Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Scottish leaders' debate: First Minister Alex Salmond under fire on release of ... Megrahi

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of the blindly Labour-supporting Daily Record on the first televised debate between the Scottish party leaders in the run-up to the Scottish Parliament election in May. It reads in part:]

Scots Labour leader Iain Gray won loud applause during last night's live TV election debate when he tore into the SNP goverment's fateful decision to free the Lockerbie bomber.

He told the audience in Glasgow: "I just think he got the decision wrong."

Gray hit back after Alex Salmond tried to defend the decision, in August 2009, to release terminal cancer sufferer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

It was arguably the biggest moment of Salmond's four years in power.

Last night, a question from an audience member during STV's live leaders' debate catapulted the controversy into the Holyrood election campaign.

And it revealed public anger that Megrahi, given three months to live, was released and continues to enjoy a life of luxury in his homeland nearly two years on. The audience member told Salmond: "Sometimes it's events, not policies, that define a leader and his party.

"Do you think the SNP will ever be forgiven for releasing Britain's biggest ever mass murderer?" Salmond said: "Yes, I do. "People don't necessarily vote for political parties because they agree or disagree with an issue, but parties are judged on whether they did what they believed was right."

Salmond claimed some victims' relatives supported the decision. He added: "Kenny MacAskill did it because he believed it to be right, not for oil or trade or politics."

But Gray instantly hit back - winning the biggest round of applause of the night. He said: "I just think he got the decision wrong and I've made that clear."

The Labour leader said Scottish justice had compassion built in - but it was not automatic.

He added: "One factor is the nature of the crime and it was the worst crime anyone has ever been convicted of in Scotland."

Scots Tory leader Annabel Goldie also slammed the decision to free Megrahi. She said: "It was a bad decision, badly made - and it reflected badly on Scotland."

The clash sparked an otherwise tame debate into life.

[According to a report by political correspondent Jamie Livingstone on the STV News website "The First Minister also successfully down-played his propensity to appear somewhat dismissive or arrogant and escaped largely unscathed over the release of the Lockerbie bomber."

Alan Cochrane's report in the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph opined: "The issue of Megrahi’s release was raised by a member of the studio audience but Mr Salmond was never seriously cross-questioned on the issue."

For some light relief, here is a link to the weekend edition of South Africa's best strip cartoon Madam & Eve.]


  1. MISSION LOCKERBIE; 2011, doc. nr.1300.rtf. (google translation, german/english):

    Why does the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and the Scottish Justiciary will not disclose the files of the Scottish Criminal Cases Reappeal Commission (SCCRC) ?
    Likely to be the criminal acts of their "UK Officials" to wait through this intentional delay, the statute of limitations ?
    Wieso will die Scottish Justiciary und First Minister Alex Salmond die Akten der Scottish Criminal Cases Reappeal Commission (SCCRC) nicht offenlegen ?
    Vermutlich soll mittels dieser vorsätzlichen Verzögerung die Verjährung der kriminellen Handlungen ihrer "UK Officials" abgewartet werden ?

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland. our webpage:

  2. Tavish Scott at least mentioned that the appeal should have been allowed to go ahead. I noticed this comment was virtually ignored.

    I watched this section of the debate with no sympathy for Salmond. He deserved none: he created this mess by bowing to the establishment wish to see Megrahi safely out of our faces, and especially out of the face of our corrupt justice system. I once admired him but his handling of the Megrahi matter, his public arrogance in declaring the original trial verdict sound, altered my view dramatically. He proved he can be as corrupt as the rest of them when it comes to justice for Lockerbie.

  3. Having said that, its typical of the Record to home in on this one question: it was the only time Gray was applauded. There were other deeply uncomfortable moments for Labour throughout the programme. I mean the guy came third, after Salmond and Tory Goldie on the question who would make the best First Minister. To sink to this position for Labour in Scotland is astonishing. So I guess this morning the Record were frantic to find something to suggest "their man won it".

    And if Labour were able to use the issue of Megrahi to advantage last night it could continue to haunt Salmond throughout the campaign and even hurt him. That's a pity since he eclipses all of them in terms of ability. He may regret going the route he did, not in releasing Megrahi, but in helping the establishment get shot of that embarrassing appeal. Had Salmond used the courage he undoubtedly possesses Megrahi could have truly gone free and the Scottish Justice System would have had to admit that we still don't have "the Lockerbie bomber".

  4. Jo G has made this last point before and I agree with it, but Salmond has a problem. The common thread binding Salmond and many other establishment figures into a web of secrecy is their membership of the Privy Council. Once they know something officially they aren't allowed also to know it unofficially. For example this is probably why Hardie resigned as Lord Advocate – conflict between professional duty to disclose matters to the defence and his oath. We know the terms of the oath as published, not what these guys agree to behind the scenes. I don’t suggest he would be taken out and shot, but Salmond’s career in politics would be ended if he didn’t conform. Doesn’t stop him backing an inquiry though.

  5. Ewan, please don't give me the state reason for telling lies. It doesn't wash here. It makes them all liars. Nothing will change that no matter how you dress it up.

  6. Salmond did NOT need to have a problem. He allegedly wanted a new Scotland and then he went and helped hold up the biggest lie ever. Please don't tell me he didn't have a choice, because he did: and if he'd had the courage he would have taken all of Scotland behind him to get to the truth about Lockerbie. Alas, he didn't have the courage so he went the establishment route. In fact, he went further.

  7. And Ewan, as more and more Libyan defectors arrive here with their stories the big demon will be Salmond. I will say again, there will come a day when Salmond will kick himself for not having had the guts to go after the truth. By the time Libya is over Salmond will be the man who let the Lockerbie bomber go. It could have been very different for a man as clever as Salmond is. But he has no one but himself to blame.

  8. Indeed...every defectolr from Gadaffi will pay a "we did it" toll to the CIA. More than ever, we need a public enquiry, but will the Scottish legal Establishmnet really want to look that deeply?

  9. Ouch!!! Three whacks and I didn't think I had done anything wrong, takes me back to school days a very long time ago.

    Jo G if you read my comment again I don't anywhere "dress it up" I also didn't say it's ok for these guys to lie. For what it's worth I despise them for signing an oath they didn't need to take and which seems to have corrupted them.

    The resignation of Lord Advocate Hardie a few weeks before the trial began has never been satisfactorily explained, neither by him nor others.

    I believe the Crown brings these people into the Privy Council to muzzle them and turn them into its toadies. This is an area that deserves more research.