I haven't listened to the whole proceedings from this afternoon, so I'll need to look at the Official Report tomorrow. That's what happens when Parliament is recalled at school chucking out time. I heard the statement and had to leave fairly early on in the questions. My initial impression is that there was a bit too much political posturing from all sides. I'd hoped for a bit more light than we actually got, although I was impressed that Tavish did ask clear and relevant questions relating to the visit to Al Megrahi, none of which I think were adequately answered.
My view hasn't changed, though - I still believe absolutely that Kenny MacAskill made the right decision, however much he and his department cocked up on its delivery.
According to Gary Gibbon, Channel 4's political editor, in his blog, there's a plot afoot for a "Not in Scotland's Name" style campaign over the 9 days until Parliament debates the matter in full next week.
Let me tell you what I don't want done in my name:
Slagging Kenny MacAskill and the SNP for the outrageous scenes in Libya which greeted Megrahi's return. It was obvious that it would happen, despite, as MacAskill said, requests to the Libyans for them to behave with a bit of restraint, but you don't base a decision on an application for compassionate release on the expected actions of a foreign government. You would think from what was said in Parliament that he'd sent John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon to take the saltires to Tripoli themselves. Just stop it, please.
Suggesting that it might have been appropriate to send Megrahi to a hospice. How stupid an idea is that? What planet is Annabel Goldie on? Does she actually understand what the hospice movement tries to do? For a start, he wouldn't have spent all the time till he died there. Most people don't - they may have short visits, or day visits to get pain under control, but they tend not to be admitted full time until a few days before they die. And who would have been shouting loudly if Megrahi had been sent to a hospice, sending the establishment into complete turmoil for all the patients inside it? That would have worked for nobody and I can't believe they put it forward as an idea.
In a similar vein, the Tories would have been foaming at the mouth if 48 Police officers had been taken off the beat to look after Megrahi for 3 months. Can you imagine? David McLetchie should know the difference between policing a football match on a Saturday afternoon and providing round the clock protection/security for an indefinite period.
Annabel Goldie ought to be ashamed of herself for the performance of her team today. I wonder if this will mean an end to the virtual coalition they've enjoyed with the SNP for these past two years. We shall see.
What I do think needs to happen, and it would be better if Kenny MacAskill was more open about it, and didn't have to have the information dragged out of him, is for us to be told exactly what happened at that meeting in Greenock jail. I don't really get the whole business of Megrahi making his representations in person when he had his lawyer present. What I really want is a pretty much verbatim account of that meeting, which there should be. If there isn't, why on earth not? Nothing that was said today convinces me that MacAskill was obliged to have this meeting, but seeing as he did, he needs to tell us more about it.
For what it's worth, Yousuf has reported, and he admits himself it's only one poll, that only a tiny minority of people approve of his release on compassionate grounds. Jeff quotes another poll which says that 35% approve and 53% disapprove and gives more analysis on the split by each party's voters. In real life, I've found that the people I've come into contact with, and my husband feels the same, are split half and half. There's certainly not enough disapproval to warrant Iain Gray inferring that there's widespread opposition. What's more, even when people have been quite angry about it, I've found that they have been quite open to persuasion, to the idea that if we have a policy to release terminally ill prisoners, why shouldn't it apply to Megrahi?
On balance, I'm not convinced that this afternoon's early recall of Parliament was worth it. We had little new information and more heat than light. Let's hope that next week's debate has more quality about it. Let's hope we have more contributions like those of Malcolm Chisholm, Labour MSP for North and Leith, who very thoughtfully expressed his support for the compassionate release of Megrahi. I think he was the man of the match for me.