I am on Newsweek Scotland at 8am tomorrow to join a discussion about Lockerbie matters. It seems my morning blog post today on the Megrahi "row" has been overtaken by events. By lunchtime both Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Minister, and Alex Salmond, the First Minister, were robustly articulating the position of the government on radio and television.(sorry no link for Salmond) Despite George Galloway encouraging him to take the US Senate to task, Salmond said it would be inappropriate. Political leaders are answerable to the people who elect them, not other legislatures. American politicians do not come before committees of our MPs and MSPs.
It was not quite a Love Actually moment - when the British PM character played by Hugh Grant is roundly applauded for standing up to Billy Bob Thornton's bully boy US President. That will only ever happen in the movies. But the subtext was clear...we answer only to the Scottish people... MacAskill repeatedly rammed home the point that the "deal in the desert" was between BP and A British Labour government.
Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador to Washington, endorsed the decision not to appear. He told Radio Four: "As a matter of principle a British government or a Scottish government should not submit to the jurisdiction of an American Congressional Committee
"That does not mean that they can't in some way co-operate with the committee's inquiry, either privately or in correspondence. It is what the Americans would do if the boot was on the other foot. They have done it already. A number of them were approached to give evidence to the Chilcot inquiry. They declined to do so. But they have co-operated in private. I just don't think it is right for members of a sovereign government, albeit a very close ally, to be required in public under oath to give evidence to an American congressional inquiry."
Incidentally, Salmond and MacAskill got total backing, across party lines, from the panel on Brian's Big Debate, broadcast today from Lochinver in Sutherland and hosted by Isobel Fraser. I am obliged to Facebook Friend Alistair Barron for the Love Actually analogy...
Driving up the M74 past Lockerbie today, and the spot where the plane landed, I remembered the interviews I conducted with local people affect by the events. They have never got involved in the politics of the tragedy. They have always been there, however, to comfort bereaved relatives, particularly in the aftermath of the terrible murders. Many local people helped in the recovery of bodies and possessions, which must have been traumatic. They never complained. Several women devoted their time to carefully cleaning and wrapping clothes and other personal items to return to the families. It was an act of selflessness and compassion, performed by people in Scotland, and still worth remembering today.