[In today's edition of The Herald columnist Iain Macwhirter writes about potential pitfalls for the SNP government of Scotland. The following are brief extracts:]
Yesterday we saw a triumphant First Minister, Alex Salmond, unassailable leader of a united party with an unassailable majority in Holyrood, presenting a populist legislative programme to a parliament of basket cases. If they make a mess of this the SNP will have no one to blame but themselves. (...)
So, as I say: what can possibly go wrong? Well, plenty. (...)
Releasing the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission report into the prosecution of Adelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi – currently dying on live TV in Tripoli – is a real wild card. Everyone knows that it raised questions about the guilt of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. It may well be that there was a miscarriage of justice in Camp Zeist in 2001. But throwing the focus of the world’s media back on this affair is a risky move, given that half the world now believes that England and Scotland jointly conspired to spring Megrahi in order to save oil contracts and avert a “holy war” against the UK. Leave well alone.
Criminal Cases (Punishment & Review) (Scotland) Bill
Gives statutory authority to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to decide whether it is appropriate to publish a Statement of Reasons in cases they have investigated where an appeal has subsequently been abandoned.
This is the reform which will allow the Commission to publish information on why Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s appeal against his conviction for the Lockerbie bombing was withdrawn, though it will, of course, apply to all cases. [RB: The purpose of the legislation is NOT to allow the reasons for withdrawal of the appeal to be disclosed, but to allow publication of the SCCRC's reasons for concluding that there might have been a miscarriage of justice and therefore allowing that appeal to be brought.]
Under the current law the commission is prohibited from disclosing information it holds relating to cases other than in very limited circumstances.
The bill requires the commission, in determining whether it is appropriate to publish information, to consult those affected by it.
It also maintains “appropriate provision” for international obligations to information provided by foreign authorities so that where information is obtained under international assistance arrangements from a foreign country, the consent of that country is required before the commission can publish the information.