Tuesday, 15 May 2012

So why did Westminster shirk its responsibility for Megrahi?

This is the headline over a series of letters in today’s edition of The Herald responding to yesterday’s report Megrahi survival is insult to families, says Cameron.  They read as follows:]

Yet again David Cameron attacks the Scottish administration over the release on compassionate grounds of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

The sister, brother-in-law and niece of a good friend of mine during my teaching days at Our Lady's High School, Motherwell, died on the night of December 21, 1988, when debris from the explosion aboard Clipper Maid of the Seas, Pan Am Flight 103, landed on their home in Lockerbie.
The Prime Minister states quite unequivocally: "One thousand days on, this is yet another reminder that Alex Salmond's Government's decision to free the biggest mass murderer in British history was wrong and an insult to the 270 people who were murdered." Naturally, Labour's Justice Spokesman at Holyrood, Lewis Macdonald, joins in: "Every anniversary and milestone reached by the man responsible for Scotland's worst-ever act of terrorism must be a grim reminder for the families of the Lockerbie victims." And the Tory Holyrood whip, John Lamont, speaks of "an embarrassing milestone" and a decision that "looks more and more outrageous".
Where were they and why were they functionally silent when the decision to free Megrahi was being made? I ask the same of Her Majesty's Government of the day.
I say "functionally silent" because a lot of these people had a lot to say in all the wrong places.
Under the devolution disposition, in relation to legislation all matters concerning national security, foreign policy and foreign relations are reserved to Westminster. Similarly, in relation to executive action all matters concerning national security, foreign policy and foreign relations are reserved to Whitehall. Megrahi's arrest, detention, trial, imprisonment and then, finally, the decision to set him free on licence intimately involved all elements of that oft-times-unholy trinity.
I am neither a politician nor a lawyer, but it would seem to me that prima facie the Westminster Government could and should have been the only organ of state to make any decisions in relation to Megrahi's possible release. And if the Scottish administration argued otherwise why did no-one from the Westminster Government, or the Opposition benches, seek to determine what the view of the courts, north and/or south of the Border, would be to an application to stay the Scottish administration's hand for want of jurisdiction by virtue of these higher political and constitutional considerations?
Hugh McLoughlin
[RB: Any such application would have failed.  Responsibility under the devolution settlement for compassionate release (or prisoner transfer) of prisoners in Scottish prisons rests in law squarely and clearly with the Scottish Government.  In any event, as we all know, the then Labour Government at Westminster was very keen indeed that Megrahi should be repatriated.  That, after all, was the principal aim of Tony Blair's deal in the desert.]
How convenient for our Prime Minister that Megrahi has survived 1000 days and he can rail at this and the First Minister, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and all the medical advisers who recommended release on compassionate grounds. Neither he nor his advisers seem to have taken into account the very real doubts over the safety of the conviction with bribed witnesses and withheld crucial information. Megrahi is not by any means the first person to survive a terminal condition for several years and he will not be the last.
However, by bringing this topic up in such a public way it gives him the opportunity to deflect attention from what is being called the "omnishambles" of his Government. Daily we are reminded just what an incompetent bunch he and his ministers are: witness the granny tax, pasty tax, the NHS reforms, P45s for troops on duty, sale of the Harrier jump-jet fleet at a knock-down price to America, destroying Nimrod surveillance aircraft, aircraft carriers that will have no planes until 2020 or thereby and now the jump-jet reversal of choice. If it had been written as a theatrical farce the audience would be in stitches.                           
Nigel Dewar Gibb
I was always a fan of Dr Finlay's Casebook but I didn't expect a Dr Cameron to make a return to medicine.
David Cameron obviously now sees himself as a medical expert (I guess as much a medical expert as he is a financial and political one) in that he seems to believe that he would have been able to predict the lifespan of Megrahi better than a few Scottish medical experts can.
Whatever the truth of the Lockerbie bombing it seems crass, to say the least, to use it to score rather weak political points. If this is the best case he can find to question the judgments of the Scottish Government then it seems we must be doing quite a good job of running our own country after all.
Dave Bertin

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