Alex Salmond was last night accused of wrecking Scotland’s relationship with the America as it emerged that our country’s reputation has plummeted across the Atlantic.
Critics blamed the SNP’s decision to free Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds in August 2009 for a damaging fall in perception among Americans.
An international poll found that, while Scotland ranks 15th out of 50 of the world’s most highly regarded countries, it has slipped five places from eight to 13 in the United States.
A Scottish Government analysis of the most recent Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index yesterday admitted US perception “deteriorated significantly” over the last two years. The report offered no insight into the decline other than saying US respondents “were generally more critical than in 2010”.
But opposition politicians said it showed that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to allow Megrahi to return home to Libya caused lasting damage with the US.
Megrahi was freed from his life sentence for the 1988 bombing which killed 270 people after doctors claimed terminal prostate cancer left him with just three months to live. But he survived until May this year and the Scottish
Government’s decision enraged families of the 189 US victims of the outrage.
Susan Cohen, 74, from New Jersey, who lost her only daughter, 20-year-old Theodora, said last night: “There is only one reason why Scotland’s reputation in the US has fallen – Megrahi. I don’t think there is any question at all.” (...)
Scottish Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Clearly, Alex Salmond’s numerous US charm offensives have not paid off. Releasing a mass murderer such as Megrahi, claiming he only had months to live in the process, was clearly misguided.
“We still await a full explanation surrounding those circumstances, but the rest of the world has made up its mind.”
Mr MacAskill has repeatedly defended the decision to release Megrahi and recently told SNP conference delegates: “Friends, I am no US poster boy. And I am certainly no US lap dog.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman last night said: “Scotland is world-renowned for its warm welcome and its people. This report puts Scotland in the top 15 of all nations surveyed, demonstrating that our unique identity continues to be well recognised and perceived around the world.
“Scotland’s reputation ranks alongside and often ahead of other small Western nations such as Denmark, Finland, Ireland and New Zealand – despite not currently having the same constitutional status as these other countries.”
[A report in The Scotsman contains the following:]
Scotland’s reputation in the US has suffered a “significant deterioration” in recent years, prompting concerns the release of the Lockerbie bomber is continuing to damage the country’s reputation across the Atlantic. (...)
Opposition leaders now fear that a “collapse in confidence” in the crucial US market could damage Scotland’s economic recovery as its reputation for innovation, science and creativity struggles to make an impact internationally, according to a keynote report on nation “brands” published yesterday.
But the uncertainty over independence has not undermined the image of Scotland, which continues to have a “strong image” abroad generally and ranks 15th among 50 other leading nations that were examined as part of the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation brands index.
The report examines six key measures of reputation, comprising exports, governance, culture, people and tourism as well as immigration and investment. (...)
Professor Murray Pittock, head of Glasgow University’s College of Arts, said: “I would tend to see this positively and also see positively the fact that Scotland is recognised as a national brand worldwide, whereas other places which see themselves as having constitutional issues like Catalonia and Quebec probably aren’t.”