The Scottish Minister speaks

Yesterday the BBC cleared its lunch time programme to run the whole speech of the Scottish Justice Minister, setting out in agonising detail his thought process over the release of the man the Scottish courts found guilty of the Lockerbie mass murder.
As some of you may have missed it, and as it was very long, I thought it might be helpful to capture its essential elements more succinctly:

“Today for the first time a Scottish Minister can command the UK airwaves to set out a decision which the BBC will run and run. I intend to make the most of this opportunity. I will tell you how many people I have met and how deeply I have considered all the angles.
I have the power to send a Libyan prisoner back to Libya to complete his sentence. This power comes from an agreement the London government negotiated. The Scottish government told them at the time they had done a bad job with this Agreement. I will tell them again they did a bad job. The Americans said at the time of this deal they had been promised it would not apply to the Lockerbie bomber. The UK government denies this. I believe the Americans and will not use this power to send him to a Libyan prison.
I also have the power to release him on compassionate grounds. This is a tricky one, as whatever I do some people will dislike my decision. So I will tell you the Lockerbie bomber offered no compassion to his victims, and then let him free to show just what a compassionate government we have created in Scotland.
May I conclude by saying what a great day this is for Scotland. All this shows that Scotland should be self governing, and reminds us what a mess they always make of things in London”


  1. Chris
    August 21, 2009

    And if you live in Scotland as I do, you get to watch it again as apparently BBC Scotland News don’t watch whats already been shown…

    And you get to miss the interesting part of Newsnight.

    Bad decision.

  2. Bernie Gudgeon
    August 21, 2009

    You missed the end, when he said ‘we will now rise and sing hymn number…’

  3. APL
    August 21, 2009

    Seeing the conditions under which this fellow was detained, it was clear he was not in prison, rather under house arrest.

    Treated in such a way, led me to conclude he was more of a political prisioner and that led me to conclude that even the government had little faith in his guilt.

    Then I guess the current political elite don’t look on imprissonment as a punishment rather as an inconvienience.

  4. alan jutson
    August 21, 2009

    Yes, what a farce and disgrace.

    It also seems Mr Brown has lost his voice.

    That word “VALUES” kept on cropping up on the original, although we were spared the words moral compass.

    Me thinks that much behind the scenes negotiation has gone on before this farce was played out in public.

    Any idea what has been promised John ?????

    So have Scotland put themselves or the UK as a whole, more at risk of further attacks or not ?

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    August 21, 2009

    Verbal diarrhoea from the Scottish Justice Minister and silence from the UK government – bizarre! We shall probably never know the truth of what was really behind all this, such as the significance of Mandelson’s meeting with Gaddafi’s son at the Rothschild’s holiday home in Corfu recently.

  6. Bob
    August 21, 2009

    Mr Obama has given us his views, as has that “Pretender” David Cameron, but what of our great leader? He has yet to enlighten us on this subject.

    Our leader has given us his views on Miss Boyle of X factor fame, even telephoning her I believe.
    He gave us his views on Gazza’s goal against Scotland (Our leaders favourite goal)

    On a positive note it looks as if the Scottish parliament will be recalled to debate the decision, of the Libyan’s release.
    The eyes of the world will be on that debate.

    1. alan jutson
      August 21, 2009


      Yes, debate after the deed has been done !!!!!

      This sounds like politicians logic.

      I have to say what is the point, unless it is to consider, or demand a resignation.

      Amazing that one man could make this sort of decision. But then again I guess we have our own Home Secretary who could do similar (Ronald Biggs) although for a lesser crime.

      Perhaps all prisoners who are terminally ill should now be set free, there cannot be much more of an extreme example for the goalposts to be set in place.

      Before you know it we will have terminally ill patients robbing Banks knowing they will never be jailed.

      1. DavidB
        August 21, 2009

        The Libdem Justice spokesman in Scotland was on the radio today. He stated that there had been I think 30 applications for compassionate release of which 23 had been granted since devolution. We were later informed that since the SNP administration was formed there have been 5 applications, all of which have been granted. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case, it demonstrates no disproportionately favourable treatment of the prisoner in question.

        Liebour were in power in Scotland when Mr Blair reached a prisoner transfer arrangement with Libya. We have a separate legal system to England. No reference or courtesy was even made to Scotland when that arrangement was agreed. We are devolved. We have certain jurisdictions. Had the UK government recognised that at the time of Mr Blair’s arrangement we might not be in this pickle.

        Personally I have no opinion on the guilt or innocence of the Libyan. Im not sure given the verdict of a properly constituted court that the guy should have been released. But is it not clear that the sentences and rules of release of prisoners should not be a matter for Justice ministers nor of Home Secretaries at all? We have Parole Boards. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

  7. Neil Craig
    August 21, 2009

    For the first couple of years of the investigation Syria was said to have done it. Then Syria became our noble ally in the Gulf war & lo it seems Libya did it all along. There was never any real evidence against Megrahi (or indeed Libya) & he was clearly just being used so we could blame Libya, which sionce they are now our noble allies in the war against whatever, we no longer want to do.

    Releasing Megrahi isn’t justice but it is the best we can do.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      August 21, 2009

      You forget the periods when Iran had done it. I am told it works out about 11 days for each death.

      The “minister” rather struck me as a somewhat petty council official, way out of his depth, thus he kept quoting the mantra “I followed procedure” (the modren equivalent of “I was only following orders”)

      1. Neil Craig
        August 21, 2009

        MacAskill has a history of promising populist solutions to crime, which sound like he heard them down the pub & which fall apart from their own contradictions.

        He doesn’t strike me as somebody who would have made a courageous decision on his own.

        1. Stuart Fairney
          August 21, 2009

          Ja, he was only following ze orders

  8. Julian
    August 21, 2009

    The evidence presented against this man was not convincing – seems like someone had to be done for it and he was available.

  9. Lola
    August 21, 2009

    Well there’s a funny thing, that’s about what I thought I heard him say.

  10. Richard
    August 21, 2009

    We are all disgraced by this decision and by the ridiculous, self-righteous and preachy speech of the Scottish Justice ‘Minister’. The Scottish Executive (‘government’ is the wrong word) is nothing more than a jumped up local authority. There was no reason for it to have been given power over a decision affecting thousands of bereaved relatives as well as the international standing of the UK, and our relations with our most important friend and ally. As you rightly imply, the Scottish Executive sought to use this opportunity to demonstrate their own importance and to use their moment in the spotlight for political ends. It is terrible to witness and must be ghastly for the relatives in the US the UK and elsewhere. The refusal of Brown, Milliband et al to comment is confirmation of their total inadequacy to hold the positions they do.

    1. Martin
      August 22, 2009

      To those who feel disgraced – please remember in a few months a wooden box would have been going back to Libya.

      This would not have looked good in the Arab street.

      1. Richard
        August 23, 2009

        Not the point with respect. There are plenty of prisoners in the UK, inc in Scotland, who will die in prison. This man was found guilty of the worst act of murder in British history. Either he was not guilty (as some believe) – in which case he should have been acquitted and compensated – or he is, in which case he should have served out his sentence. If you can get compassionate release for this offence, every prisoner in every gaol in the country should be entitled to it.

  11. TomTom
    August 22, 2009

    How do we get a “Scottish” Government and a “British Government” ? What is “Britain” if it does not include Scotland ?

    1. Doug
      August 23, 2009

      In Canada there is a Canadian Government and an Ontario Government. In Australia there is an Australian Government and a Queensland Government, etc, etc.

      Not that I’m a fan of the current situation, but having two or more governments in a single country is not illogical.

      1. Doug
        August 23, 2009

        I should add that, although it need not be illogical, the way Labour has set it up in the UK *is* illogical.

  12. Gordon Riby
    August 22, 2009

    I am amazed that his sense of “compassion” did not extend to the familys of Lockerbie victims. His disrespect for those people is frankly shocking.

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