website; in The Independent; in The Times -- for those who have subscribed; and in The Scotsman. The Newsnet Scotland website has a good analysis by Alex Porter and a further report headed Labour agreed to help US lobby Scottish Government over Megrahi; and James Kelly's SCOT goes POP blog has an interesting commentary, as does Alex Massie's blog on The Spectator website.

The reaction of the First Minister Alex Salmond to the media brouhaha over the cables is to be found on the BBC News website.


  1. Robert, you'll search far and wide for a comment from any of the Scottish Unionist politicians on this matter in any of the Scottish media outlets. If only there were some means of compelling Richard Baker to make an apology for all the lies and disinformation he's spread these past 15 months...

  2. I think you're being too kind to the Scottish Government. It was in their power to avoid all of this nonsense by doing something which successive Labour and Conservative Governments had failed to do over Lockerbie. They chose not to take the honest path. There was nothing to stop them doing that and they appeared to be doing that to begin with and then didn't just cave in but actually, in my view, got involved in the mess by making ludicrous statements about the original verdict being sound. Come on now! The SCCRC said it all. SIX grounds yet both Salmond and MacAskill keep bleating that there is no case to answer? Please. It speaks volumes does it not that eventually they soiled their clean hands with the same toxic stuff the other Parties had peddled for years in order to justify not looking at that verdict again.

    I have read in various places that they had no choice but to go along with the establishment even if it involves lying. I totally reject this. If we truly believe politicians should lie then we aren't doing anything to change the culture of dishonesty that exists in so many matters of high importance. If we want real change we should want honesty full stop.

    Salmond had a choice and what galls me most about this whole mess is that he in particular could have carried it off had the SNP stood their ground and chose as their first issue the matter of that appeal and that SCCRC report issued in 2007 just as they came to power. Had they done so Megrahi would have been a free man long before August 2009. And the SNP, as a Party, would have been applauded by all of Scotland for having had the guts to take it on. The Unionist Parties would have been swept aside.

  3. Mark I take your point. I have emails from Gray and my local Labour MP on this subject. Both castigate the Scottish government for releasing Megrahi. Gray's public comments on the issue are much worse than Baker's tho Baker should be challenged too. Sadly the Scottish Media will let them be. More dishonesty.

    But Salmond's claim today that the publication of these cables vindicates the SNP is, in my view, mistaken. MacAskill's role in that appeal being dropped is still with us and no explanation about all that transpired in the run up to that event has yet been offered.

    Here's another thing: on the Newsnet Scotland comments below Alex Porter's article there is one which says (from another cable) Salmond had assured the UK Justice Secretary that he personally would make the decision on Megrahi. Doesn't that make you wonder about all that, "I and I alone" stuff repeated endlessly by MacAskill last year?

  4. This is the one: I'm pasting the excerpt and the comment made after it.

    "This from LONDON 002673 (24th October 2008)

    Although Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill would normally make the final decision, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told Jack Straw that he will make the final decision in this case. Salmond told Straw that he would make the decision based on humanitarian grounds, not foreign policy grounds;

    This CLEARLY shows that the SNP Scottish Govt was saying the same in public as they were in private (unlike the UK and US govts).
    This was almost a year prior to Al Megrahi's release and shows consistency and integrity."

    Actually it doesn't show any of those things. It says that the findings of the SCCRC, released more than a year before Salmond made this statement, were not something Salmond was interested in. That cannot remotely be called consistent or showing integrity. Where was the acknowledgement of a legal process which at that time had an appeal waiting to be heard?


    Libya Threatened UK Over Lockerbie Bomber...
    Lead the British publication fom "WikiLeaks" to an Libya "Economic Al Jihad" against UK, as in Switzerland ?

    Details of the tension between Libya and Britain over Megrahi are revealed in the latest US diplomatic cables revealed by "WikiLeaks". More on the phad...

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland. URL:

  6. Jo G's analysis in her first comment above is spot on, though I'm not sure that Alex Salmond's SNP Government could have done anything to expedite the much-delayed hearing of Megrahi's second appeal.

    All is not lost, however. The Scottish Government has until 10 December 2010 to respond to the JFM e-petition and decide whether or not to set up an impartial and independent inquiry into the Camp Zeist conviction of Mr al-Megrahi.

    Since it coincides with the 62nd anniversary of the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I'm pinning my hopes on Kenny MacAskill making the right announcement on 10 December 2010!

  7. JoG, ahem with an eye on legal niceties, I can assure you that what I may have allegedly heard at the time, is that it was 'him and him alone' that made the decision. Cabinet were apparently told in a rather firm and forceful manner that there would be no discussion of the matter, that it was the sole preserve and decision of K MacAskill.

    The Maltese appear to be rather keen on clearing their name, I'd have presumed the machinery was in place to have an inquiry hosted there, via either or both the UN and EU.

  8. Patrick I believe they could. Here's why.

    At the time Blair had started the talks about releasing Megrahi the SCCRC had issued its official findings on the original verdict and raised six grounds it felt must be looked at. It had also stated a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.

    So the guy Blair was discussing, whom Salmond was discussing a year later, had a conviction which was officially being questioned and also had an ongoing appeal. Wouldn't it be the most obvious thing to say, "Just a minute. The prisoner we are talking about may be cleared on appeal. The appeal must be heard before we go anywhere with talks about releasing him as a "guilty" man."

    That the appeal itself was ignored and repeatedly delayed is extraordinary. The hearing of that appeal would almost certainly have brought about Megrahi's release of course but under very different circumstances than those envisaged by the UK, US, and I'm sorry to say this, the Scottish Government too. For had the appeal been heard the clear flaws in that trial would have left the Scottish "Justice" System in tatters, exposed actions by the UK government at the time which were designed to frame an innocent man and shown that others were responsible for Lockerbie.

    I am a big fan of Salmond's Patrick. I cannot tell you how sad I am to see him involved in this when he had a clear way to go on it and bottled it. I will never understand why he did this. He could have shamed them all by taking the honest route, the right route, the just route and changed everything completely.

  9. Mark, the piece I've quoted is allegedly taken from a separate leak and concerns conversations between Salmond and Straw. I'm merely highlighting it: don't shoot the messenger : )

  10. The other thing is Mark, no matter the portfolio held, I'm absolutely certain that no Prime Minister, First Minister, US President or leader of whatever country you want to mention would remain uninvolved in huge decisions about to be made, on behalf of the country, by one of their appointed Ministers/Officials.

  11. The Scottish Govt., have allowed themselves to be dragged into the mire, along with the successive Westminster govts since 1988, through their complete denial of the questions that still surround the whole Lockerbie case and their unerring support of Mr Megrahi's conviction. The latter of course being wholly inconsistent with the irrefutable conclusion determined by the SCCRC that Mr Megrahi may well have suffered a miscarriage of justice at Zeist.

    Credit may be due for the Scottish govt not allowing themselves to be swayed on any decision regarding Mr Megrahi by inducement of the promise of jelly and ice cream by the Libyan govt, or by any threats over the potential black gold contracts and any other business interests by the same regime.

    However, the crux of the problem lies, just as we are witnessing within the banking and finance sectors criminality and grand theft of taxpayers money, in that the challenge of questioning (and radically changing) or bringing to account the elite institutions and their decisions, is simply beyond contemplation and way above the power of everyday politicians. They tow the line or they get nowhere.

  12. I disagree it was way above their power.

    Megrahi's appeal was in the system and could have been heard. There was an independent report by the SCCRC justifying the hearing of the appeal on six separate grounds. So I reject any suggestion that the SNP government had to "toe the line" where the appeal was concerned. It could, and should, have been heard. This was an appeal on a decidedly Scottish issue, an atrocity which had cost three hundred lives and any Parliament that doesn't want to know the truth about that is no Parliament at all. It had the power to get on the backs of the judiciary and get that appeal heard.

    A man's human and legal rights were also caught up in it all. That man was Megrahi. And for discussions on any other type of release to begin with that appeal still ongoing was outrageous and absolutely scandalous.

  13. Jo G - it wasn't the SNP who instructed the SCCRC investigation or influenced their conclusion so I fail to see the relevence on this point.

    Indeed the appeal was in the 'system', and it could and should have been heard. However, it was also under this very SNP administration that we observed the interminable delays in this appeal, every conceivable obstruction placed before Mr Megrahi's defence, a judge falling sick with no replacement while the appellant was terminally ill and the preposterous idea that the documents withheld under the PII to be viewed only by vetted lawyers on behalf of Mr Megrahi who would then determine the validity of the documents in the appeal.

    And not so much as a murmur was heard throughout by either Mr Salmond nor Mr MacAskill. Sure, they were only too happy to pipe up to condemn the New Labour govt and the PTA, only for the SNP justice secretary (who, unlike us mere mortals, has before him the whole 800+ page SCCRC report) to then visit Mr Megrahi, and as the notes of that meeting reveal, simply add to the pressure and confusion for Megrahi in the hope this darn appeal would be dropped and his applications could be considered. Which was wholly improper.

    So, if you don't think they were 'toeing the line' during the whole appeal and compassionate release procedure, which we will have to agree to disagree on, then they have most certainly been conforming to the Westminster and Washington views on Mr Megrahi's conviction and preserving the staus quo since.

  14. Eddie, the Labour appointed Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, would have had something to say had she been pressed by the SNP Government to expedite Mr al-Megrahi's second appeal. So I don't think you can pin the interminable delays on Alex Salmond or Kenny MacAskill.

    But Jo G has convinced me that Salmond and MacAskill could and should have done much more to nudge that appeal process along.

    Woe betide them (and their SNP Government) if they make the wrong decision on 10 December 2010!

  15. Eddie, I don't think I suggested the SNP did instruct the SCCRC review of the case. Of course they didn't. The relevance of the report itself however is considerable. For the report remains on record with or without an appeal. The conclusions are still very much current and they say that we almost certainly did not convict "the Lockerbie bomber". Salmond, and MacAskill, have that report available to beat people about the head with to justify opening the whole thing up in an investigation.

    I think I may have misunderstood your earlier post, particularly the "toeing the line" part.

    I thought you were suggesting that ordinary politicians were not able to influence such things and that Salmond and Co were obliged to follow the pattern set, on the Lockerbie matter, of their predecessors. ie toe the line.

    Reading your recent post I realise you are not saying that and I'm sorry for misunderstanding.

    I pointed out a while back on this blog that this whole mess unfolded on the SNP's watch from the publication of the SCCRC report onwards. But I also take the view that any Scottish Parliament led by any Scottish Party should have immediately reacted to the SCCRC findings and wanted that appeal heard at the earliest opportunity and made it clear to the judiciary that delays would not be tolerated. But of all politicians I believed passionately that Salmond was the man who could carry it off superbly. I am certain he could have put, and won, the moral case to the Scottish people and equally certain that he, and his Party, would have seen benefits from going that route.

    How many politicians attended the 20th anniversary memorial two years ago knowing they were actively preventing the truth from being unearthed? How many of them stood looking sombre and tragic knowing that they desperately wanted Megrahi's appeal buried? And how do they sleep at night while people like Jim Swire so frequently beg them for justice?