Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The farrago of al-Megrahi's farcical conviction

[Yesterday I reproduced on this blog an article by Ian Bell that was published four years ago in The Herald. What follows is the text of a piece that he published the following day on his own blog (regrettably no longer available online, as far as I can see):]

Lockerbie: some shrapnel

Something stuck in my mind. It came to me just after the wave of fatigue you get from the sort of approbation you neither need nor seek. Specifically, it was this: a brief comment in the Telegraph, that blunderbuss among reactionary snipers, on August 21, 2009.

On Wednesday night, I was still thinking about Lockerbie. We had just driven back and forth in a day and night to the Humber’s edge so that my wife could sit with her dying mother. But I’m a hack. In the car, coming back across the border, I thought: Fucking Brian Wilson. Must look it up.

I’m so old, I keep cuttings. Not just any old cuttings; only the important mounds. August 21, 2009.

Wilson is a hack, too, of long-standing, who surely won’t mind if I remind the world that he was locally-minded, once, and may even have made a youthful political gesture of nationalism (with a tiny n), and later gained some expertise as a minister with an energy brief, before he grew energetic, post-ministerially, for Energy. That stuff is none of Scotland’s concern, of course.

Anyhow, in the cutting Wilson’s sub stunted a cunning paraphrase: “The SNP’s Libya stunt has shamed my nation”. With a determination born of free West Highland localism, the writer began: “The Scottish Nationalists have never been too fussy about the international company they keep”.

He then excoriated Alex Salmond for opposing the bombing of Belgrade. This sally was in tribute to the late Robin “Ethical” – unless you happened to have met him – Cook. Apparently, Cookie was Wilson’s companion on the British parliamentary – sorry, I’m straining this joke – road to socialism.

Let the quote do some work instead. Wilson wrote – on August 21, 2009, mind you: “Rarely can so many decent Scottish stomachs have turned than at the sight of the Saltire being flourished in Tripoli as a centre-piece of the repulsive celebrations to welcome home the mass murderer Megrahi, courtesy of the SNP”.

Wilson judged the entire affair to have been a matter of self-aggrandisement. He wrote that, “The vast global audience for the rantings of Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Minister, could have been forgiven for assuming him to be the spokesman for a sovereign state, albeit a tinpot one with curious moral values”.

Bear that phrase in mind: “curious moral values”. History being slow but oddly quick on its feet sometimes, how are those turning stomachs now?

The net’s Nationalists will give you a quick answer. Labour’s multifarious du­plicities stand exposed. MacAskill has been vindicated. I’d get the usual reflex­ive praise just for saying so, over and over.

The rantings of Brian Wilson were of a piece with each of Labour’s stitched-to-order lies levelled against the Justice Secretary. For some people, that’s better than enough. They’d like me to say nothing else from now until – My, is that the time? – May.

But here’s a problem: Kenny MacAskill is still Justice Secretary; al-Megrahi is still “a convicted mass-murderer”; and a government of Nationalists still refuses to attempt to make public the facts that each one of them, MacAskill in the van, under­stands.* To paraphrase that Telegraph sub-editor, someone is shaming my nation.

Labour have had their turn. Wilson’s siblings have been exposed. But they are not in government, currently, in Scotland, where the plane fell from the sky. That would be another party.

Nationalism’s bots course through the local web demanding that the MSM tell the truth. Good luck with that. But here’s weird: MacAskill has part of the truth about Lockerbie at his fingertips. He and Alex Salmond, his First Minister, could find out a great deal more with a full public – not parliamentary, please – inquiry into the mas­sacre. The farrago of al-Megrahi's farcical conviction is a stain on Scotland’s honour: what greater cause for truth could there be?

What’s the worst that could happen? That Salmond and MacAskill could join the likes of Wilson in defending the conviction, yet again? Surely not. Surely it would take a mainstream media plot to make that smear true?

But it is true. Someone else is shaming my nation.

* I should have said that, in this, I exempt Christine Grahame MSP from criticism. Apologies.

[RB: The comment that I appended at the time to this post was “Wow!”  I now repeat it -- Wow!]


  1. I'm a big fan of Ian Bell, but I don't remember reading this at all.

    It's another very good article. There are so many outrageous aspects of this affair one hardly knows what to be outraged about from one day to the next. The politicking over Megrahi's release, the lies being told to stick one on the SNP, the Scottish government itself behaving badly, it never ends.

    Given the amount of outrage caused by these flags in Tripoli, has anyone ever asked where they got them? I mean, there was scarcely time to order these over the internet. It's hardly likely there were several large saltires just lying around in people's attics in Tripoli. Did someone fly to Edinburgh and visit one of the tourist trap shops before flying back?

    Rumour has it they were supplied by the British embassy, to provide a context to allow Scotland's flag to be vilified in the international media.

  2. By the way, Brian Wilson. He was a member of the SNP, briefly, in his extreme youth. More than 20 years ago I remember Alex Salmond remarking that during that time he wrote a nationalistic pamphlet which was so extreme that, "If he were still a member, it would be my painful duty to expel him."

    I've heard it said that copies of that pamphlet still exist, though I've never read it.