Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Pan Am 103 campaigner Grahame declares candidacy for Presiding Officer role

[This is the headline over a report published today on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. It reads as follows:]

Newly returned MSP and strident campaigner for justice in the Pan Am 103 debacle, Christine Grahame, has declared her candidacy for the role of Presiding Officer at Holyrood.

She would be the first woman to occupy the chair following predecessors David Steel, George Reid and incumbent Alex Fergusson.

“I am known in Parliament as an independent-minded backbencher and that is the same way I would approach the task of presiding officer," she said in a statement.

"I have the experience to do the job, having been an MSP since 1999 and having chaired three committees in that time.

“Parliament needs to be a forum for robust, lively and interesting exchanges, and, if elected as presiding officer, I would ensure that backbenchers have more of a say and also look at ways of making debates more interesting and relevant.”

Grahame has enjoyed the tacit support of First Minister Alex Salmond and has campaigned to seek justice and a Parliamentary inquiry into the case of the Lockerbie convict Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi. [RB: the campaign is for an independent inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, not a parliamentary inquiry.]

The Presiding Officer will be selected when Parliament reconvenes tomorrow. No other candidates have formally come forward at the time of publication.

[This news creates mixed feelings in me. I think Christine would be an excellent Presiding Officer. But the neutrality required of the holder of that position would largely disqualify her from campaigning actively for a review of the Megrahi conviction. This would be a great loss to those of us who regard the removal of this blemish on the Scottish criminal justice system as crucial for the restoration of domestic and international confidence in the administration of justice in Scotland.]


  1. I'd be surprised if the other Parties wear a Presiding Officer who is also SNP. Given the majority won I think even those of us who voted SNP can see it isn't a good idea.

    So far we've had a Lib-Dem, a Nationalist and a Tory in the PO role. Why not someone from Labour this time?

    I'm more than disappointed in Christine Grahame. She was the only one in the Parliament who was determined on Lockerbie. She is needed more where she is right now than as PO. She must know that.

    Is Salmond happy about it because as PO she'd be off his case on Lockerbie?

  2. www.scotsman.com/news/SNP-39will-appoint-one-of.6765541.jp

  3. Thanks for the link Rolfe. I had a read at it earlier. Interesting developments.

  4. I think what we need to bear in mind that scandalous though the Lockerbie affair is, it's a side issue for the vast majority of people. It wasn't an issue at the election, and it's unlikely to be an issue that many people will allow to affect any of their major life choices. It's not something I would expect anyone to turn down their dream job for the sake of, for example.

    My own reaction was more as a local party worker. The PO has to resign from their own party to take the job. It's a bit of a thought to bust a gut to get someone elected, for the party, then have them immediately resign, even if we do keep a constituency MSP.

    In this respect, Tricia Marwick might be a better choice. She has been a constituency MSP for 4 years already, so there isn't quite the same suddenness to it. Or maybe I'm only saying that beacuse she isn't my MSP.

  5. I understand your own reaction Rolfe. You've told us in the run up to the electin how much of your time was taken up working for the victory Christine actually got.

    On Lockerbie we have a pledge from Salmond on the SCCRC report to push him on. The publication of that report could very much change Lockerbie's status as a side issue for so many.

    In Grahame's shoes given the dedication she has shown already over Lockerbie I'd be using what might be my last term to go for broke on it. Maybe she will still get that chance if Marwick gets the post of PO.

  6. I have a wee sneaky feeling that Tricia might be the spoiler put in as a more acceptable SNP candidate than Christine. Just a personal guess.

    I didn't believe Alex for half a second when he said the choice was entirely up to the MSPs, far be it from him, etc. It may be a free vote with no whip, but I'd bet my bottom dollar that a lot of manoeuvring goes on behind the scenes, that Alex will know who he wants in the job, and the rest of the SNP group will know too.

  7. I`ve been speaking to someone who is very close to Kenny MacAskill and was told that it is his intention to release the SCCRC report quite soon.Great news if its true. I had a short discussion on MacAskill`s thinking on other matters; it seems any enquiry is a non starter. As it was put to me "we cite Gaucci, he says "no", where do we go from there?"
    What is the legal position on a new or resurrected appeal?

  8. Oh dear, oh dear! If the "person close to MacAskill" is reflecting what will be the new government's attitude, it looks as if we are in for the same dishonest evasive tactics as before. The answer to the "what if we held a party but nobody came?" point is contained in this extract from a JFM submission to the Public Petitions Committee:
    "As with all inquiries some 
    evidence cannot be adduced for 
    various reasons. This does not 
    invalidate having an inquiry. This 'reason' is nothing more that a 
    waferthin pretext for inaction. TheScottish Criminal Cases Review 
    Commission (SCCRC) has no 
    jurisdiction and powers outwith 
    Scotland. Yet it managed to conductan investigation into the Megrahi 
    conviction that enabled it to reachthe conclusion that, on six 
    separate grounds, that conviction 
    might have amounted to a 
    miscarriage of justice. There is noconceivable reason why a Scottish 
    inquiry under the Inquiries Act 
    2005 should have less success in 
    obtaining and uncovering evidence."

  9. The appeal that was abandoned in August 2009 cannot be resurrected. It is as dead as a dodo. There could be new application to the SCCRC. But that faces the hurdles recently erected by the Scottish Parliament's panic-driven "emergency" legislation following the Supreme Court's Cadder decision, as would any subsequent appeal to the High Court.

  10. I'm sure MacAskill will be thrilled to learn he has someone "close to him" who is blabbing elsewhere.

    We also don't need Gauci. All we need to establish is that with his brother they received around $3 million for their testimony. In Scotland that's bribery.

  11. Why do we need Tony Gauci anyway? Why not just look at his evidence?


    And that doesn't even cover the evidence relating to the day of the purchase.

    Someone also needs to bring up the question of crucial evidence that was presented at Dumfries being withheld from Zeist. Evidence that would have shown that Bedford's suitcase was the bomb, certainly on the balance of probability and possibly beyond reasonable doubt.

    And why was the 2009 appeal not worried about Tony being a no-show?

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  13. Sorry, Sarah is Grendal. My daughter has commandeered my laptop and has left her grubby little on-line fingerprints all over it. Does anyone know how to stop fashion chains from sending me e mails about their latest fantastic offers?
    We know that there is a reluctance in the SNP government to open up the Lockerbie case.We have speculated on this site about why this might be. I still believe that Megraghi being cleared of the Lockerbie murders would be good for Scotland, the SNP and MacAskill (not to mention the interests of justice) but clearly the government hierarchy disagree. The question for us is how we move from where we are now to where we want to be. I believe, from the conversation I had, that MacAskill DOES plan to release the SCCRC report. If this turns out to be the case, I believe that the pressure to make progress will be hard to resist.So let`s at least try to encourage this first step. After all, MacAskill didn`t have to announce that the report would be made public. If there was some devious reason for his doing so, then I can`t work it out.

  14. I go along with what Quincey Riddle had to say (on another thread) about seeing who First Minister Alex Salmond appoints as Lord Advocate before deliberating too much about what to do next.

    Fingers crossed it's Richard Keen QC!

  15. Anent the post of presiding officer I'd be a little surprised if there wasn't some movement from Margo MacDonald, and she might gather some sentimental support.

    As to the enquiry, as I have posted here before, the SNP's position is utterly inexplicable based on the information we have - clearly there is something very significant we do not know. As Sarah puts it: "Megraghi being cleared of the Lockerbie murders would be good for Scotland, the SNP and MacAskill".

    So what's going on? Has the US got some 'lean' on the SNP? Is the state of Scottish justice even worse than we suspect? These are not rhetorical questions - I'd be interested in any suggested answers.

  16. There seem to be only three candidates. Grahame, Marwick and that Labour bloke.

    As for the rest, I agree with Vronsky. I admit I'm compartmentalising my thinking here, but I don't know how else to handle it.

  17. I think that with any release of the full statement of reasons by the SCCRC it would inescapably lead to significant hydra rippling through the Scottish judicial system, Whitehall and across to Washington, and is therefore highly unlikely.

    If, as we're led to believe, that the remaining unpublished statement of reasons by the SCCRC contains the really embarrassing stuff, it would inevitably raise disturbing questions about the integrity and fundamental belief of not just Megrahi's apparent guilt, but more gravely for those in authority, our justice systems, our investigators and indeed the politicians and govt themselves.

    This isn't just a case of 'we got the wrong man but with the right intentions'. It's actually been a systematic and concerted effort to suppress the truth, from the very outset of the investigation right up until the 2nd appeal and the PII, and the deliberate distortion of justice for over 2 decades. Hardly a scenario which fills me with any hope of a voluntary release of the whole SCCRC conclusion by any govt intimately involved in any aspect of this .

    Unless, with the shuffling off this mortal coil of the so called Iron Lady, then the figureheads of the two central protagonists during this murky time are no longer around to witness any such humiliation to their 'glittering and revered' careers.

    I agree that Megrahi being cleared would serve the SNP well among the its national assemblage, which I'm sure they are well aware of, but for international relations would mean severe ramifications. Primarily Westminster and Washington, not too mention consequences for some within the Scottish govt own judicial and law enforcement infrastructures. For these reasons I still believe the only way the full statement of reasons will ever be released is not willingly but through force and enforcement by other instruments. Namely, at this time, the JFM group.

  18. As others have said, we've discussed this so many times here. My own view, thanks to those here who explained to me the significance of being a member of the Privy Council, is that Salmond is compelled to act as he has done in order to protect the political and judicial establishments. I suppose they like to see it as a "code of honour" whereas those of us who actually understand the meaning of the word honour see it more as loyalty among villains.

    I still say tho that Salmond's well kent declaration, that he is accountable only to the people of Scotland, should have carried him through and made any obligation to the Privy Council irrelevant. For the fact remains that he knows we did not get the truth about the biggest loss of life here in peacetime. That, for me, over-rides anything you could care to mention.

    Eddie, you make many valid points. But think who Salmond claims to be and what he claims to represent. For him the very truths you list in your post should have fueled his determination to highlight the sort of establishment Scotland should not want to be part of.