[This is the (rather misleading) headline over a report in today’s edition of The National. It reads as follows:]
Ministers have been urged to reconsider its position on the safety of the conviction of alleged Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi following the publication of a book by former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.
SNP MSP Christine Grahame, former convener of Holyrood’s Justice Committee, said there is “definitely” reason to doubt safety.
Following the publication of his book, MacAskill said the conviction was “probably unsafe”.
At First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Grahame, a signatory to the Justice for Megrahi campaign, referred to key evidence relating to the clothing found in the suitcase used to carry the bomb.
She said: “Given that there is an issue that the former justice secretary and the former first minister now both state that Megrahi was not the purchaser of the clothes in Malta and having regard to the findings of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) that if Megrahi was not the purchaser there was insufficient evidence to convict him, can I ask the government to reconsider its position, and I quote, that they say there is no reason to doubt the safety of this conviction, because surely there is definitely now?”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It is not for me, for any First Minister or for any member of the government to decide that a conviction is unsafe.
“That is a matter for the courts of the land. That is the case in this case and it is the case in any other criminal matter.”
She added: “Ministers have repeatedly made clear that they would be comfortable if that was to happen but that is the process that must be undertaken if this case is to be looked at by the appeal court.”
The issue was raised by new Tory MSP Douglas Ross, who called on Sturgeon to ask the new Lord Advocate to investigate MacAskill over the book.
Dismissing his question as “ludicrous”, Sturgeon responded: “In fairness to the member, I know he hasn’t been in Parliament for very long but you know, the First Minister does not direct the Lord Advocate when it comes to investigations. That is a pretty fundamental element of our constitution.”
The First Minister said a draft copy of the book was provided to the Scottish Government’s permanent secretary in February but she had not had the opportunity to read it herself.
She added: “In terms of the Lockerbie conviction, the conviction stands, I say again as the Crown Office have said in the past that there is confidence in the safety of that conviction and of course for that conviction to be overturned there would require to be an appeal taken and an appeal being successful.”