Wednesday 8 December 2010


I listened to Alex Salmond on the Today Programme this morning. He occupied the peak listening slot at 8.10 am normally given to very senior English politicians.

The main thrust of the interview was the Al Megrahi compassionate release question and its re-emergence into the public’s eye today grace à Wikileaks.

In fact the leaks tell us virtually nothing new. They confirm that the British (English) government was told that if Mr Al Megrahi died in a Scottish prison the Libyans would punish Britain economically. An American diplomat used the expression “cut off at the knees”. Apart from that phrase, we knew all that anyway.

We knew that Blair made a deal with Kaddafi on prisoner transfer (which, in fact, was probably out with his remit to do); we knew that the British Foreign Secretary wrote to the Scottish Government saying that it would not be in British interests if the prisoner died in a Scottish jail; we knew that the Libyan Foreign Ministry contacted the Scottish government and offered “treats and blandishments”, which were turned down.

We also knew, because it was laid out to us in the simplest terms, the steps which Scots Law demanded be taken in the case of a person considered to be dying in prison. We know that these steps were followed to the letter. We know too that there was some politicking by Labour and the Tories, but that no senior legal figure has come forward to dispute that what was done was correct.

Alex Salmond performed faultlessly. In a calm and measured tone, with none of hysterical argume
nts or the trotting out of the latest political buzz phrase so habitual at 8.10, he explained that Wikileaks had told us little that was new. He agreed that he had spoken with the Edinburgh Consul General of the United States Government. He agreed that the just of what he had said was transmitted on to Washington, although not in the exact language that he had used.

Reflecting on the circumstances I can see no reason, other than the one that Alex offered, for releasing Al Megrahi. The government knew that it was dealing with a situation with ramifications well beyond Scottish shores, and most importantly in America. It will not have been lost upon them how much America could hurt Scotland economically. When France refused to join its illegal war in Iraq, it was rewarded by a ‘hate France’ campaign which not only involved changing the name of French Fries, but was economically damaging to France particularly in wine exports and tourism! Scotland’s tourism industry is hugely dependent on American visitors. Its whisky exports to America are not insubstantial. The release risked damaging these businesses.

What measures Libya could take against Scotland along these lines is not clear. The threats made were against the British government and presumably had to do with arms sales and oil exploration. Given that the British government had treated the new Scottish government with distaste and disdai
n, and that relations between Alex and Brown were abysmal, it seems unlikely that the Scottish government would have risked Scottish tourism to save British armaments.

In all his dealings with the United States, with the UK government, with John Humphries this morning, and with our own parliament and people, Alex Salmond has shown that the process was both thought out and carried out in accordance with the principles of Scots Law.

Great post here.


  1. That’s all as maybe but it’s the SNP’s fault that it snowed the other day! Want a bet that Elmer’s question to the First Minister will have something to do with the weather on Monday morning. I wonder if he will call for Stewart Stevenson to resign! No doubt the failure to anticipate the severity of the freak weather on Monday will be another in a string of broken SNP promises! I’m sure Stewart Stevenson promised in his manifesto speech to keep the weather at bay and to correctly anticipate at all times that when the Met office says light flurries of snow possible they mean three feet of snow.

  2. I can just see it now the Scottish Government setting off the warning klaxons telling the entire central belt of Scotland to stay at home because of the possibility of some snow. If they had done that you and there had only been a couple of flakes you can rest assured that Elmers question would have been different.

  3. And people in Scotland still vote Labour in droves.
    Megrahi was a decision for the Scottish Law system, it followed the rules laid down to it, I really don't see what all the fuss is about unless the medics deliberately lied about his life expectancy.

  4. Elmer is nothing if not predictable Munguin. However, Mr Humphries, responding to an earlier interview on the Today Programme with the Labour Snow Spokesman, whose name escapes me, did ask Mr Salmond about the subject.

    Mr Salmond gave a clear and concise summing up of the situation.

    Now, John Humphries is a man who has had experienced international politicians and statesmen crumble under the ferocity and incisiveness of his questioning. (Indeed Tony Blair point blank refused to appear on Today if John Humphries was doing the questioning.) Elmer, on the other hand, is a muddleheaded, stuttering eejit. If Humphries couldn’t unsettle Salmond, I’m wondering what chance the wee man has.

    I was intrigued by the assertion by the Labour man accusation that Stewart had listened to the “wrong” weather forecast.

    Now I know that we’ve had the ‘wrong kind of snow’ in the past as an excuse for late trains, but I had no idea that we could listen to the ‘wrong weather forecast’. It begs the question what the hell weather forecast was he listening to, the Paraguayan one?

    Or do you phone up and they tell you:

    “Thank you for calling the Met Office. I’m afraid all our operators are busy right now, but your call IS important to us, so, if you want a GOOD weather forecast, press 1 now; if you want a BAD weather forecast, press 2; if your snowman has been stolen from outside your house, press 3.”

  5. QM: Congratulations grandad!

    I think that no doctor can be absolutely certain as to the prognosis for cancer.

    I imagine that most can tell of someone in their family who had a prognosis and beat it, or succumbed earlier.

    My own uncle was given a year, and yet lasted only 3 months. Doctors do their best; the body does the rest.

    Some people give up hope and the body responds to the mind and throws in the towel.

    In a case like Megrahi there were two things. He was given a boost of being out of prison; he was given the boost of being home with his family; he was given the boost of no expense spared private medicine. All three things will have contributed to his longevity. Especially given that Kaddafi has had Oncologists from Switzerland, Sweden and other countries attend the man.

  6. On the subject of weather Munguin, given the poor quality of the opposition, we were bound to get unhelpful interventions, no matter what the government had done.

    If Alex somehow managed to replace the winter weather with temperate days and nights, wee Fuddy would have been moaning about the skiing industry and how was the Hydro going to manage without generating (no pun intended) HUGE profits off the backs of pensioners during the foreseen cold snap.

  7. Re the weather forecast they saying that the SNP should of taken the one broadcast on telly the previous evening and not listened to radio Scotlands one on monday morning. Now last year on this date it....

    Labour Agreed to help US Lobby Scottish Government over Megrahi

    Who needs friends like these?

  8. Listening to the wrong weather forecast. Not another BBC repeat?

    The BBC did nothing to help the situation by broadcasting duff weather info on the morning.

  9. Alex Salmond can't be too pleased with Gadaffi's comments at the LSE saying Megrahi's family are to sue for millions. If that does come to court, then it will cost a great deal of taxpayers money - again.

    Tris, as you know I've had experience of prostate cancer in my own family. I've always been suspicious of the fact that Megrahi managed to walk up the plane steps when he was supposedly three months from death and the cancer had spread to his bones. My father was in a wheelchair by then because his bones were crumbling.

    As for the weather. Stewart Stevenson did say something about the 'wrong forecast' on Newsnicht. He was asked, repeatedly, to apologise to people inconvenienced and didn't. Actually I think he was quite right. All this media pressure for apologies is nonsense. But he did waffle on a bit too much about the forecast.

  10. Nobody needed friends like that CH...

    Now which weather forecast should we listen to tomorrow?

  11. SR. Much of the evidence does point to Megrahi being innocent, so although I hadn’t heard about it, it doesn’t hugely surprise me that the family is to sue. I trust the government that was responsible (ie the London England one) will pick up the tab for this.

    Of course any speculation on his guilt or innocence from the likes of me is just that, based on rumours on blogs and press reports, so I don’t have an opinion based on anything other than my guess that the American president wanted a conviction for political purposes and they told the British government which ran the legal system in Scotland at the time, what the result should be.

    Frankly I’d believe anything of Washington and their poodle London.

    Again, I’m not a medical doctor so I won’t speculate on the condition of Megrahi, but I bow to your personal experience. Having said that, I know that cancer in one person may spread in a very different way to that in another.

    Of course if judges in Scotland’s High Court can be persuaded to find a man guilty, it is equally not an impossibility that doctors in the Prison Service could be persuaded that a bad cold is prostate cancer. Although unless they were hoping to persuade the public that a miracle had occurred and Megrahi had beaten the cancer (rather like Mr Saunders was the first person to make a total complete and utter recovery from Alzheimer’s, possibly because he had friends in high places), it seems that they must have known that within a very short time, they would have to answer for their misdiagnoses.

    We shall have to look out for Eck moving to Bermuda.... eh?

  12. Yes Alan...

    We are supposed to be able to trust least a little.. the BBC forecast.

    But of course the BBC and Labour and joined at the hip. The sooner we sell them off the better.

    A privatisation begging to happen?

  13. The snp Government let a (long time)Dying???? convicted

    Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill
    My decisions were predicated on the fact that he was properly investigated, a lawful conviction passed and a life sentence imposed.

    Mass murderer whom's conviction alex salmond,Kenny MacAskill and the whole snp minority Government agree with and entirely support.

    Go home to live a long and luxurious life
    unlike his victims or their families.

    Oops i forgot the snp supporters consider them
    expendable collateral damage in their extremist attack on the United Kingdom and its institutions.

  14. But your party wish him to go home Niko as did your masters over the pond which leaves you on your own trying to work out the weather to deliver tomorrow.

  15. Niko.

    You seriously think that I, or other SNP supporters think that they are expendable?

    Oh dear. You didn't bother to get to know me very well, did you?

    As Cynical says, your Tony, your Jack, your David wanted Scotland to release him, and Elmer and his not so merry men were left looking as daft as daft people in a daft place on a daft day over that one.

    From the advantageous position of opposition in England, both Liberals and Tories were able to oppose the move (although some notables broke rank). But Labour looked really silly not knowing what way to turn. I bet Elmer got a good dressing down from Brown about that.

    But please Niko, go away and read some of my posts. Do you really think I sound like the kind of guy that would consider anyone, of whatever nationality, expendable? I can’t even kill a wasp, whose sting would put me in hospital. Geeez

    Maybe Mr Blair can explain why he ordered British troops to be involved in "Shock and Awe" which killed and maimed tens if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who had done nothing... because there were weapons of ma.... oh no, there weren’t even weapons of mass destruction, because. erm, well.... because America told them to.

  16. eeny meeny miney mo Cynical...

    The wrong kind of weather forecast....

    I'm dreaming of a white Elmer.....

  17. Dick

    I have just read your latest piece on The Gathering in today's Scottish Review.

    Now, as I live a longish way from Scotland and am a bit lost for a timeline can you help me out here?

    When was the £2 company appointed to run The Gathering and by whom or what?

    Was it under the Scottish Executive or The Scottish Government?

    How soon into their tenure of office did this £2 company go belly-up and to whom were they answerable?

    That'll do for a start


  18. No such thing as an English government...

  19. Mrs Proudie:

    Welcome to Munguin’s Republic.

    You are right, of course. In name there is no such thing as an English government, but effectively, when the commons is sitting discussing matters that affect England alone, like education, transport, health... important matters, then it effectively is an English government. In his efforts to comply with as little as possible of the demands of the Council of Europe and the people of the minority "regions", Blair did not go for four separate parliaments, he kept the big one, his one, to run England as well as the rest of the Union.

    That meant that he couldn't actually stop MPs from elsewhere poking their noses into matters which were nothing to do with them. Irish, Welsh and Scottish MPs came along and put their 2p worth in and voted.

    Of course Blair didn't want to stop most of them because they were his and obliged to vote to his whip.

    I should imagine that Camerclegg is caught between a rock and a hard place. He doesn’t want all these horrible Labour MPs voting on his English legislation. He doesn’t at the same time want it to appear that he is moving to Federalism. I think he spoke before the Elections about an English Grand Committee, but that was before the elections, and as we know, before and after have little in common.

    So yes, you’re right, but the way we see it is that effectively what sits in Westminster is the English government that taxes our pensioners, reduces benefits, sends our boys to be killed at the behest of America and messes up our fishing business in its inept negotiations with Europe because it doesn’t give a shit about our fishermen, who don’t vote for it.