SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT PUBLISH UK MEGRAHI DOCUMENTS
UK GOVERNMENT REVIEW OF PAPERS
WESTMINSTER GOVERNMENT POLICY CHANGED TO SUPPORT RELEASE; SCOTTISH MINISTERS FOLLOWED DUE PROCESS OF SCOTS LAW
With the publication of papers by the UK Government related to the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Scottish Government took the opportunity today to release the final documents it can publish, which primarily relate to notes of meetings and calls between Scottish and UK Ministers in 2007 and 2008.
The UK Government review of their documents makes clear that: “Alex Salmond said that if Scottish Ministers were to contemplate release on compassionate grounds they would need to be satisfied that it was appropriate and genuine, and that any release could not be on the basis of fixing any wider UK/Libya relationship issues – it needed to be treated on its own merits.” (p8 of the review).
The UK review also confirms that, in contrast, the UK Government’s position on the negotiation of a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya was influenced by commercial considerations, including lobbying by BP (p13).
The UK Government review details a conversation between Jack Straw and Kenny MacAskill on 2 November 2007, which states: “JS [Jack Straw] explained that the Libyans understand that they will not get al-Megrahi (AM) back to Libya.” (p30).
The Review states how UK Government policy was developed in late 2008 to favour the release of al Megrahi: “Policy was therefore progressively developed that HMG should do all it could, whilst respecting devolved competences, to facilitate an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish Government for Mr Megrahi’s transfer under the PTA or release on compassionate grounds. Such an approach was understood across all relevant Government Departments.” (p9/10 of the review).
The Scottish Government documents confirm that the Scottish Government dealt with both the issues of Prisoner Transfer and compassionate release according to the “due process” of Scots Law (24 October call between the First Minister and Jack Straw).
They also make clear that other justice and non-justice issues discussed in the same conversations – in separate meetings between the Justice Secretary and First Minister with Jack Straw on 13 July 2007, and between the Justice Secretary and Mr Straw on 8 November 2007 – were addressed separately and on their merits.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said:
“In terms of the UK review of documents, the key issue which emerges is how UK Government policy changed in the autumn of 2008 to favour the release of al Megrahi – while maintaining that UK Ministers had no position.
“The Scottish Government is delighted to have the opportunity to release the final documents we can publish, which relate to notes of meetings and conversations with UK Ministers – they confirm that Scottish Ministers followed the due process of Scots Law and practice throughout the entire period, without regard to foreign policy, economic or any other considerations.
“The Scottish Government maintained our opposition to the Prisoner Transfer Agreement and to the UK Government’s reneging of its commitment to secure the exclusion of al Megrahi – regardless of any understanding arrived at by the then UK Government.”