Thursday, 3 October 2013

Jim Swire: SNP's failure to order Lockerbie bombing inquiry will harm its indyref chances

[This is the headline over a report published this morning on the website of The Herald.  It reads as follows:]

The father of a young woman killed in the Lockerbie bombing warns the SNP's hopes for the referendum will be adversely affected by Scotland's failure to address major concerns about the prosecution and the trial.

Dr Jim Swire has written the foreword to a new book to be launched today called Scotland's Shame. The book's author John Ashton, biographer of the Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, brands the case the greatest scandal of Scotland's post-devolution era.

Dr Swire, who was born and raised in Skye, argues that the case could have a bearing on next year's independence vote. He writes: "Scottish justice survived the Act of Union with England with its independence intact: perhaps since then it has been a talisman of Scotland's reputation as an independent nation capable of running its own affairs. If that is so, Scotland - my country - would do well to address the apparent problem of the impenetrable arrogance of her prosecuting authorities that seem to have blighted her justice system ever since it became clear that the Lockerbie trial had been defective.

"It is best addressed from within Scotland herself and may well be a factor which will block independence until it is resolved, for an independent community with an obscured and mistrusted justice system can never be a healthy community.

"We would wish healing, not harm, for Scotland and all her people, but the arrogant refusal to consider fault has dragged on so long that the cure is not likely to be found within the timescale now scheduled for the independence debate. It is to be hoped that the refusal of the current Scottish Government to intervene with an independent inquiry, despite clearly having the powers required to do so, is not driven by motives of party advantage."

An SNP spokesman said: "We have enormous respect for Dr Swire, and hope he would accept that everything that has been done in Scotland in relation to the Lockerbie atrocity. [RB: Something has clearly been omitted from the statement here.] In stark contrast, the Westminster Government based its stance on Mr al-Megrahi's release on political and economic considerations."

[A press release relating to John Ashton’s book has been issued, embargoed until 11.00 today.  I shall post it on this blog once I have returned from the book launch.]


  1. Speaking as someone up to her eyeballs campaigning for a Yes vote, I seriously doubt that Lockerbie will even feature on the radar of people's reasons for voting one way or the other.

    People's questions are all about finance and currency and EU membership and other practical issues. There is also a big element of identity politics, as in, do I believe Scotland is a country or a region, and why should a country be governed by another country.

    Whether or not the current Scottish government have behaved well as regards Lockerbie just isn't an issue. The Conservative government in 1989-91 behaved badly over Lockerbie. The Labour government in 1999-2001 behaved basdly over Lockerbie, and again in 2007. The Labour/LibDem coalition in Holyrood in 1999-2001 behaved badly over Lockerbie. I'm sensing a bit of a pattern here. The SNP are not alone.

    The referendum next year is a vote on the future of our country. It's not a vote for one political party, and even less so is it a vote to endorse everything that party has done in the past. The idea that anyone would think, well I believe my country should be independent, but hey I'll vote No because I disagree with the position of the current government on one pretty irrelevant issue, it's simply ridiculous.

    The fact is, the entire Lockerbie debacle happened under the union. The union does not appear to be working as regards fixing it. There's no guarantee independence would provide a mechanism for fixing it either, but a big political change and a fresh start might throw up possibilities.

    Some people seem to think that independence is some sort of good conduct prize. That unless Scotland is perfect, it doesn't deserve independence and its people should vote No. If that were true, no country could ever be independent, because perfection is unachievable. We should vote Yes with the intention of taking control of our own affairs and trying to make a better job of it all than has been made in the past. We might even be able to make a better job of sorting out Lockerbie.

  2. Dear Rolfe,

    I cannot fault you on a single political point you raise. Power is the prerequisite to the establishment of countries, not sanctity. The foundation of the UK or of Germany in the latter part of the 19th century being classic examples in Europe.

    Despite JFM's conflict with the current SNP government over Zeist, Salmond would most definitely have my vote on the issue of Scottish independence, if only for the reason that Westminster protesteth far too much and rather too childishly (clearly, I have other reasons too). Alas, and although I am a Scot, I live two miles short of the right side of the border to have a vote.

    Lockerbie/Zeist is an issue which will continue to be confronted until the matter is resolved and no matter how long it takes, but, you are right, it is, unfortunately, a mere blip on the radar of the independence debate.

    In the smug and self satisfied political environment that prevails in the west, it is often the civil service and other institutions in whose hands true power lies, COPFS being a prime example. As such, COPFS wields more real power and influence than the theoretical/imagined power of the elected chief of the Justice Directorate. Tail wagging dog etc, which makes a blatant mockery of our so sacred western democratic system. After all, what is executive power for? There are alternative and infinitely more democratic systems possible, however, dare the current regimes so compromised by our economic system of choice adopt them? Highly doubtful, at least most unlikely without blood on the streets.

    Most average punters see the law as something to be used, abused or preferably avoided. There are extremely few individuals out there of the McKie variety who are willing and determined enough to take such authority on. Nevertheless, examples like that, rare though they are, provide hope for an eventual resolution to Zeist.

    Yes, this is not something which will have a major impact on the independence debate but one, which, whether Scotland becomes independent or not, will have a significant influence on our perceptions of how justice is dispensed and those responsible for such in Chambers Street. Thus the fight must go on regardless.


  3. ‘It’s the economy stupid’ is a phrase used to remind politicians to concentrate on the bread and butter issues if they want to win elections, when they’re going through a period of intense internal debate about constitutional issues that matters to them but not the public.

    But for politicians the constitutional issues are their bread and butter issues that define ‘what we stand for’ and are the precursor to the bread and butter issues that matter to the public.

    For example, without democracy will the people have a voice and be able to influence the price of bread?

    Therefore although Rolfe is right that Lockerbie will be an irrelevant issue in the non-independence referendum, for the public, it could easily be a very relevant ‘what we stand for’ issue for the political class.

    And I suspect they are the target audience of Dr Swire’s comments.

  4. Dear Dave, sir,

    Anytime you require a lesson in capitalist economics and David Ricardo's theory on Surplus Value (nicked by Karl Marx), give me a call. Rolfe may be is a communist (though I doubt it) or simply someone who has a belief in Scotland's right to self determination within the capitalist system, a clue I have not, I know nothing of Rolfe's economic perspectives. But, one thing's for sure, and this applies to Lockerbie/Zeist as much as anything else, the more you distill and reduce a problem the better your chances of resolving it. So, Salmond has my vote. If only to focus his mind.


  5. Just to be pedantic, this isn't a referendum on Alex Salmond. He's merely the facilitator. Too many people are trying to make it about personalities. (i.e. Salmond is a smug little Hitler, don't give him what he wants - ignoring the fact that he regularly tops all the polls on politician popularity.)

    This is about the future prosperity and self-respect of our country. I'd vote Yes if it was Frank Mulholland fronting the Yes team.

  6. So would I, Rolfe. But in the long sleepless watches of the night it pains me grievously that these people won't do what is so obviously necessary and right. The only comfort is that those on the other side are worse. But that is cold comfort. We can and should be so much better.

  7. Dear Bob, Rolfe and Dave etc,

    In a prior post I was going to mention the fact that even certifiable lunatics such as Mao and Hitler more than anyone at the time understood what the meaning of an executive was, but restrained myself. Naturally, this is an issue far greater than any individual. like it or not, all of us are immaterial, expendable, if you will. the issue is resolution and justice. Politically, if we are to resolve Zeist, and here I speak solely in these terms, the yes vote rather than the no is by far the better option. Quite apart from anything else, it could go some considerable way towards sorting out the wrongs currently being committed to the Scottish criminal justice system. But, hey, I'm am idealist.


  8. I am sorry, very sorry, to say I have to disagree with Jim Swire on this point.

    There are many people within even the SNP who KNOW the SNP betrayed Scotland on Lockerbie in every way imaginable and yet will not condemn them for it. Shame on them I would say. I have condemned them on this blog repeatedly for it. For they are truly to be condemned. MacAskill's conduct in particular, on Lockerbie, is utterly disgraceful.

    Tory hands were filthy on Lockerbie. Labour hands were filthy too.

    SNP hands are now TOXIC for they were in charge at Holyrood when they COULD have made a difference and chose not to. Instead MacAskill came out to say this, that and the other on the day he announced Megrahi was going home.

    He also omitted a great deal. (His office was fingered when it came to the pressure put on Megrahi to drop his appeal.) MacAskill also over reached himself by declaring "the original verdict was sound." even when the SCCRC had already stated there were six grounds to challenge that conviction. (Why would that not bother him?) Salmond has uttered the same sentence. Neither of them had the authority to over-rule the SCCRC. Both of them have left some of their supporters, including this writer, wondering about their commitment to a truly just Scottish Justice System.

    MacAskill went on to alter the remit of the SCCRC. The SCCRC exists to examine cases, scrutinise them even, "without political or judicial interference". MacAskill did away with that when he put through "emergency" legislation hidden under legislation designed to deal with another case entirely. His aim was to put a JUDGE in charge of the SCCRC. Such a move destroyed the whole point of having an SCCRC. That action alone was,solely, about Lockerbie and the Megrahi conviction. Let no supporter of the SNP, no matter how passionate, attempt to suggest otherwise. It also proved just how closely the SNP were working with Westminster to keep the lid on the truth behind Lockerbie! Shame on them!

    I am sorry Jim Swire is linking this with independence and the referendum. It could have been linked in 2007 but not now. For had the SNP had the balls to take on the establishment in 2007 and said that appeal would be heard no matter what, the truth about Lockerbie, or at least about the very dodgy conviction, may have come out and that would have taken them forward. Alas, in 2007 the SNP decided to work WITH a UK government which was committed to keeping the truth about Lockerbie buried. SNP members have failed to challenge Salmond on Lockerbie. More fool them. For ultimately the SNP has proved to be as dishonest, on Lockerbie, as the Unionist Parties. There is nothing to be proud of in that.

    The other thing, of course, is that a significant number in Scotland are so disengaged from politics anyway that there is no hope of them even voting in the referendum. They are more likely to vote on who should win X Factor.

  9. Rolfe

    "Whether or not the current Scottish government have behaved well as regards Lockerbie just isn't an issue. "

    Oh it absolutely IS an issue.

    Some of us challenged them on it.

    I recall challenging you on this very blog when you defended the SNP!

    You forgive them so willingly. I cannot.

  10. Frank Mulholland?

    I would not!

    He is dishonest and I know that. I would, therefore, not trust him with anything.

  11. Hey, (as you put it) I believe in justice Quincey and the fact is the SNP are up to their necks in this one more than any other Party. It is also now known, indeed it is a fact, that they worked with Westminster to get the Megrahi business out of the way. They are every bit to blame, moreso even, given they were the SCOTTISH Government at the helm when the SCCRC reported back in June 2007.

    How will independence change their position when they have committed totally to the Westminster position on Lockerbie so fully already? It will not. Their position is clear. They have rejected any suggestion that the conviction was unsafe. Salmond said it. MacAskill said it.

    Never mind what any referendum result may bring. THE SNP MADE SURE LOCKERBIE WAS BURIED. THEY WENT FURTHER THAN UNIONIST PARTIES TO MAKE SURE OF THAT. Let no one be in any doubt about that.

  12. I just don't see the issue. No matter how much you hate the SNP for whatever reason, independence isn't about the SNP, it's about Scotland's future. To vote against something so immeasurably beneficial just because you have a quarrel with the main proponent over an essentially unrelated matter is insane.

    And as Robert said, if you're picking the future with the better likelihood for a resolution, independence is the way to go. The union isn't working, for that or for anything else. (Apart from sending failed Labour and LibDem politicians to the Lords that is, Lord Jeremy Purves, pardon me while I vomit.)

    I don't know what's going on behind the scenes in the Scottish government over Lockerbie. I'm seriously hacked off about it, just like anyone else, but I don't claim to know how and why it happened.

    But, even to be able to make sure the right people are first in front of the wall when the revolution comes, you actually have to have a revolution. You don't get one by voting No, that's for sure.

  13. Dear Jo,

    It's politics, pure and simple. Nothing to get too het up about.

    There are two facts about politics: 1. recognise that it is is a filthy business. 2. Be filthier than one's opposition. Result: you win.

    Pip, pip.

  14. "We have enormous respect for Dr Swire, and hope he would accept that everything that has been done in Scotland in relation to the Lockerbie atrocity."

    How insulting is that statement, from an SNP spokesman, when it is just such an utter lie? The truth is that the SNP has done everything possible to bury the whole issue!

  15. Rolfe

    I do NOT hate the SNP. You missed the point. You always do when it suits.

    Why are you seeking to make money out of a book which kills, stone dead, the SNP position on Lockerbie and still defending them?

    Don't patronise me. Have a word with your own conscience. If you have one.

  16. Quincy

    I am not het up.

    I don't do filthy. I'm sad. I expect most people to be clean. Rolfe, in my view, is playing both ends against the middle and also seeks to make personal profit out of it, through her book, while refusing to condemn the SNP government. She emerges with no credit.

    Jim Swire remains clean.

  17. Jo, it's costing me money to publish that book, money which I don't really expect to recoup. I'm publishing it because I believe the information it contains needs to be out there. A number of people have tried to dissuade me, fearing that I'll "get my fingers burned" financially, and strictly speaking they're right. It's merely fortunate that I can afford to lose some money in the interests of advancing the cause, as it were.

    I'd be interested to know, what would you do? The evidence that the bomb was introduced at Heathrow is there, and needs to be explained. Would you eschew spending a few thousand on publishing a book to get the information out there for fear your effort might actually succeed and you'd end up making a modest profit?

    I am not in a position to know why the SNP government is behaving in the way that it is. I don't like it, I believe it's seriously misguided and I'd quite like to take Kenny MacAskill up a dark alley with a set of thumbscrews. However, I don't see what good thowing around blanket and impotent "condemnations" achieves in the grand scheme of things.

    You're very good at sitting on the sidelines throwing mud at other people, and some of that is quite "filthy" actually. Have you ever actually achieved anything, though? Just wondering.

  18. Dear Jo,

    Hands up. I stand corrected.

    "There are two facts about politics: 1. Recognise that it is is a filthy business. 2. Be filthier than one's opposition. Result: you win."

    Perhaps a better way of putting it might be:

    There are two facts about politics: 1. Recognise that it is is a filthy business. 2. Be shrewder than one's opposition. Result: you win.


  19. Enough is enough. No further comments will be accepted.