Thursday, 8 September 2011

Releasing SCCRC Megrahi report "a real wild card"

[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.

[Mr Macwhirter need have no worries on this score. If the legislation is as limited as we have been led to believe, and if the SCCRC is given discretion to decide what should be released, there is no realistic prospect of anything really embarrassing emerging.  Here is The Herald's own analysis of the proposed legislation:]

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information on why Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s appeal against his conviction for the Lockerbie bombing was withdrawn, though it will, of course, apply to all cases.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.


  1. Although it is not the issue, it would be best for MacAskill, The SNP and Scotland if the world came to accept that Megrahi was falsely convicted and that the Scottish government was a major player in bringing that acceptance about. Releasing the SCCRC report, in a form which remains close to the original and is not redacted beyond recognition, is the best possible first step in that process.

  2. I was once a huge fan of MacWhirter. I confess that in recent weeks I have lost every ounce of respect for him. He has produced articles that are, frankly, appalling on the subject of Lockerbie and Megrahi. He has claimed Megrahi had "a fair trial". I'm sorry, what is wrong with these people who call themselves journalists? Do they not research and learn and absorb facts? If not, why not???? I have, several times now, challenged him on his own blog about such articles yet nothing changes. If journalists like MacWhirter have stopped paying attention to the facts, God help us. Then again, I have said all along that the failure of the UK media to challenge all levels of government on the SCCRC findings, and that pesky appeal, failed not just Megrahi but justice in general. I'm afraid the UK media, and especially the Scottish media, are as corrupt as the politicians.

  3. Grendal, the SNP had the chance to go for it bigtime and bottled it. They came to power just a month before the SCCRC announced its findings. Its "Justice" Minister, ultimately, was the one who signed on the dotted line and declared the official findings would not be published. Thus, SNP hands, like their Unionist counterparts before them, are just as contaminated over Lockerbie. And don't forget how many times now that Salmond and MacAskill have told us, emphatically, that they do not doubt the original verdict was sound.

  4. "I'm sorry, what is wrong with these people who call themselves journalists? Do they not research and learn and absorb facts?"

    The editor's job is to satisfy readers, advertisers, friends of importance and shareholders.
    The journalist's job is to satisfy the editor.

    The research they want to do and the facts they want to absorb better be relevant for that mechanism, or they are out of work.

    The strange thing is, that quite many people still believe that the daily mainstream news somehow is enough to base an opinion on.