Sunday, 13 November 2011

SNP ministers 'wanted bomber out of the way'

[This is the headline over a report in the Scottish edition of today's Sunday Express.  It reads in part:]

Scottish Ministers last night angrily denied extraordinary claims from a sacked SNP adviser that the Lockerbie bomber had been released for “political” reasons – and not on grounds of ill health.

Mark Hirst claims First Minister Alex Salmond and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had already decided to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi before the application for a prisoner transfer from Libya was even received.

Mr Hirst, who was sacked as Christine Grahame’s senior political adviser in September, is embroiled in an increasingly bitter row with his former employer. (...)

Writing online yesterday [RB: in a comment on this blog], Mr Hirst said: “MacAskill made the decision... BEFORE his defence team or Libyan officials had made any application to have him returned.

“He didn’t do this because he felt any real sense of compassion, or for any commercial reasons as the Americans have stated, but because MacAskill believed it was politically expedient. Fair to say neither he or anyone expected the media furore that followed.

“For Scottish Ministers the bottom line was this; they were determined to uphold, as they saw it, the integrity of the Scottish legal system... whether or not it deserved it.

“Ensuring Megrahi was out the way and sent back to Libya, his appeal dropped, was critical to achieving that objective.”

Mr Hirst also claimed that Ms Grahame – who was a vocal supporter of Megrahi and believed he had suffered a miscarriage of justice – had now “backed off” from the campaign.

So far, she has not used her position as Convener of the Justice Committee to push for a Scottish Government inquiry into the 1988 bombing.

Mr Hirst wrote: “Grahame said she could not, for political reasons, push Scottish Ministers fully on this.

‘There is only so far I can go,’ she told me and added that we should continue to try to divert and focus calls for an inquiry on the UK Government instead, knowing fine well they will never hold one.”

Megrahi, 59, is the only man ever convicted of the bombing in 1988. After being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, he was freed on compassionate grounds just days after dropping an appeal against his conviction – which many believe to have been flawed.

Colonel Gaddafi’s regime had also applied for a prisoner transfer, under a deal agreed with Tony Blair’s government as part of talks that also saw BP win lucrative oil deals.

Mr MacAskill’s spokesman said last night: “This is complete and absolute nonsense, from an individual in no position to know anything about these matters. There were two applications for release – one on compassionate grounds, and another for prisoner transfer. The Justice Secretary rejected the prisoner transfer application.

“In every regard, the Scottish Government acted without any consideration of the economic, political and diplomatic factors that the then UK Labour Government based its hypocritical position in favour of release on.”


  1. Dearie me! Where to start? Does this man actually think some of us hadn't already figured that the SNP thought it politically sensible to get Megrahi and his appeal out of the way and that the whole compassion and mercy business was a pile of dung?

    But how touching that Mr Hirst's conscience bothers him so much that he thinks it is time to tell all now. Not!

    As for the claims that Christine Grahame is backing off, sorry, she bounced that theory into touch last Tuesday at the JC hearing.

  2. So if she's not backing off, why won't she publicly back a Scottish Government led inquiry? Has anyone asked her that specific question? For me her decision to step back from proactively pursuing this campaign is a side issue to the bigger outstanding questions. In fact the article I wrote for the Scottish Left Review in 2009 makes this exact same point about political expediency on the part of Scottish Ministers, but unlike the comments I made on this Blog yesterday, that article wasn't picked up by the Sunday Express!

  3. She has Mr Hirst. Did you not listen to her on Tuesday? The petition issue is being continued and it was Christine who pointed out the number of "open" matters the JC will be monitoring before deciding where to go next. She stated quite clearly that Lockerbie was "unfinished business" and that the verdict was not safe. We are ALL watching those open issues. She is also Chair of that JC and if she personally starts compaigning and calling for anything they will make her stand down and say she can't be objective! Get it? With your experience you should know how these things work. Labour were calling for her to stand down over your allegations just the other day. As far as I'm concerned she played a blinder on Tuesday, declared her own interest but she then stated the facts in a proper manner.

    And whatever you were doing in 2009at one point you clearly backed what was going on with the SNP over Megrahi. You're only saying these things now because they sacked you and your motives speak for themselves. I'm sorry but you can't expect to be taken seriously given your position.

  4. My advice to you Mr Hirst is to sort out your grievances with Christine via the appropriate channels and stop venting your anger on forums like this. This matter is bigger than your personal issues with Christine Grahame and the SNP.

  5. Dear Jo G,

    to your last posting:

    We all have an angle from where we view matters, here and now, and a reason for our energy. So does Mr. Hirst.

    Raising questions to our elected representatives in public and debating answers, or lack of them, is at the heart of our democracy (which I have been told is such a very good thing).

    So I welcome Mr. Hirst's postings.

    Nothing is more dangerous for the truth than silence.

  6. I think you have some anger management problems Jo. I was unfairly sacked because I was gathering evidence of CGs duplicitious behaviour. That evidence includes the points I am making now.
    Prior to being suspended I had already taken steps to notify the relevant authorities and senior SNP figures of this... a small if important point.
    Please ask her the question. The petition, which incidentally I personally recommended be instigated, being continued is neither here nor there.
    The question CG needs to be asked is will she call on the Scottish Government to begin an inquiry.
    Sorry if you do not like me making my views known. You see I do that really moronic thing called thinking and don't simply roll over and believe everything one person or the other says.

  7. SM, Mr Hirst is currently engaged in a very personal war between his former employer Christine Grahame, and it would appear, the SNP as a party. His angle is to generate publicity for his own case and no more. That's why he has been making various damaging claims about both Ms Grahame and her Party in our newspapers lately and that is all I'm pointing out. He is using the Megrahi issue for his own purposes. I just think that needs to be be made plain.

  8. Mr Hirst, the reasons why you were sacked are none of my business and should be sorted out via a Tribunal or whatever other legal path you opt for. In due course we will all then hear both sides of the argument no doubt and an impartial judgement will be made on the matter.

    There is no anger here I assure you: all I have done is make clear that you have ulterior motives for doing what you are doing currently.

    You are making untrue claims about Ms Grahame "backing off" this issue and one only has to look at all she said last Tuesday to see that you are not being honest there. She is absolutely right to say that she, as one member of that Party, can only do so much when so many of her colleagues have their heads in the sand over it including those who control the Party and all it does.

    Your "personal recommendation" on the petition was immaterial. It attracted a record number of signatures. Are you saying had you not given it the nod it would have fallen at the first hurdle? Do you really think the SNP would have dared try to bury the petition initially? Are you an MSP yourself, do you even make decisions on these things? I'm sorry Mr Hirst, I really don't think so.

    I have no problem with anyone making their views known. I have made it clear in my posts concerning you that I object strongly to you using public forums like this to continue your personal war with the MSP you used to work for by making damaging claims about her. That is unbelievably unprofessional.

  9. Jo, I am not "using" the Megrahi case for my own use.
    That is completely untrue and I hope you will retract it.
    I have consistantly supported the JFM campaign and continue to do so. My unfair dismissal has nothing at all to do with the Lockerbie case and will be dealt with at ET on its merits and the actual evidential material that runs to several hundred pages.
    You say I am making "untrue claims" that CG is backing off. If you email me a suitable address I will send you the video of her confirming her intent to back off. Your "untrue claims" you allege I make are... untrue and bordering (perhaps crossing the line) on defamatory.
    As Noam Chomsky said "Never judge politicans on their rhetoric, but on their actions."
    In relation to the Petition, no one is more delighted than me that the petition got the support it did (although it wasn't a record, would have been good if it was).
    I have not been a member of the SNP for many years. I did not therefore, and as you stated, support the SNP position in 2009 which was and remains "Megrahi is guilty and remains a convicted man".
    In addition the official SNP position is that the Scottish Government is not the appropriate body to instigate an independent inquiry into the case.
    I know (and I doubt even the SNP will deny this) that Salmond is personally convinced that Libya was behind the bombing, even if it is one day established Megrahi wasn't responsible (although Salmond does believe he was involved in some, vague way - his position, not mine).
    The SNP, and you, imply I was in no position to know these things. I did not have full spectrum vision on the circumstances that transpired in 2009 and beyond... but no one person did. I was privy however to the discussions between senior advisers to the FM, extensive discussions with the JFM members and, as you know, met with Megrahi twice and others close to him.
    It was also my role to brief, in considerable detail, Grahame on the case and work with the principal campaigners.
    Her working "knowledge" of the case was almost entirely derived from the briefings I provided her.
    I don't really know who you are as you are hiding behind an alias, or what your own "personal" agenda is.
    My conviction in Megrahi's innocence remains intact however and I am absolutely convinced that it is well within the powers of the Scottish Government to instigate the inquiry that is needed.
    As stated, my central allegations and evidential material still under consideration by the authorities have nothing to do with the Lockerbie case.
    I note your objection to my views, and your personal opinion on my professionalism whoever you really are.
    I stand by everything that has been said publicly and can provide actual hard evidence in support of that.
    As stated though the material I will be presenting for Ms Grahame's malpractice and unfair dismissal to Tribunal does not include her strategic political decision to back away from pressing as hard as she could, or should, on an inquiry into the PA103 bombing.
    More than happy to provide that to you for completeness though.

  10. Mark, I think if I am guilty of defamatory comments Robert Black QC will be the very first person to warn me about putting his blog in jeopardy and remove the offending comments. As it stands I do not believe I have committed such an offence. I have simply pointed out that your personal issues with Christine will be settled before an ET and, in my view, this is not the place to trash her.

    You have said, untruly in my view, that Christine is backing off. I have pointed to evidence from her recent appearance as Chair of the JC which proves otherwise. She is still declaring the original verdict unsound and she is still determined that the Petition goes forward and is not buried. She also pointed out the altering of the SCCRC remit, the fact that Lockerbie is "unfinished business" and the need for the JC to stay on top of the whole issue because the chance for justice to be done in the Appeal Courts was denied not just Megrahi but all of us. And, I will repeat, if she goes too far then the other Parties will have her removed as Chair of the JC for failing to be impartial on this issue.

    Christine Grahame is one person in the SNP Mark, you must realise that surely? What can she possibly achieve on her own? Where are the rest of them and why has she been left to be labelled a "maverick" while the rest of them look the other way and presumably cross their fingers every time MacAskill speaks about the "integrity" of the Scottish Justice System? She has no real power in the Scottish Government, you must know that too?

    And I am not "hiding" from anyone. My views on the Megrahi case have been published in several letters I have written to the Herald on this issue. They are on this site. You don't need to know who I am and actually it doesn't matter Mark. I believe in a fair justice system and as far as I know Prof B doesn't require references from me in order to allow me to contribute.

    I am simply a person who is now utterly ashamed of the "justice" system in Scotland particularly because of the Megrahi case. The further shame brought by the fact that the SNP went further than any of their Unionist counterparts to deny Megrahi, and Scotland, justice over Lockerbie is something I don't think I will ever get over. If Unionist hands were dirty the SNP's are now toxic. None of that was Christine Grahame's doing.


  12. Credit where credit's due Mrs Greenhorn... re the link to the Firm article; Thank you. I am very familiar with this piece, not least because I personally drafted every single word of CG's "quote".
    No more questions your honour!

  13. Dear Mr. Hirst,
    several days ago I looked at your blog

    A thought struck my mind. You are an outspoken supporter of justice in the Lockerbie case. Among may other things you wrote this article
    and have in any context I have seen clearly shown your colors.

    Now, you have kindly informed us on your views on Ms. CGs current determination and integrity in this matter.
    But isn't it correct that she, even if she has the shortcomings you claim, is the leading, if not the only, MSP for people hoping for J-F-M?
    Are you, in this matter, throwing the baby out with the bath water?

    Now, back to this thought of mine: Is there a hope that some of the enormous energy you have towards Ms. CG could be diverted towards further writing and action for a more worthy cause?

    What would you rather be regarded as? The man who dropped a worthy cause to get back at somebody who fired him (however unjust)?
    Or a man who had an important role in the history of Scottish justice?

  14. Apologies, some of my replies today and yesterday appear to have been blocked on this comment chain and I am therefore unable to offer you a response via this Blog. Happy to respond however if you care to email me, either using a real or assumed name. Regards. M

  15. Dear Mr. Hirst,
    you wrote:
    "some of my replies today and yesterday appear to have been blocked on this comment chain"

    From time to time RB has deleted comments for violation of board policy, but he always writes a note of why.
    Also, this last message of your went through.
    Be assured that you will have been facing some technical error, and not some sinister "blocking".

    I have no problems sending you my email address - and it would be in my real name, Soren 'Frank' Munch, if I did so - but of course it would be better if things could just be kept inside this public forum, where they really belong.
    So, I hope you will be try again to comment on my last questions to you.

    Thanks in advance!

  16. I have not blocked or removed any comments on this thread. What seems to have happened is that some of Mr (or should that be Fr?) Hirst's comments have exceeded the Blogger software's limit for the length of comments. There is such a limit, but I cannot find out what exactly it is. If you have a long comment, however, it is better to post it in two or three segments.

  17. Pt 1
    I endeavoured to explain that my case against CG has nothing to do with the PA103 case and does not feature in either my forthcoming Tribunal, or the evidence base currently with the PF.
    The only linkage made between my efforts to throw the "bath water out" and this case were made in a newspaper article that then appeared on this blog, which I in course commented on, which in turn was picked up by another newspaper.
    On the question of relying on politicians; well as Noam Chomsky said fairly recently, never judge a politician by his or her rhetoric, but instead on their actions.
    As Mrs Greenhorn correctly pointed out in a comment entry she made on this Blog back in May, there was a great deal of surprise when CG announced she was standing for the Presiding Officer job after the election. Her actions, had she won it, would have ensured she would be silenced on this and many other campaigns she has been involved with, many close to my own heart.
    I can assure you, and indeed have evidence to support this, that the question of stepping back from big campaigns of this nature was not a concern for her during the run up to May’s elections. She made it explicitly clear that regardless of her efforts to become PO, if she won the constituency seat (which on the face of it she did) she would be backing off from all her previous campaigns.
    At the moment, as you correctly point out, I am in serious dispute with CG. As has already been reported in the media I have made a wide range of allegations and provided supporting evidence of those allegations to the relevant authorities. None of that material relates to the PA103 case.
    I am not remotely interested in seeking an important role; I think others close the JFM campaign know precisely the work I did and in fact continued to do after I stopped working for Grahame....

  18. pt 2
    I think it is relevant, in order to meet expectations if nothing else, to know the truth about how certain politicians may be operating and to have some inclination of how committed they fully are. My own personal view based on what I witnessed in the 12 months before I was suspended, is that she is not hugely committed, but that is my view. In fact I was specifically instructed not to do any work on the JFM case from January onwards and interview requests she had, that came to me as her Press Officer, were turned down by her. I appreciate that is an unpalatable fact, but a fact nonetheless.
    Of course, as someone who does not know me, my comments will be tainted by the dispute I have on-going with her, but I would suggest some caution is required.
    Efforts were made on a number of fronts to mediate a resolution months ago and before we reached this position. CG was entirely dismissive of these efforts and told the Chief Whip to “bring it on”.
    I am determined to continue to focus some energy into this, not least because myself and my trade union and indeed many colleagues who have contacted me believe strongly I have been treated very unfairly in employment terms by Ms Grahame.
    Once justice is sought on that front, I will be more than happy to divert my surplus energies into the various campaigns and efforts I have been involved with over the years.
    I trust that explains a little of my motivation and view on matters.
    No one is sorrier than I to know what I know about Grahame’s own motivation in this.
    (the reference, Prof Black, to "Father" is a nod to my time as Father of the Chapel for the SNP branch of the NUJ at Holyrood)

  19. Dr. Mr. Hirst,
    thank you for your reply.

    The need to please voters, personally and on behalf of the party, is above everything else for a politician.
    If you can not make this your first priority, well, accept to be bypassed by others better at it. Politics is hard work, riddled with compromises, not the least personal ones. "The art of the possible" as Bismarck once said.

    I have earlier been very close to party-political work, and had a gf who became PM, all of it something that removed any illusion. Both regarding the work, the people involved, and those who got very far.
    The MSPs - and many others - response to the Lockerbie case is living proof. Essentially a bunch of cowards, ruled by expedience, but who'd flatly claim anything else if asked. That is no complete description, of course.

    - - -

    Your attack on your earlier workmate is strong and vitriolic. Your willingness to report from what I assume must be regarded as confidential settings is at least 'unusual', I think.

    Doesn't the bible say something about judging? :-) I am no judge in this matter, even less so a qualified one. Both "professional courtesy, even if it goes wrong" or "the need to fully expose the truth behind the polished facade" are valid arguments and the world needs both, at times.

    - - -

    We all have our priorities. Mine are for the truth in the Lockerbie case being known, and for this reason I hope that CG, as long as she is valuable for this case, will be able to stay where she is. Any politician supporting Megrahi has a difficult task.

    I happen to believe that your postings, both here and elsewhere, are sincere, i.e. not made against any better knowledge. One-eyed, sure, thereby maybe even unfair and inappropriate, but sincere.

    Being sincere is just not a luxury afforded by all in this matter. If you can't lie, you are flatly incompatible with certain careers.

    It's a reminder that the nature of the politicians work is so, that they need our help and proximity to stay on the right course. Like the revenue department to the business man.

    Thank you for what you have done for J-F-M so far, best wishes for all that you can give, and for adjusting your priorities with respect to the bigger picture.