[This is the headline over a report published in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]
The Scottish Government has been forced to defend a trip Alex Salmond will make to the Middle East this week to promote Scottish business, in the face of continuing criticism over the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.
The Scottish Government insists the trade trip is just that – a chance for high-end Scottish firms to make an impact in a wealthy region of the world.
A leading Scots law firm is involved, as is the opening of a Scottish University faculty in the region.
But critics of the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi from prison last year and allow his return to Libya on compassionate grounds raised questions about the “extent Mr Salmond is willing to go to to cajole Arab financial support”.
John Lamont, Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, said: “The last time Alex Salmond travelled to the Arab states to seek investment for Scotland he discussed the release of Mr Megrahi.
“As he has a history of going off topic it is important that thorough notes and minutes of meetings held on the trip are taken and subsequently published.
A Scottish Government aide responded: “This is astonishing hypocrisy from the Tories. The only people who suggested anything improper to the Scottish Government was the Tory peer Lord Trefgarne, who wanted commercial interests to play a part in a decision in favour of Mr Megrahi’s release, and the Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski who wrote to the Justice Secretary saying Megrahi should be used as a foreign policy ‘bargaining chip’.”
The First Minister said: “Scottish companies are operating in a highly competitive global economy, and they are raising their international aspirations to enable them to become more successful.
“The Middle East offers huge potential and Scottish companies can take advantage of the outstanding opportunities that are available.”
Mr Salmond will open the offices of Scottish international law firm McGrigors in Qatar on Sunday (...) and on Thursday, he will open Heriot-Watt’s new campus outside the city.
[A similar report in The Scotsman can be read here.]