Wednesday, 26 January 2011

New claim on Megrahi 'balderdash' says First Minister

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Scotsman. It reads in part:]

Alex Salmond has described as "balderdash" claims published today that he placed the release of the Lockerbie bomber on the negotiating table with UK ministers.

The American magazine Vanity Fair alleges in its latest edition that the First Minister held private discussions with former Justice Secretary Jack Straw in which he offered to water down his opposition to release under the UK's Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya.

Quoting a UK official, the magazine says the "quid pro quo" was that Mr Straw would push through a change in the law to stem the glut of human rights cases being brought by prisoners against Scottish ministers over the practice of "slopping out".

That change, which puts a one-year time bar on cases, was agreed by the UK and Scottish governments in 2009 and is estimated to have saved the public purse as much as £50 million.

Mr Salmond yesterday hit back at the allegations, with a Scottish Government spokesperson describing the report as "complete and utter nonsense".

Scottish Government officials insist the decision to allow the bomber to go home was taken entirely in good faith.

It is now 17 months since Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was allowed to return home to a hero's reception.

Yesterday, Mr Straw's office declined to comment on the claims. He is quoted by Vanity Fair saying his conversations with Mr Salmond were "private". (...)

Mr Straw's communications with Mr Salmond over the Prisoner Transfer Agreement took place in late 2007 and early 2008. He first agreed to exclude Megrahi from a PTA deal with Libya, only to reinstate him following pressure from the Libyans.

The agreement between the Scottish and UK governments on a one-year bar on slopping-out claims was announced in March 2009. Under the arrangement, the UK government agreed to push through legislation at Westminster.

Asked about the claims yesterday, Mr Salmond described it as a "daft suggestion", noting that the Scottish Government had consistently shown "trenchant opposition" to the prisoner transfer agreement.

[The report in The Press and Journal can be read here. The report in The Times contains the following paragraph:

'Last night, Mr Salmond’s spokesman angrily rejected any allegation of a quid pro quo, between the First Minister and Mr Straw. “The unsubstantiated assertion about the Prisoner Transfer Agreement is complete and utter nonsense. Anyone who knows anything about this issue will regard such a claim as farcical,” he said.'

The Vanity Fair article by David Rose can be read here.]


  1. David Rose has admitted to being manipulated by the secret services. Shame it didn't make him much more sceptical.

  2. (On the other hand - all snarks aside - there is some good stuff in the Vanity Fair article. I'd love to see Mr B get questioned over his heartwarming chumminess with Colonel G.)

  3. (I shouldn't have snarked, actually. Rose seems like a decent chap.)

  4. If only people such as Mr Rose would apply the same effort and perceptiveness to the original investigation and Mr Megrahi's actual conviction then perhaps it would be more favourably received.

    As it is, while those who continue to pretend the only issue worthy of examination are the Scottish, UK, US and Libya's Govts., business arrangements and any connection to Mr Megrahi's release and continued existence, while his conviction stands without question, and choose to blithely gloss over the SCCRC (as Mr Rose so aptly managed) conclusion, falls well short of a recommendation for the investigative Paul Foot award.

    There are clearly many troubling issues and controversies surrounding the PTA agreement and the smoke filled back-room deals being sought, by all political flavours, before Mr Megrahi's dropping of the appeal and subsequent release.

    However, if the man was never guilty in the first instance, as the SCCRC suggested was a strong possibility, then surely the greatest scandal of all is the original investigation, trial and conviction of Mr Megrahi, and the fact that the true perpetrators of the atrocity against those 270 souls have remained at liberty for over 22 years?

  5. "....then surely the greatest scandal of all is the original investigation, trial and conviction of Mr Megrahi, and the fact that the true perpetrators of the atrocity against those 270 souls have remained at liberty for over 22 years."

    I think the truly greatest scandal of all is that we learned so much about that conviction, we had an official establishment report questioning the conviction on six separate grounds and the establishments - political and legal - chose to ignore it.

  6. And to add to Jo G's comment...

    most of the public at large has either chosen to ignore such scandals or is unaware. This fact is why the political and legal establishments are not doing the right things.