Sunday, August 23, 2009

Homecoming Tripoli style angers world

I said in my post the other day that I hoped that Libya wouldn't go over the top in its welcome to Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi when he was set free and returned to Libya. Of course that was always going to be a forlorn hope. The scenes of saltires waving, cheering and the parading of Megrahi on tv meeting Gadaffi and his relatives was cringeworthy, sickening and, sadly, entirely predictable.

Having said that, I still hold to my point of view that it was correct to send Megrahi home to die. If it's a matter of policy that people with 3 months or less to die are released, then the only thing that should be taken into consideration is the safety of the public. The Libyan Government deserves all the criticism it's getting for the way it's handled this. Gadaffi is clearly enjoying his time in the spotlight, trying to implicate everyone from Gordon Brown to Prince Andrew as he wields his wooden spoon. It's pretty vile stuff.

I watched Kenny MacAskill's statement the other day and found its length and its sermon like tone distasteful to say the least. He really didn't need to go on for the best part of half an hour. I got an absolute pasting from Jeff for a tweet that I made in response to what I felt was MacAskill overegging the pudding about Scottish people were a compassionate people. I tend to think that human beings are generally compassionate, regardless of their nationality. Here's Jeff's comment and my reply so you can judge for yourself:

"Caron momenarily lost leave of her senses with this Tweet: "two things shocked me - trying to drag UK Govt down with him and making out Scots have monopoly on humanity"

A monopoly on humanity? What on earth are you talking about? It's all the more bizarre given that Caron actually agrees with the decision taken by the Justice Minister" said Jeff

I replied:

"As you know, I think he made the right decision, but the process has been tainted by the leaks, the delays and the decision to visit Megrahi in prison which, to be honest, I don't think was adequately explained today.

I feel as well that he could have made his statement in half, a quarter, even of the half hour it took him.

I don't feel that it was necessary for him to slag off the UK Government for not participating in the transfer application consulting he did. Given the rest of the stuff he was saying, that sounds like it wasn't a goer anyway. No doubt if they had participated, he'd have found fault with what they said.

I wondered if I had been a little harsh in my tweet, which had come at the end of a very long sermon, sorry, statement, but then I looked at it again:

"In Scotland, we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity.

"It is viewed as a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people.

I tend to view humanity as being a defining characteristic of human beings, not just those who happened to be fortunate enough to have been born north of the border.

I read MacAskill's quote out to my husband without telling him that you'd slagged his wife off in public and asked him for his opinion. He is probably the fairest person in the world and he said he felt Scotland was mentioned too many times in that sentence.

I feel that it's quite a dangerous thing if we think that just because we're Scottish we're somehow better than everyone else. I'm really proud to be Scottish, I love this country and missed it to the point of despair when I didn't live here for 11 horrid years - but lovely though the Scottish people generally are, we're no more human than the French, or Canadians, or the people from Papua New Guinea or wherever.

You may not agree with me, but I wanted to put my side of the story."

August 20, 2009 9:00 PM

Another part of MacAskill's statement that made me gag was the bit where he'd clearly been at the dictionary of religious cliches:

“However, Mr Al Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die."

I don't believe in a "higher power" anyway, certainly not one who goes around handing out nasty diseases as punishment, but I know a guy who does. Kelvin's response to this part of MacAskill's statement was absolutely spot on.

"The notion of a God who skips about the world deciding who does and who does not get cancer is horrible. That kind of thing gives religion a bad name.

There is no God worth believing in who is so capricious."

Kenny MacAskill is taking a whole load of pain at the moment. Some of it, though understandable, is unjustified. Robert Mueller's letter is completely over the top. I can't imagine for a second that any potential terrorist will think that the Scottish judicial system is soft on them. The Americans don't understand the concept of compassionate release because they don't have it over there. I think the US penal system is way too harsh in so many ways, particularly in the way it treats vulnerable people, so I don't think we should take his criticisms too much to heart.

Where MacAskill does deserve criticism is his handling of the process. Scott at Love and Garbage did all the research and wrote this post in response to MacAskill's statement to show that there was in fact no reason for MacAskill to meet Megrahi.

I think that MacAskill may well eventually pay for making the right decision with his job. With a bit of thought, he could have avoided that. It's clear to me that by his actions he has fuelled the suggestions of deals which I doubt exist and has brought the integrity of his decision into question. In turn, that has done some unnecessary damage to Scotland's standing in the world. For that, he should take the consequences.


Anonymous said...

"The Americans don't understand the concept of compassionate release"

So it would appear that compassion isn't a universal then?

I'm about to post on the whole issue of a distinctly scottish compassion.

I agree with Jeff however, if you read the various recounts, Kenny's statement seems to have set off a series of latent cringes. Nowhere did he compare others values on humanity, nowhere di he say that Scottish compassion is unique.

If your honest about it, you'll ask why that was your initial response and question others too.

Great post none the less.

Anonymous said...

"I think that MacAskill may well eventually pay for making the right decision with his job..... For that, he should take the consequences."

A strange form of revenge when we're talking about compassion.

I suspect that the Liberals if they vote for this are about to loose a huge chunk of their electoral support.

Unknown said...

I'm not saying Americans don't have compassion, but that they don't have the concept of compassionate release within their judicial system.

My worry is that by not following the correct procedure, he's made it more difficult for a future minister to make the right and compassionate decision in some future circumstance.

If he had made sure that the process was flawless, then he could have survived.

There's no vote tomorrow - just a statement, and responses I think, but there may well be at some point in the future.

Anonymous said...

Was case put forward by scott and it's shaky to say the least.

"Under all existing prisoner transfer agreements to which the UK is party, applications for
transfer are considered on a case-by-case basis"

Despite that opening gambit, Scott trys to apply precedent to this case.

"A prisoner would be advised of the Government’s intention to transfer and would be invited to make written representations. "

Al Magrachi apparently chose to make his representations from within the prison..

There's nothing to say that MacKaskill shouldn't meet with the prisoner to receive those representations and indeed nothing to say that he should have sent someone else, given the decision was his and his alone, it appears absolutely reasonable that he should meet al Megraghi to hear his representations.

I think the opposition parties are scratching about with nothing with this angle.

What's more serious and seems to be what Tavish, Gray & McConnell are saying is that the decision itself was wrong, not necessarily the process.

You patently don't agree with Tavish in that respect.

Dubbieside said...

Kenny MacAskill must now be the safest minister in Alex Salmonds cabinet.

It would appear that taking a principled stand and doing what was the right think to do, is such a rarity in UK politics at the moment, that a string of second rate politicians who have never taken a principled stand in their lives, think they have the right to criticize him.

Maybe they think that by highlighting their lack of principles they are advancing their cause?

Scott @ loveandgarbage said...


i have replied to your comments on my blog but note that the reference to decisions being made on a case by case basis comes from Straw's response to the joint committee's piece and you conflate compassionate release and the prisoner transfer application.

A decision such as this legally involves the exercise of discretion. In exercising discretion there are a number of legal requirements: including the necessity to maintain procedural propriety. Failure to do so renders a decision reviewable. This includes the impression of possible bias (which would be conveyed through the meeting in this case), and is applicable without any requirement that bias actually be established.

Anonymous said...


Hold on a moment, on what basis is anyone claiming that there has been bias through meeting Al Megraghi.

Mackaskill also met with victims families, politicians and prosecutors, this isn't simply a legal judgement, it's quasi judicial hence the palava and how it can be interpreted for political ends.

I have heard no-one question the procedural aspects apart from Richard Baker.

Scott @ loveandgarbage said...

The impression (given what happened subsequently) is deal or no deal?

Lisa said...

Even though he is dying,he should not be trusted and he should still be monitored.

Indy said...

Here we go again ... votes of no confidence in the offing.

It won't happen because they know that if a motion of no confidence in Kenny MacAskill is passed the SNP Government will stand down.

That would leave the Lib Dems and Tories in the position of having to vote for Iain Gray as First Minister or face an election.

The prospect of Gray as FM is now, more than ever, laughable.

The man has no idea of his own mind and bends with every passing wind.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, he is being monitored.

he has to report via video link every week to Scottish Prison Officers.

He got compassionate leave, that's not technically freedom.

I suspect watching a dying man move slowly to an fro the hospital and then mortuary isn't pleasant viewing for anyone.

Jeff said...

It's interesting that you discussed your "monopoly on humanity" exaggeration with your husband who is "probably the fairest person in the world". Perhaps he should have made the Megrahi decision ;)

Unknown said...

He was even more passionately in favour of the compassionate release of Megrahi (and Biggs, for that matter) than I am so that wouldn't have been a bad thing:-)


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