"I think most opinion in Scotland is in favour of the decision to release him [Megrahi] on compassionate grounds."Now that is the sort of considered, public listened to response I would expect from a Liberal Democrat leader. Unfortunately they were the words of Lord David Steel our former leader and not those of Tavish Scott who asked in the chamber:
"Doesn't Kenny MacAskill's comment on the need for Scottish compassion mean that no prisoner - however bad their crime - will ever have a request turned down?"
Although Kenny MacAskill's response to cite Jim Wallace's situation which was due to a loophole in The Mental Health Act (Scotland) 1984 which Labour and the Lib Dems since closed down was the wrong way to deal with it.
The answer to Tavish's question is of course no, each case should continue to be looked at on a case by case basis. Although it the severity of the situation that is to be considered, it should not be clouded by the response the prisoner received on his release. Some have asked how can a man with prostate cancer manage to climb the steps of a plane. Seeing as my father walking into hospital one Monday for a check up on his and was dead the following evening I'd say easily and horribly that is no indication.
The compassion being shown is not so much to Megrahi is as has been pointed out not so much to the man himself but his family. Some have pointed out that his wife and children have had access to him in Glasgow, but one other issue that the man himself made to journalists on the flight to Libya was his elderly mother. He urged the press not to let her know just how ill he was.
America with their more punitive justice system, if Megrahi had of be tried there, would most likely depending on state have been sitting on death row. But that doesn't give their comparative upstart of a youthful legal system the right to intervene in others. Of course they have the right to consultation and I understand that this did indeed occur. But just because you have been listened to and consulted with doesn't suddenly give you the right to have a say over another nations rule of law. That is lesson that the USA seem to be forgetting as they seem more and more to be turning the whole world into some lawless 'wild west' with them alone wearing the sheriff's badge.
While we are right from all sides to condemn the reception laid on for Megrahi on arrival at Tripoli, it is wrong to outrightly condemn the decision. It would have been easy for Kenny MacAskill to take the easy option and bow to international pressure. How anyone can see it, in light of the foreseeable reaction, as point scoring is beyond me. He made a tough decision, and bar visiting the prisoner personally, it would seem a considered one on factual criteria.
The fact that the three main* opposition parties didn't force a vote yesterday either indicates they are worried of a different public reaction against them, or aren't sure they'd carry their own votes. I don't necessarily think that Scotland's place in this world is in "tatters" not from the Americans I've seen around Edinburgh over the weekend. But the more we play political football with a legal football the more we will appear so.
*Sorry, James corrected as promised.