Iain Gray said that Labour in government would show no compassion, no mercy, that if he were First Minister "Megrahi would not be going back to Libya". I hope he takes the time to think again and withdraws this statement, it's as unseemly as David Cameron's comments that "This man was convicted of murdering 270 people, he showed no compassion to them". David Cameron not allowing his Scottish party to respond was noted.
Richard Baker was one of those who foolishly questioned Kenny's decision to visit Megrahi in prison. He would have been better to have consulted his own party colleague, Jack Straw, whose actions meant that Kenny's duty was clear - he had to visit Megrahi. This is from Kenny's statement:
Prior to ratification of the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, it was scrutinised by the Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights, to which Jack Straw, UK Secretary of State for Justice, gave a commitment that in cases where applications were not submitted personally by the prisoner, the prisoner must be given the opportunity to make representations. Mr Al-Megrahi had the opportunity to make representations, and he chose to do so in person. Therefore I was duty bound to receive his representations. I accordingly met him.
As Brian Taylor pointed out, it was a strong performance from Kenny MacAskill, and one which was directed at multiple audiences. He outlined the compassion he was showing to Megrahi:
Mr Al-Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them.
But, that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his
Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion be available. Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown. Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people. No matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated.
He also noted the burden of grief carried by the bereaved:
Scotland will forever remember the crime that has been perpetrated against our people and those from many other lands. The pain and suffering will remain forever. Some hurt can never heal. Some scars can never fade. Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive. Their pain runs deep and the wounds remain.
This was no easy decision to make but the decency and humanity of Kenny MacAskill shone through today when lesser politicians were taking cheap shots in the hope of getting their names in the papers and were talking the Scottish justice system down in the process. Our Justice Secretary raised Scotland today. Judge our society by the way we treat the weakest members of it, by the way we welcome those in need, and by the way we treat those who have wronged us. Judge us by the way we act as a society and, now, know that compassion has a place at the heart of justice in Scotland, that justice here is tempered with mercy. Release on compassionate grounds is not unknown in Scottish justice - it's part of the standard practice - but when the man who has been found guilty of committing such a terrible crime in our land can find mercy at the hands of our justice system we can think the system worthy of the name.
Others agree, as well:
"We are defined as a nation by how we treat those who have chosen to hurt us. Do we choose mercy even when they did not chose mercy?
"This was not about whether one man was guilty or innocent. Nor is it about whether he had a right to mercy but whether we as a nation, despite the continuing pain of many, are willing to be merciful.
Now there is the news that the Presiding Officer will recall Parliament on Monday,a s he had earlier indicated - a chance, perhaps, for MSPs to debate this issue with some degree of gravitas?