[This is the headline over a report (behind the paywall) in today’s edition of The Times. It is, of course, a scandalously inaccurate headline. No-one, not even the Labour Party (whose hands are far from clean: remember Tony Blair’s deal in the desert?) is accusing the First Minister of asking Donald Trump or any other international figure to help free Abdelbaset Megrahi. The accusation is that he asked them to support his compassionate release after it had taken place. The article reads in part:]
An unlikely alliance of an American billionaire and a Labour politician last night ratcheted up the pressure on Alex Salmond to explain his behaviour over what Donald Trump called his “absolutely disgusting” decision to release the Lockerbie bomber.
It has emerged that Mr Salmond’s special adviser prepared a letter supporting the Scottish government’s decision to free Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi and asked Mr Trump to sign. He refused, but other figures, including Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, agreed to endorse the release, in 2009.
“The First Minister was totally outsmarted by the Libyans, who greeted Megrahi, waving, in a mocking fashion, the great Scottish flag,” Mr Trump said.
“As everyone is now aware, Salmond put a great deal of pressure on me and my organisation to sign a letter dictated by him, on Scottish government letterhead, to fully endorse his absolutely disgusting decision.”
While Mr Salmond has refused to comment on the letter drafted for Mr Trump, he suggested on Wednesday that it was no “big deal” that his government had asked international figures to support an important decision.
“Any government is perfectly entitled to seek support for decisions they take,” Mr Salmond said. “Nelson Mandela’s name will appear on the list, but so what? That’s what governments do: if you make decisions, you seek support for those decisions. You are absolutely entitled to do that. There is nothing surprising or untoward about it.”
The Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has tabled a series of questions seeking to identify a full list of those approached to support the Scottish government’s decision. He said: “This whole episode leaves me with a deep sense of unease about how the First Minister operates.”
Mr Trump insists that it was his refusal to endorse the release of al-Megrahi that soured the First Minister’s attitude to the tycoon’s £750 million golf resort planned for Menie, near Aberdeen.