A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SNP release of Lockerbie bomber

Why on earth is a decision about release of a terrorist mass murderer a matter for the devolved administration in Edinburgh?

Surely in any sensible scheme of devolution national security issues should be dealt with at a "federal" not "state" level and terrorism should be a "federal crime" punished by the UK government not the Scottish Executive?

Kenny MacAskill's disgraceful decision shows that in this area devolution was pushed too far and needs to be rescinded.


Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

I take it from your response you don't believe the British government might have had a hand in it?
Very strange statement from Gadaffi's son, "This brave decision from the British and Scottish governements".
I suppose you could say this could be Gadaffi up to his usual tricks, or it could be a sign of a growing closeness between tripoli and the west.
Let's not forget this appeal was dropped as a condition for his release, what possible new evidence was to be heard that might embarass the US or ourselves.
Personally I think Al Magrahi was not involved and the real culprit for this crime could be Iran, but without this appeal we won't know. MacAskill's performance was ridiculous, obviously milking his moment in the sun, what a prat.

10:42 pm, August 20, 2009

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Ofcourse scottish law is under the juristiction of the scottish parliment, not Westminster.
We have a different system of law in Scotland, that is why the scottish government has the final say.

10:50 pm, August 20, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

Even many of the victims families actually believe they got the wrong man, after going through so much of the evidence!

The appeal was dropped as he is on his last moments. the actual terrorists were probably from Saudi or Iran, I can't see how Libya would have done this as it is a socialist state, mixed Sunni Muslim and Christian.This is not a fundamentalist country but much more sophisticated than that. It is one of the only countries to have actually shared its oil revenue out fairly to the people.

11:02 pm, August 20, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Scotland had a different legal system before there was a Scottish Parliament.

11:05 pm, August 20, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

Many of you Labour people are so far right wing then alienated to Trade unionism and socialism its so bizarre, as the bloody Labour party was formed as a socialist party by the trade unions!

11:07 pm, August 20, 2009

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Luke said
"Scotland had a different legal system before there was a Scottish Parliament."

Yes that is true, and I'm not disputing it.

You could argue that terrorism may be a defence matter (not devolved) but as the accused was tried under scottish law (amd the absence of a UK system of law makes this an issue for the SP not westminster. Is this right? Yes I think it probably is, what is the use of a parliment if it's executive can't make decisions on how laws practiced in the country are dealt with. I understand your frustration but these are the facts.

Anyway that aside, the scottish government has allowed the UK government a chance to have a close relationship with Libya without this conviction (and immenent death) standing in the way. Sadly this results in the families of the victims of this crime never to know the truth.

12:01 am, August 21, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

I think it was simply because the conviction took place under Scottish law and because the decision made was ultimately not based on anything to do with security or 'politics' but taken purely on compassionate grounds

The entire affair has been a farce. I have a friend who lost a brother in the crash and her father has been deeply involved in the issue ever since it happened. The families largely think he was a fall guy and not responsible

It was noticeable, the difference between the measured and thoughtful tones of the British families as against the shrieking vengeance-seekers of the Americans

1:14 am, August 21, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

Oh, and the decision was not 'disgraceful ' - it was absolutely right and showed again why the SNP are doing better than Labour.

1:15 am, August 21, 2009

Anonymous Kiera Hardie said...

I agree that the decision by Kenny McAskill to let the Lockerbie bomber out of jail to a hero's welcome in Tripoli tonight was disgraceful.

But that's got nothing to do with devolution. The Act and Treaty of Union of 1707 - a central part of the constitution of the United Kingdom - reflects the separate legal systems in the Union. Before devoluton in 1999 a decision of this kind would have been made by the Secretary of State for Scotland, not the Home Secretary.

This is not a sterile historical issue. The implications of a UK government interfering in the proper government of Scotland would be huge and not helpful to the case for the continuation of the Union.

Meanwhile, if the minority nationalist administration wants to damage our country's reputation and embarrass its people, it is free to do so. That is democracy.

If you want to be a member of parliament at Westminster you really ought to know and understand the constitution of your country. The fact that you are apparently unaware of these things undermines your case to be selected as a Labour candidate, Luke.

2:11 am, August 21, 2009

Anonymous Kiera Hardie said...

That remark by Merseymike, above, about "the difference between the measured and thoughtful tones of the British families as against the shrieking vengeance-seekers of the Americans" is racist stereotyping of the worst kind.

But insert the word "Scottish" for "British" and you get a taste of the sectarian tone of discussions on many online forums in Scotland right now, though. The SNP is appropriating an outrageous claim to moral authority in support of their man's craven decision.

2:23 am, August 21, 2009

Blogger subrosa said...

Luke you do surprise me. Don't you think the Scots are capable of passing a judgement on their own legal system or are you suggesting London should be in charge?

This whole affair was caused by Blair signing the Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya and refusing, at the request of the Scottish government, to omit Megrahi from it.

Keira Hardy's absolutely right. Any interference from London would shatter the nearly non-existent union.

2:53 am, August 21, 2009

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Kiera Hardie said...
"I agree that the decision by Kenny McAskill to let the Lockerbie bomber out of jail to a hero's welcome in Tripoli tonight was disgraceful"

Unless ofcourse the man was innocent, then what?
A possibly innocent man with a terminal illness dies in a scottish prison; I would say that would be disgraceful.

I would have liked to seen him go through the process of appeal so we know the truth one and for all.

9:30 am, August 21, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


I'm well aware of the constitutional position, I just believe it is a bad one. MacAskill has been given power to take a decision that damaged the reputation and interests of the UK, not just Scotland, when he has no UK mandate.

9:44 am, August 21, 2009

Blogger Neil80 said...

Ravi Gopaul has it exactly right. This whole affair has been murky from the start and it seems unlikely that the Scottish executive were acting unilateraly without the hand of Westminster.

As for a national security issue. Is it? Reading Private Eye I'm inclined to beleive al-Megrahi is innocent. Even in a scenario where he is guilty he was merely the instrument for the actions of a nation state.

It is highly unlikely that the real decision makers will ever be unmasked let alone brought to any kind of justice.

I don't see how a dying man, broken by years in a foreign jail, is any threat to national security. The only possible threat would be the messages sent out by the 'triumphant homecoming' in Libya but again this is the actions of a nation state.

10:38 am, August 21, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree about the decision being disgraceful. Surely it should be a mark of civilisation that we don't allow the terminally ill to die in prison. It is not necessary to show compassion for the prisoner, who is unlikley to benefit very much from it anyway as he/she will die, but what about compassion for the friends and relatives of the prisoner - should they really be forced to go to prison to see him/her die? Surely it is a mark that Society is better than the likes of Megrahi that it is able to show compassion to friends and relatives when he himself had none.

11:45 am, August 21, 2009

Blogger southhackneypunter said...

1988 was a ghastly year, so many innocent lives lost...
The USA shot down Iran Airbus Flight 655 in July 1988 killing 290 people, including 66 children (and ultimately costing the USA $132 million in compensation); then in December, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up with a similar loss of life.
I wonder if there was any connection between these tragic events?

3:53 pm, August 21, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

I'm completely disgusted at how you put a spin on such a sensitive matter.

"SNP release of Lockerbie bomber"

The British government very much played a pivotal role on this whole matter so please don't try and pin this on the SNP. Oil.

Although we are meant to respect the rule of law, we all know this man was innocent. This man was the result of a deal between Libya and the then Blair government to draw a line under Lockerbie. They wanted it to go away and what better way than to pin it on one man. What a joke really Luke I thought you had a brain.

Also what right does America have to lecture us on justice. They are the ones with Guantanamo, the are the ones with the death row and they are the ones that arrest British citizens illegally from our soil. They really are a vile nation and should keep their nose out of British affairs. So much for Obama what a liberal forgiving Christian you are.

We all know this man was innocent and the real blame lies with Iran and Iraq. The man has terminal cancer and would not have lived to see an appeal so what Scotland did was the absolutely the right thing to do.

If Brown wants justice then lets have a public inquiry.

6:58 pm, August 21, 2009

Blogger joeglas said...


I'm not sure from your response to Keira if you do actually appreciate the constitutional position. As Keira points out this is NOT a result of devolution but a result of the nature of the original Union between our countries in 1707. The two distinct legal systems (which have quite different foundations) were allowed to continue, so a decision of this kind has always been a matter for the Scottish judicial system. Devolution has simply added a different dimension at the "top" of this, namely a Scottish Justice Secretary as opposed to the Scottish Secretary of State.

Where I would take issue with Keira and others is that I am pleased and proud with the decision made. MacAskill followed the guidelines for terminally ill prisoners. We have one process for dealing with such prisoners and I am pleased he didn't allow himself to be badgered into departing from the usual approach. I think his references to Scottish values etc. was in part an attempt to explain that "approach" - which must seem odd to a country that still has Guantanamo. Yes, the reaction in Libya is not what any of us would want but one shouldn't be deflected from doing the right thing simply because of the response of others.

10:42 am, August 22, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


I do understand the Act of Union. I believe though that cases of this nature which have a UK-wide impact, not just a Scottish impact, should be determined by a UK Minister, i.e. the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Maybe we neeed a federal UK legal system for dealing with crimes such as terrorism that sits above both English and Scottish law?

If I had been around in 1707 I wouldn't have left the 2 bits of our 1 country with different legal systems - maybe we should have adopted Scottish law for the whole country and made Edinburgh the judicial capital of the UK ...

11:00 am, August 22, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

They only have an impact UK-wide because the Americans decided to stick their ever-unwelcome noses into the proceedings. As ever, they are wrong.

I would certainly support the SNP at the next election if I was a Scottish voter. It is Labour's reaction in Scotland which can truly be called 'disgraceful'. They just love being America's poodle

5:50 pm, August 23, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

I'm absolutely disgusted at the way in which America reacted over this issue. This man was tried under Scottish law and he was released under the rules regarding terminally ill prisoners in Scotland.

This has nothing to do with America and should have nothing to do with politics, this is an issue of law and nothing else. God help us if we let America influence legal decisions.

Anyone who has visited Libya knows that it is generally a UK friendly country. They are not terrorists and they were simply celebrating the return of an innocent man. A man that is terminally ill from cancer and who is still determined to prove he is innocent.

Thankgod we still have politicians like MacAskill and thankgod I've seen Cameron in his true colours....an American lap dog.

Luke you really shouldn't be using this issue in an attempt to undermine the SNP. It really isn't fair and MacAskill would have thought long and hard about this decision.

7:12 pm, August 23, 2009

Blogger kris said...

The SNP and Kenny have shown themselves to be nothing more than glorified council hacks- obviously promoted beyond any competency.

The whole episode stinks. Wasn't it the Bulger case where Michael Howard was increased the killers' sentence.

Readers will recall the Courts said it was an unlawful foray by the Executive into the Judicial function.

The Pan Am 103 killer was convicted and sentenced. What in the hell does dimwit Macaskill think he's doing? if the killer's lawyers thought he had a case, they could have lodged an appeal and let that run its course - THROUGH THE COURTS.

9:28 pm, August 23, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

Only he would have died in advance of any court case (at least that's what senior doctors consider) and in fact, we do release terminally ill prisoners, all the time

Basically, this has just angered the Atlanticist lobby who think that we must always do what America tells us, even when it is absolutely none of their business. It also emphasises why we should never extradite anyone to America, where a fair trial is very unlikely in a country so governed by stupidity and hysterical, irrational emotionalism

10:44 pm, August 23, 2009

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Kris said
"The Pan Am 103 killer was convicted and sentenced. What in the hell does dimwit Macaskill think he's doing? if the killer's lawyers thought he had a case, they could have lodged an appeal and let that run its course - THROUGH THE COURTS."

Megrahi's appeal against his conviction on January 2001 was refused on 14 March 2002 by a panel of five Scottish Judges at Camp Zeist in Holland. Dr Hans Köchler, one of the UN observers at the trial, expressed serious doubts about the fairness of the proceedings and spoke of a "spectacular miscarriage of justice".

The first appeal was a sham.

On 28 June 2007 the SCCRC
(Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission) concluded its four-year review and, having uncovered evidence that a miscarriage of justice could have occurred, the Commission granted Megrahi leave to appeal against his Lockerbie bombing conviction for a second time.

By the time an appeal would be heard the chances would be Magrahi would be dead, then what?

9:47 am, August 24, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also think Luke, who is generally right about most things, has called this one wrongly.

Firstly he is wriggling somewaht around the clear devolutionary issues that exist. Scots law is Scots and always has been. All that's different is these days decisions are accountable to the people wheareas for nearly 300 years they effectively weren't.

Secondly prison is not equipped to deal with the terminally ill. Anyone who has nursed someone to their death, cleaning them several times a day will know that. Furthermore vast taxpayer cost and inconvenience would be involved.

Al Megrahi is not free. He's terminally ill. I'm sure part of what's keeping Luke going so bravely throughout this terrible time is the thought that he might get better. Eliminate that hope and where are you?

The guy is now serving out a death sentence having pretty much sacrificed his life for his job in the Libyan Secret Service.

And finally there's all the double standards.

If you can run Guantanamo, you can't then bleat on about mockeries of justice.
If you don't condemn the crowds gathered at Greenock jail to jeer a dying man then you can't seriously condemn the crowds who gather to welcome him home.

10:32 am, August 24, 2009

Blogger Soho Politico said...

Just stumbled across this post. I made a very similar point on my own blog the next day, and would have linked to this if I'd seen it at the time.

1:16 pm, August 24, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

America can cry all they want but they must respect British law. We have to accept the fact that British citizens are executed in America so why can't America accept we have laws regarding terminally ill inmates.

It strikes me that our special relationship with America is very one sided. Maybe it is time to end this special relationship, pull out of Afganistan and Iraq and leave the yanks to it.

8:53 pm, August 24, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

Absolutely. There is no special relationship. Other than that of poodle and master. Let America do as it wishes, if it cannot bear to stop acting as the world's policeman. In any case, it will continue to be the target of opponents until it abandons its slavish support for the occupiers of Palestine. I think some call it 'Israel'

4:02 pm, August 25, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

This act of compassion has done more to prevent terrorism than any military action will ever do. It has shown the world that Britain is willing to forgive and move forward.

We can't live in an isolated bubble, what ever we do has consequences. Lockerbie followed the shooting of an Iranian Airbus carrying innocent ....Again American action. The illegal invasion of Iraq resulted in home grown terrorism in the UK.....Again American led action.

It is time to stop being an American aircraft carrier and use our troops to protect this country rather than fighting Americas wars. Americas flame is going out quick and they are about to pay a big price for policing the world. Time to move closer to Europe and forget the dieing influence of America.

8:12 pm, August 25, 2009

Blogger Ewan Watt said...

"Surely in any sensible scheme of devolution national security issues should be dealt with at a "federal" not "state" level and terrorism should be a "federal crime" punished by the UK government not the Scottish Executive?"

Which is why the Labour government was without a doubt complicit in al Magrahi's release.

Remember during al Magrahi's trial when he was forbidden from accessing evidence that would have helped his defence because of "national security grounds"? That was an order sent from the Foreign Office. Now that he's been released and Gordon Brown et al are saying that it was devolved decision, surely they could detain him on "national security grounds" too?

If you want to look at the imperfections of devolution, I'm afraid that's surely an internal Labour Party issue is it not?

11:48 pm, August 26, 2009


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