Wednesday 2 September 2009

Megrahi documents

The documents relating to the Megrahi decision have been released and are all available on the Scottish Government's website - fascinating, I propose that everyone takes a wee while and has a read ... all done? Good, let's discuss! I'm sure everyone is in agreement that the documents make it clear that Kenny MacAskill MSP did everything by the book - by every chapter, page, paragraph, sentence, word and letter of the book. If not, feel free to disagree, but in the meantime, let's head on down to some details.

First, let's turn to the meeting in Greenock prison, you'll find it on page 14 of 21 of the notes of meetings. Present were the Justice Secretary, two fairly senior civil service officials, al-Megrahi and the prisoner's solicitor, Tony Kelly. Here's an interesting question that just occur ed to me - if Labour MSP James Kelly was to take part in tomorrow's debate would he have to declare an interest in that his brother is the solicitor for the prisoner in question? I'm fairly certain that Tony Kelly's professional demeanour would ensure that no details of the case were discussed with his brother, but would James still have to declare the interest? Just a thought.

Anyway, back to this meeting, I'm sure that paragraph 12 will be of interest
Mr MacAskill stated it was necessary to highlight that when he makes his
decision on prisoner transfer , he can only grant a transfer if there are no
court proceedings ongoing.

Richard Baker, so ably described by a person who terrifies peat, will hold this aloft like a prize without pointing out the next bit:
Mr MacAskill stressed that this was a decision for Mr Al-Megrahi and his legal team alone.

See, the thing about Richard Baker isn't really that Labour is being insulting by having someone of so little ability in a shadow cabinet position, it's that Labour is being insulting by having someone of so little ability standing for election in the first place.

You'll also note the further details on the security implications of keeping the guy in Scotland - 30 police officers to make the house ready for him, 48 to guard him when he got there - if he lived on his own and never left the house, if his family stayed with him there would be additional security risks and if he had to go out - like to the hospital, considering he's dying of cancer - the police would need a convoy and more police at the hospital. One must admit that one is surprised that Ms Goldie would like to see regular convoys of armed police officers through Newton Mearns and armed police officers at the hospital ...

If, of course, the conditions of the licence are not adhered to, the extradition treaty with Libya covers the revocation.

There's also a wee thing about the family. If you look at page 4 of the documentation about contacts with the Libyan Government, you'll find paragraph 15 indicating that the prisoner's family have difficulty visiting him because they had difficulty securing visas and permits to come to the UK.

It seems to me, even taking into account my partiality, that Kenny MacAskill has been shown to be a statesman here and the opposition parties have called this badly wrong. I understand that their amendments to Kenny's motion to be debated reek of political opportunism. Kenny's motion was published in Tuesday's Business Bulletin and reads
S3M-4748 Kenny MacAskill: Decision on Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi—That the Parliament notes the decisions by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to reject the application by the Libyan Government to transfer Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi under the prisoner transfer agreement between the United Kingdom and Libya and to release Mr Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds; notes that the decision on compassionate release is in accordance with the recommendations from the Scottish Prison Service and the Parole Board for Scotland, and endorses the decision as being consistent with the principles of Scottish justice.
Supported by: Nicola Sturgeon

Richard Baker's amendment will, apparently, seek to remove the entire second half of the motion about compassion and replace it with allegations with no rationale about mishandling, conflicts of purpose, inappropriate precedents, and queries about the medical advice, and finishes with a 'don't agree with compassionate release' flourish. The amendment from the Conservatives is supposed to agree entirely with the Labour one while adding something along the lines of 'should have probed his medical condition and other ways of looking after him', while the Lib Dems are complaining that they should have been told about the decision first. There was also, apparently, a Green amendment which wasn't accepted by the PO calling for an enquiry - I assume that it must have called on the UK Government to do something, that would have been ruled inadmissible.

We can only hope that Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems rediscover the shreds of decency they used to have before the debate kicks off - they can withdraw their amendments and act with some dignity, and perhaps save just a little of the societal regard they seem intent on throwing away.


subrosa said...

I understood his family were in Newton Mearns Calum although the older ones never stayed here long.

Must have been misinformed.

Calum Cashley said...

They had a house in Newton Mearns but they returned to Tripoli some time ago after the UK Government sought to end their education here (2005 I think). They had been coming to see him in prison and so were 'resident' in Newton Mearns but they had to leave altogether in January 2009 as a result of some restrictions placed on their visas and they've had difficulty since.

James Mackenzie said...

The PO doesn't need a good reason not to take our amendments - we regularly hear back "all were selected apart from the Green amendment".