The majority of the Scottish public believes the Scottish Government was right not to attend the US Senate inquiry into the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, a recent survey for the SNP has found.
72% of Scottish constituents agree that representatives were right not to appear before the US Senate committee to ‘explain’ al-Megrahi’s release, despite having been invited, on the basis that they are ‘accountable to the Scottish parliament’ and ‘not to US politicians’. In contrast, one in five (20%) believes that the representatives should have gone.
Having been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, Al-Megrahi was controversially released from prison by the Scottish Government’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill (pictured) on compassionate grounds on August 20th 2009. The decision to release him caused an outcry of criticism from the US Government and the families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing, and a US Senate committee was set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the release in response. It was this committee that invited the Scottish Government to appear before them to explain its decision.
However, as well as largely supporting the representatives’ decision not to attend, more than half of respondents (54%) believe that al-Megrahi ‘was released solely in line with Scots law’ and not as a result of lobbying by beleaguered oil company BP, as has been suggested by elements in the US Government and others. Just 14% felt that the US Senators are correct in implicating BP in the release.
Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of Scots believe that it was right that the decision of whether or not to release al-Megrahi was made in Scotland and not in the UK, as 76% of respondents claim that the Scottish Justice Secretary, and not a Minister in the UK Government, was best placed to make this decision.
Upon his release from prison, al-Megrahi was said to have only three months left to live, yet Libyan officials have now estimated that he is expected to live for another two years.
On the eve of the anniversary of al-Megrahi’s release, which fell late last week, the British Government, (which has argued the release was a mistake) issued a strong warning to Libya that they should not celebrate al-Megrahi’s regained freedom.