[A number of media organisations in their reflections on Alex Salmond’s tenure of office as First Minister on his last full day, refer to the release on compassionate grounds of Abdelbaset Megrahi. Here is an example from today’s edition of The Daily Telegraph:]
The Scottish Government’s decision to release the man convicted of Britain’s worst mass murder prompted revulsion and criticism from around the world, especially when he was given a hero’s welcome in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, complete with a crowd waving Scottish flags.
Although the decision was ostensibly made by Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Minister, Salmond’s involvement was shown later by a series of letters in which he lobbied figures such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Donald Trump to publicly support it.
The bomber was released on compassionate grounds as he supposedly had less than three months to live but ended up living nearly three years, prompting further fury from some of the families of his victims.
[If the release decision was overwhelmingly unpopular overseas (by which is meant the United States) the same cannot be said of domestic public opinion. What follows is from an item posted on this blog on 4 September 2009:]
Almost half of all Scots now support Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's controversial decision to release the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in a dramatic shift in public opinion.
The YouGov poll of 1556 people found 45% thought Mr MacAskill made the right call to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi last month on compassionate grounds. The same percentage said he was wrong.
[And the following poll results from Scottish local newspapers is taken from an item posted on this blog on 31 August 2009:]
Those For first number, those Against second number
Dumfries & Galloway Standard 88.4% 11.6%
Annandale Observer 73% 27% (Lockerbie paper)
Perthshire Advertiser 90.6% 8.4%
Ross-shire Journal 87% 13%
Scotsman 58% 42%
Lennox Herald 80.5% 19.5%
Oban Times 89% 11%
Kilmarnock Standard 72.5% 28.5%
East Kilbride News 71% 29%
West Lothian Courier 75.2% 24.8%
Hamilton Advertiser 60.3% 39.7%
Airdrie Advertiser 56.1% 43.9%
Wishaw Press 83% 17%
Paisley Daily Express 62.23% 37.7%