Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Cameron, the Lockerbie bomber and devolution

There won't be too many posts on the blog this week, but I will briefly draw your attention to another Belfast Telegraph article, which considers the Megrahi mess.  The edit lost a little of the thrust of the original, so the text below is a little different to the published column.  

I consider the chain of events which set in train the bomber's release and conclude:
[It's} Hardly surprising that after the release took place last August, opponents alleged Labour was secretly delighted.  The party had secured its preferred outcome without getting its hands dirty.  A nationalist Scottish Executive, flexing its muscles and styling itself a ’government’, was more than happy to boast that it had reached its decision independently.
When Kenny MacAskill appeared in front of the world’s press to deliver a crowing speech about the unique ’humanity of the Scottish people’, he didn’t expect that his ruling would cause the SNP to crash in the polls.  Nor could he anticipate that a full year later Megrahi would remain alive and American fury would be unabated.
MacAskill is now attempting to wriggle off the hook, claiming that he did not have ’a great deal of discretion’ over the matter and merely followed procedure.  That‘s a stark contrast with twelve months ago, when he positively revelled in the limelight.
Meanwhile the First Minister, Alex Salmond, prefers to brazen things out, insisting that the decision was reached for the right reasons.  In truth, the Scottish Executive chose the wrong issue to attempt to parade its autonomy in front of an international audience.  Rather than showing strength and independence, it seemed parochial and out of its depth.  The UK government, many observers concluded, had stitched it up like a kipper.                
Unfortunately for David Cameron, however crafty his predecessors might have appeared, the release was a classic example of short-termism.  A year on, the BP connection is back in the spotlight, medical experts suggest that Megrahi could live for another decade and the US is seething that its closest ally let a mass murderer swan off to claim adulation in the Middle East.  
The new British prime minister is left to clear up a diplomatic mess not of his making and the affair highlights a problem which could be of even greater concern.  Megrahi’s release shows that the Westminster government can be powerless to prevent a devolved region making a decision which impacts directly upon UK foreign policy, or acts to the detriment of the national interest.    
Although MacAskill probably had the tacit agreement of London, in these circumstances and pressure may even have been brought to bear on the Scottish Executive, he still had the potential to disrupt relationships between Britain and the US.  
As the Prime Minister returned from an uncomfortable first official visit to America, he had cause to contemplate the mercurial nature of devolution back home.  Eleven years after its introduction to the UK, the consequences have not yet been fully explored or understood. 

4 comments:

michaelhenry said...

a devolved goverment released one prisoner to another countrys unelected click, because -
A he was about to die
B he will die, in ten years
C it will help british business

who in political power cared about the lockerbie victims, or their familys, fuel means more to some than memories.

this convicted killer, megrahis, was given back to libya as a side sweetner, to try and help with a Bp deal, and other british contracts,
why does the news not say that the libyan goverment is unelected,
A most of the media are bought
B the media can not be bought, ha, ha
C they honestly do not know?

Bp is happy, they have got plenty of libyan money, handy now, after that big loss of 11 billion because of a leak near florida,
whats a couple of hundred dead humans to the profit of Bp,
and because of florida there are 300 law-suits comming towards Bp,
bit ironic if libyan money is going to be used to pay of american law-suits, its the way life is now, or death, full of irony.

america has fallen out with Bp, but libya is a new found friend,
wonder how many american companies are looking to make a profit in libya,

the prisoner release under the good friday agreement is supported by the majority of IRISH people,
but no one got a vote to let megrahis go free, saying that, the libyans would not know a ballot paper if you threw one at them.

something stinks, and its not petroleum, its Bp- British Polluters.

James Kelly said...

As ever, Chekov - utterly desperate. A few points -

"he didn’t expect that his ruling would cause the SNP to crash in the polls"

Just as well there's no reason to think he was wrong, then, isn't it? To the best of my knowledge there hasn't actually been a Holyrood poll for ages, but even on the assumption the SNP vote is not as high as it was, have you got the slightest scrap of evidence that there's a causal link between that and the Megrahi release? Thought not. It's not a particularly plausible proposition anyway, given how split Scottish public opinion was on the subject. From the way you talk you'd think there was unanimous opposition.

And I fear you might be in for a nasty shock about the effect of the current controversy - so far I can detect nothing but quiet satisfaction at the way Alex Salmond is very respectfully rebuffing the US Senate's arrogance.

"A nationalist Scottish Executive, flexing its muscles and styling itself a ’government’"

'Styling itself'? Do you want to have a little think about what the word "executive" actually means in this context?

"medical experts suggest that Megrahi could live for another decade"

I'll ask the same question I've asked of a good few others - why leave out the crucial words? I believe what you were trying to say is "have suggested there is a less than 1% chance that Megrahi could live for another decade". Giving people the full picture isn't so much use for propaganda purposes, right enough.

In truth, the Scottish Executive chose the wrong issue to attempt to parade its autonomy in front of an international audience.

As you seem utterly convinced that the UK government was in some mysterious, unspecified way involved in all this, a far better way to "parade independence" and court popularity would have been to say "we're having none of this, this evil mass-murderer stays where he is". But they didn't take that easy, cheap, opportunistic, populist route. They actually had the courage to take the right decision for the right reasons under impossibly difficult circumstances.

I've never been more proud to be an SNP supporter than I was that day.

James Kelly said...

As ever, Chekov - utterly desperate. A few points -

"he didn’t expect that his ruling would cause the SNP to crash in the polls"

Just as well there's no reason to think he was wrong, then, isn't it? To the best of my knowledge there hasn't actually been a Holyrood poll for ages, but even on the assumption the SNP vote is not as high as it was, have you got the slightest scrap of evidence that there's a causal link between that and the Megrahi release? Thought not. It's not a particularly plausible proposition anyway, given how split Scottish public opinion was on the subject. From the way you talk you'd think there was unanimous opposition.

And I fear you might be in for a nasty shock about the effect of the current controversy - so far I can detect nothing but quiet satisfaction at the way Alex Salmond is very respectfully rebuffing the US Senate's arrogance.

"A nationalist Scottish Executive, flexing its muscles and styling itself a ’government’"

'Styling itself'? Do you want to have a little think about what the word "executive" actually means in this context?

"medical experts suggest that Megrahi could live for another decade"

I'll ask the same question I've asked of a good few others - why leave out the crucial words? I believe what you were trying to say is "have suggested there is a less than 1% chance that Megrahi could live for another decade". Giving people the full picture isn't so much use for propaganda purposes, right enough.

In truth, the Scottish Executive chose the wrong issue to attempt to parade its autonomy in front of an international audience.

As you seem utterly convinced that the UK government was in some mysterious, unspecified way involved in all this, a far better way to "parade independence" and court popularity would have been to say "we're having none of this, this evil mass-murderer stays where he is". But they didn't take that easy, cheap, opportunistic, populist route. They actually had the courage to take the right decision for the right reasons under impossibly difficult circumstances.

I've never been more proud to be an SNP supporter than I was that day.

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